The Only Way Out is Through

The impediment to action, advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way

Marcus Aurelius

I am sure I have mentioned this many times before in other posts, but I will state again in case this is your first read of me. I am a lover of quotes. I live by so many. They are the tools that guide me, a light source that clears a path.

Today, I am so excited to share with you the medicinal properties from the quote above. Through the different lenses of some of my favorite authors AND through the stories of 3 incredible women that I am so excited to share with you on this Woman Crush Wednesday – I hope you will come to the same conclusion as me. Adversity leads to advancement.

When I first read the above quote, it actually took me a bit to fully process it. I had read the quote numerous times before without ever really giving it much thought. It wasn’t until I came across a book on audible that was entirely dedicated to that quote sharing real-life events in history highlighting the core of the message.

In the beginning of my newfound love of reading, I would typically purchase books from the app Audible as my hands were always busy tasking with a baby. I came to fall in love with audio versions of books because there was something so personal and so intimate listening to the author speak-read their book. This particular audiobook was that of Ryan Holiday, titled “Obstacle is the Way”. Within the first few lines that Ryan spoke, he had me hooked. I felt empowered even. As time went on and once my hands became my own to do with whatever I pleased, I purchased the hard copy so I could mark up every inch of that book. I can see it now, looking at my own obstacles (past and current)  It is true. Obstacle IS the way.

Aubrey Marcus, author and podcaster, shared the same idea on his podcast in the most entertaining way. He spoke of an experience that confirmed the message that when you are in a space that you don’t necessarily want to be in, the only way out, the only way to the other side –is through.

This experience of his was where he took a date with him to a haunted house and how she freaked out midway in. She couldn’t handle it and became paralyzed in her high-heeled tracks not wanting to go any further. With nothing else to do but keep going, especially knowing people are now grouping up behind them, he picked her up, threw her over his big buff shoulders, and basically said hang on tight girl, we busting through.  

Yeah, he totally used a haunted house as a metaphor and it made me go “ok ok ok ok.” And from that episode I took this with me: haunted houses, like obstacles, can be so damn scary. Things jumping out when you least expect, fear from the unknown, leaving you questioning/pleading/begging ,”please just make it stop!”

Except that it won’t just stop. And you cant go back. Monsters creep up man! So the only way out—is through.

Another podcast I listened to shared his version of the idea in a different light. The guest on the show shared that in the Chinese language, the written character for “crisis” also bears the meaning “opportunity”. UUHHHMMM…. ALL THE SURPRISED/HAPPY/EMOTIONAL EMOTICONS RIGHT NOW –the last one being the yellow dude having his mind blown! 

To think, that those two words (crisis/opportunity) are considered interchangeable in a language is just brilliant if you ask me. To learn a message like that as a child, incorporating a strong virtue behind a necessary life skill – I would have been a different woman today. Learning how to lean into an obstacle without fear because I knew that I would come out with a gain on the other side. Pfft… I’d rule the world right now.

We have been taught to believe that negative equals realistic and positive equals unrealistic.

Susan Jeffers

When negativity rears its ugly face, it feels as if the easy thing to do is just lay down. Obstacles come in many different vessels and so overcoming them to reach the state of satisfaction feels impossible. The keyword being: feels. If you can reframe, if you can take what you are feeling and transmute it into fuel for action –nothing is impossible. If you are not convinced yet as we get closer in ending our time together I hope these 3 women do the trick.

(1849) Elizabeth Blackwell

Blackwell, born in the United Kingdom in the 1820s, became the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States. This accomplishment, NEVER being her initial intention for a career path, was anything but measured as achievable for a female during those times.

I believe most people in the medical field take on such a career path due to something deeply rooted within them. A drive to save and help humanity. Criminals and all. So, it may seem surprising that a woman who actually was repulsed by medical conditions pertaining to the human body, pushed herself through so much adversity in literally creating herself a position in the field. And I must tell you, she did not do this because she wanted to be the first woman ever. She did this because women needed this. Through Blackwell’s own personal experience of loss, as she watched her friend die a slow death, she realized that her friend’s date with death absolutely could have been avoided, if ONLY—a female doctor existed.

In the nineteenth century, Ego made life or death calls for women. The mere thought of exposing their bodies to a man was enough for them to accept that they would soon meet their maker. And I am willing to bet that some of it also had to do with bad experiences with male doctors who took advantage of their roles. Not only did this disturb Blackwell, but this also sent her down the rabbit hole asking herself, how much can men REALLY know about a woman’s body? During procedures can they understand how it feels? Can they have the kind of compassion needed when treating a woman? Especially for those who suffer in general of white coat syndrome (hand raise!).

The women of America were calling out for a female physician and Blackwell knew that this was no easy task. This position didn’t even exist! It was a long journey that she was going to have to trek in order to meet those cries.

Blackwell would be turned down by all the prominent schools in the country. It wasn’t until after a period of time that she would finally receive an acceptance letter to a Medical College in New York, only to find out that her acceptance was none other than a dirty prank. It was valid though and she had the scores so she pushed through. She was met with condescension, snootiness, and abuse from her male counterparts. Yet she held firm, ranked first in her class, and BOOYAH-KASHA! She walked down that motha-fucking stage on graduation day, received her certificate degree, and instead of shaking the chancellor’s hand, she whipped out her middle finger … and slowly pressed her hand gesture against the chancellors face –while ever so softly whispering, “fuuuuuucccccckkkk yooooouuuuu.” HA, I’m just kidding made that very last part up. She did receive her degree though. And she did so with grace. Sorry, my pettiness rears its ugly face every now and then.

(1975) Junko Tabei

Tabei born in Japan – considered a frail child at the early age of 10 started mountain climbing, not just for fun but also for the view from the top. As much as this natural-born nature lover treasured mountain climbing, this was an expensive hobby for her parents to keep up with. She was 1 out of 7 children so her parent’s hands were tied.

As she grew into adulthood she did not climb as much. Her career intentions were actually set on being a teacher. But after graduation, she could not ignore nature’s call. She followed her heart back to her true love of climbing and started joining men’s climbing clubs. She, being the only female member. Since this was a male-dominated sport, you can imagine the reactions of some of the men.

Despite criticism, male bullying, and the cultural expectations of her family (She belongs in the kitchen like every other woman around the world), Tabei became the 36th person to climb Mount Everest. And I purposely use the word “person” because she prefers it to be known that way.

But since this is my post I will say it this way: In the corner standing at 4’9”, 92 lbs, Jjjuuunnnkooooo Tabeiiiiii. SHE was the 1st woman to take on the world’s tallest peak.

I will also say that she founded the Joshi-Tohan Mountaineering Club for women only, their motto being “Let’s go on an overseas expedition by ourselves.” Hey, heeeeey! Furthermore, in 1992  after her Puncak Jaya climb (at 53 years of age), Tabei established yet another record. She was the first woman to climb all the Seven Summits (the highest peaks on all seven continents):

Mt. Everest (1975)

Kilimanjaro (1980)

Mt. Aconcagua (1987)

Denali (1988)

Mt. Elbrus (1989)

Mount Vinson  (1991)

Puncak Jaya (1992)

Shall we say it together… BOOYAH-CASHA!

Side note: As much as I appreciate that Junko Tabei would like to be recorded as the first person rather than woman, modeling humbleness, I do think it is important to record such acts using gender identity as well as sexual orientation. How inspiring is it to see how a woman can fill a role that has never been occupied by a female before. When I was a little girl, my imagination didn’t expand across certain limits, partially because I just never saw it before and there was also societal conditioning at play. I didn’t see female coaches in the NFL, women running as vice presidents, or UFC champions.   So my opinion on this is founded on the importance of the power of counter-stereotypical narratives. These narratives increase the awareness of children, exhibiting that they absolutely can fulfill very necessary needs and important roles in our world despite, their gender identity, expression, or their sexual orientation.

 (2011) Melody Stein

Stein, and her husband Russel, both deaf individuals, dreamed of opening a restaurant. They had a vision, they had the skills, and they had a business plan. However, that wasn’t enough when it came to applying for a business loan. They were missing one more thing. Their hearing.

Viewed as a liability due to the ignorant thinking of how will they communicate certain scenarios like “Hot soup”,” right behind you”, and “ fire!”, doors were slammed left and right.

Stein had met this type of slam before. When she reached college age, all she wanted to do was attend a culinary academy and then follow her dream of opening a restaurant. Unfortunately, her application was denied delaying her restaurant dreams for a period of time. However, with perseverance and patience, almost 20 years later, she would prove those from her past wrong.

‘Mozzeria’, the first and only deaf-owned and operated restaurant in the country, came into fruition in late 2011. The couple’s restaurant, staffed by deaf individuals only, was more than a venue. It was a space that spoke loud messages. It was a space where dreams came true, a space where opportunity was created for the deaf community, a space that promoted cultural awareness educating the hearing community, a space that symbolized how crisis and opportunity are indeed transferable!

I am going to say it one more time: BOOYAH-CASHA!  

So s I conclude I ask you this: How different would this world be if these three women accepted the role of being a victim throughout the obstacles that continuously popped? What would have happened if they choose to accept the slammed doors as a crisis and nothing more? What kind of article would this be if the women didn’t push through and all I had to write about was how they each got laughed at and they decided to just go home.  And while at home they decided to make a pint of ice cream, the most exciting detail being they made it from scratch. And in the end, all they did was sit in the darkness, comforted by their tears and the nutrient-rich cold cream released from the mammary glands of a cow. OOF!!!

I tip my hat to these women and on this Wednesday, and I tip my hat to you. I know you’ve been through some shit. Me too. We don’t always have the luxury to plan out our moves or take a pause to internally talk ourselves through obstacles as they come our way. But if you do, and when you do—take pause. Think of these 3 women, and know there are more stories out there reflecting the same. Think about your own crisis/opportunity journey. That thing you want, you can do it/have it/manifest it. That thing that’s in the way. See it through—straight to the other side.

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