Greece. Water the color of sea glass, food that melts on the tongue, music and dancing and laughter, a comrade that makes you feel at home, like your whole life has lead up to this very moment.
Those were things I experienced last month, since I was accepted into a writing workshop for prose. It was far and away one of the most spiritual experiences of my life. I am so fortunate to have been part of that community of writers in Greece, if only for two weeks. It was enough to make a person not just happy, but joyful: joyful to be alive, to have come that far. It was an adventure, one so vivid and surreal that, having gotten back to the United States since, there have been times when I can hardly believe I was there at all.
But I almost didn’t get to experience any of that.
In 2014, I was accepted into the program, but due to financial reasons, was unable to attend. I was heartbroken. The frustrating part was that I had worked, saved, and planned, knowing well what my goal was: I’m going to get myself to Greece! But despite all my hard work, I still fell short on the amount of money I needed in order to attend and I had to decline.
There were two directions I could have taken, when I realized I would not be attending the program. The easiest and most obvious, I suppose, was that I could have given up. Clearly Greece isn’t in the cards for me. I could have accepted that and used the money I’d earned for said program on something else. To be honest, this would have been the easier path. A lot of life-related circumstances were rearing their unfortunate heads, and it probably would have made my workload a little less stressful.
But instead I kept working. I saved even more, knowing I would try again next year, and when I moved from Florida to North Carolina, I decided soon into my new venture that I should get two jobs, to ensure that, this year, I would finally be able to reach my destination.
I’m not writing all of this as a form of boasting, but because I know from personal experience how easy it is to let certain initial defeats make you feel as though a goal you’ve set out for yourself is impossible—unattainable, even. But it’s not. I’m not saying the path will be easy, but if you keep that goal in mind and work as hard as you’re able, your chances of achieving it are far greater than not.
Self-doubt is a thing most of us struggle with, and it was rearing its ugly head even more so as I sent the email that informed the program director I would not be attending that year’s workshop. I was frustrated with myself, but chose to keep working anyway. The reward of working hard to achieve something is not just the achievement itself, but the confidence that comes with finally achieving that goal. The two jobs I maintained in late 2014 to early 2015, while exhausting, was made easier due to the goal I had in mind, and the feeling that I would not let myself down again; in achieving said goal, I have a greater sense of confidence than I did before.
So please, if you’re working on a goal that you think is unattainable, don’t give up on yourself, and don’t think you are somehow lesser than if you are not able to reach what you’re striving for as quickly as you would have liked. Just keep working at it. I have no doubt you can reach that goal of yours, whether it’s Greece or something else entirely, and that it’ll be worth it for you, too.
Author’s Note: It’s no secret that Greece is experiencing financial hardship right now, and that the people of Greece are currently suffering. But there is a way to help this wonderful country during this financial crisis: visit Greece. As Alex Andreou writes in his article, “Want to help Greece? Go there on holiday” Greece’s citizens “are even more welcoming, more hospitable and more grateful than ever. The reaction to difficulty has been a broader smile, a wider embrace. We understand that you have a choice and we understand why you have chosen Greece right now. Tourism is liquidity. Tourism is solidarity.”
So please, visit Greece. It is unimaginably worth it, a life changing experience that was worth my own two years of planning and saving, worth the ups and downs it took for me to get there.