Sometimes, I use words whose meaning I think I know but later find out I really don’t. Or there’s more to it than I thought. One such word is tenacious. I have this word tattooed on my arm, so you better believe I know the definition. But when I looked up a definition to cite for today’s post, I realized there’s another definition that I wasn’t aware of. According to Merriam-Webster online, the first definition listed is, “not easily pulled apart.” The example is “a tenacious metal.” But it got me thinking about how it applies to me.
When I lived in rural Nicaragua in the late ‘90’s, I faced challenges, to put it mildly. As the only young, white woman around for many miles, I was an oddity. People passed judgment daily about whether I even belonged there, let alone had any sort of skill set to share. I wouldn’t go to bed with the right people. A direct consequence of that decision showed up in a myriad of roadblocks to me doing the job I’d been hired to do.
Fury towards those making my life difficult fueled me. Passion and compassion for the people in the communities where I was trying to work fueled me. My need for self-validation as worthy fueled me.
…Until the end
I persisted. For a full year, I gave my heart, soul, body, and mind to the people I was there to serve. Through major illness, the removal of resources for my program, and denial of transportation out to the villages where I worked, I persisted. In the end, I was asked to leave after one year instead of two because the forces against me succeeded in having me removed from my position.
But they didn’t really win.
At the farewell meeting with all the people from the villages, my people showed up. They stood and spoke earnestly and eloquently about how our work together had changed them. They spoke protectively and lovingly about me. They pointed fingers and named names of those they knew had stood in the way of us doing even more together. The meeting was a 2-hour long testament to the fact that I had not easily been pulled apart. I was going home, but I was in one piece.
Tenacity drives us toward the result we want or need. It helps us see the hard things through. I had it tattooed on my arm to help me stay grounded in who I am when life gets tough and I begin to doubt.
What situations, people, or ideas bring out your tenacity?