“Anyone can carry his burden, however heavy, until nightfall.” — Robert Louis Stevenson
“Anyone can do his work, however hard, for one day,” Stevenson wrote. “Anyone can live sweetly, patiently, lovingly, purely, till the sun goes down. And this is all that life really means.”
In 1937, Mrs. E.K. Shields lost her husband. She was depressed and almost broke.
She got back to her old job of selling World Books to rural and town school boards. She scraped together enough money to put a downpayment on a used car (she had sold her previous one when her husband fell ill) and started selling books again.
The schools were poor, the roads were bad. Driving and eating alone made her feel depressed. She felt afraid: of not being able to make her car payments or room rent, of not having enough to eat, of her health failing and not having money for a doctor.
The only thoughts that kept her from committing suicide were the grief her sister would endure and that she didn’t have enough money to meet her own funeral expenses.
One day, she read an article that lifted her spirits. In particular, one sentence changed her life. It read: ‘Every day is a new life to a wise man.’
Mrs. Shields pasted sentence on the windshield of her car. That single sentence taught her to forget yesterdays and not worry about tomorrows, to overcome her loneliness and desires, and to live each day the best she could. (source)
What to remember when you’re down
Part of my work as a writer is to reflect on my thoughts and emotions, which become notes to myself. Such notes also prove useful to others, which is why some of them turn into articles.
One note repeatedly showed up, even before I started writing (or reflecting). It’s something Mrs. Shields lived her life by, as do millions of others who overcome the odds. In a single, simple sentence, it’s:
Today is a new life.
I don’t know how or when I learned it. But it has been a part of me since I can remember.
In school and college, I got bullied. I dreaded waking up each morning and facing the same people who would pick on me. I thought I would never be worthy of making friends. But I always got out of bed with one thing—the hope that today was a new life.
When I was in an emotionally abusive relationship, I felt that everything was my fault. That she treated me like dirt because I wasn’t good enough. I felt that I would never be the same, that I would never be worthy of finding meaningful love. Yet, each morning I woke up with hope because today was a new life.
When I joined a company after my first venture folded, the first few months were terrible. Two of my clients terminated their contracts. Everyone questioned my competence, including myself. I felt like an imposter while working with other clients. For the first time in my life, I thought I would get fired (and the person firing me would be a dear friend.) Yet, despite the hell I endured each day, I woke up the next morning with hope because today was a new life.
I know those stories pale compared to what people endure — injustice, addiction, financial catastrophes, losing loves ones to death, and depression. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be in their shoes. The only thing I know is that they’ve endures far more painful emotions than I did.
But I know one thing: life is about doing the simple things well. You can prepare to scale Mount Kilimanjaro (and succeed) even if all you’ve ever climbed is a local hill, by paying attention to the simple basics.
Likewise, you can follow the simple basics of life: to work hard, live sweetly and patiently, and brave the odds till the sun goes down. Because when you wake up, today is a new life.
I wish I could sit down with you during your darkest hours, look you in the eyes, and tell you this. And I desperately hope you’ll believe it. I want to tell you that even when the odds are stacked against you, I’ll place my bets on you.
Because as long as you hold on to hope, today is a new day. And I’ll be right here, repeating it over and over again, whenever you need me to.
When your partner walks out, I’ll tell you that today is a new day. When you get fired or lose an important client, I’ll tell you that today is a new day. When your friends stop behaving like friends, I’ll tell you that today is a new day. When people you love doubt you, and when you begin to doubt yourself, I’ll tell you just one thing: Today is a new day.
Think back to those times when you felt like you wouldn’t make it, like you wouldn’t be the same ever again.
You were right about one thing. You’re not the same. You’ve grown smarter, stronger, and better. And you’ll continue growing.
Life Rarely Flips Overnight
It’s often a culmination of events so tiny that they’re almost invisible for days, months or years.
Yet one day, when you turn around, you feel amazed and proud over how far you’ve come and how distant the events that threatened to break you seem.
Keep going. Just a little bit more. Don’t lose hope. No matter how difficult things seem, just make it till bedtime.
Because when you wake up, today is a new life.