Just turn up

‘Sometimes’, she told me, as we sipped tea and talked across the breakfast bar, ‘it’s just about turning up. I get to the end of the day, and that’s literally all I can say that I’ve achieved. I managed to get out of my house, and sit at my desk. I turned up.’

It isn’t the most inspiring pep talk I’ve ever been given, but it is the one that sticks. The words that float back to me through the fog and cut through the long, dry months of nothingness.

Just turn up.

Just keep turning up.

These are the words that hold me fast when days slip into weeks slip into months and I am slipping slowly, slowly further down a slippery path of doubt and self criticism.

I can’t do this.

I don’t have the words.

I can’t find my voice.

I have nothing to say.

You see, when life gets tough, the easy thing to do is quit. To turn back. To give up and go back and find the easy way. I am not good at sticking, not good at knuckling down and pressing on and pressing in. But sometimes, that is just what it takes.

It doesn’t seem glamorous, to see success as just taking your seat at the table every day. Just turning up to do the task that you have been tasked with doing. We want to see progress, movement, some small indication of recognition at least. Me? I want big steps, quick wins, milestones marked off. Not every day mundane the same-ness, and struggles to make the steps that are not just tiny but practically microscopic.

I’m just not wired that way. And neither is the world we live in. Dopamine-inducing social media highs teach us that instant gratification is our right reward. We had big dreams and big visions, but when do we ever hear it preached from the pulpit, the school assembly hall, the classroom or the lecture theatre that it isn’t just big dreams and big visions we need to chase hard after, but the character, and the perseverance to see them come to pass.

The world is your oyster.

You can do anything you set your mind to.

Yes it is, and yes we can, if only we first set our minds to the faithfulness in the small things. And measure success in the turning up and sitting down sometimes.

A world champion athlete doesn’t hunt down that gold medal success with a quick blast in the gym and a jog round the park, and not every training day looks like personal bests and #goals reached.

Some days are just plain long, hard slogs.

Some days, winning is just not quitting.

Some days, it is enough to just not give up.

I’ve seen a fair few of those days. Days that look like questioning everything I’ve ever wanted and everything I thought about how to get there. Days when rejoicing in the small seems meagre and unsatisfying. But rejoice we should, because it is there that success is truly found.

They say that the sum is greater than the parts, but without those parts, there would be no sum to add up to. So keep adding those parts, and rejoicing along the way, because one day, the sum will be all the greater for it. Just turn up.

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