Being A Supersurvivor, And Conquering The Unimaginable

Being A Supersurvivor, And Conquering The Unimaginable

Feldman closes his article with the sentence that "believing that someone is by your side -- someone you can count on -- is one of the great secrets to supersurvival."


"Please, I know you're going to write something. I'm just asking you, don't write it in a way that makes people feel sorry for me," Jimmy Butler once said. "I hate that. There's nothing to feel sorry about. I love what happened to me. It made me who I am. I'm grateful for the challenges I've faced. Please, don't make them feel sorry for me."

The quote from Jimmy Butler of the Philadelphia 76ers indicates the kind of person he is: a supersurvivor. Everyone goes through adverse circumstances, but there are survivors, and then there's the distinction of the supersurvivor, the people who bounce back and succeed in ways unimaginable, in ways no one ever thought possible. Supersurvivors don't just bounce back, however. They bounce forward and channel their rage and energies into "a new calling, a new mission, or a new path." Above all, they have dramatically altered their lives after facing a crisis.

David Feldman of Psychology Today studies individual stories and case studies of people who are labeled in as "supersurvivors," and often they don't have any special abilities or fame like Jimmy Butler, but rather are ordinary people, people like us, who "aren't powerless in the face of tragedy and suffering."

The first person Feldman follows is Asha Mevlana, a 38-year-old cancer survivor who started taking violin lessons. Often, she improvised, telling her interviewer that "I played the anxiety that I felt when they injected me with chemo, and I played how I tried to be strong for everyone else when I was terrified." After playing for a year, and encouraged by a friend, Melvana took a risk: she moved to Los Angeles to start trying to get paying gigs playing the violin. "She still considered herself an amateur violinist. Then again, she had nothing to lose."

She auditioned to join a tour as the lead violinist in the famous band, "Twisted Sister," and went on to perform alongside musicians like Alanis Morissette, Jay Z, and Mary J. Bilge. Feldman then inserts a note in the article, emphasizing the fact that Melvana, like us, is not a superhero and isn't superhuman. Supersurvivors like her "wrestle with the same questions we all face: Who am I? What do I believe? How should I live my life?"

The next supersurvivor surveyed is Alan Lock, a 34-year-old British veteran who was once a navigation officer on the British destroyer, HMS York. One day, he couldn't read his navigation charts, had his eyes tested, and had tests done that showed he had a genetic abnormality named macular degeneration. Normally affecting people in their 60s and 70s, Lock showed severe symptoms at 23, and "would never read, drive, or fully see again."

Many of his friends encouraged Lock to think positively, to look on the bright side of his struggle. However, this didn't feel very genuine for him: as a natural pessimist, he was well aware he couldn't bring back his vision or life in the navy. "Thinking realistically was the only way to move forward," he said. He rejected positive thinking, and this acceptance of his reality made rooms for other options in his life. Called grounded hope, the approach relies on building choices based on a firm understanding of reality.

He ended up being successful: in 2008, he was the first legally blind person to row across the Atlantic. With his friend, he started rowing from the Canary Islands to Barbados, with no motor or sail, and only food to survive, a compass, GPS, and gas-powered cooking equipment. They faced setbacks from rough seas and winds, but those setbacks did not deter Lock. "It wasn't as if I didn't see this coming," he said. But the question then was "what show I do now?"

Boreham and Lock completed the task in 85 days, and Lock cemented his name in the Guinness World Record book as the first blind person to row across an ocean.

Casey Pieretti, a 48-year-old stuntman, had a different approach and formula to becoming a supersurvivor. He lost his right leg at 19 in a car accident with a drunk driver, but when he awoke in the hospital, he immediately accepted his situation. "I could have died; I should have died," he thought. In that accident, his father and brother also died, but he made a goal that day: he was going to run a triathlon within a year. He pushed through rehab, and with a prosthetic, almost a year after the accident, he ran a 7-minute mile.

Pieretti believed in positive illusions about his control over his life and his ability to control his future, and friends found his unapologetic confidence admirable and delusional simultaneously. Positive illusions are defined by psychologist Shelley Taylor, as "people's mildly distorted positive perceptions of themselves, one example of which is an exaggerated sense of personal control."

Pieretti once said that "There's no limit to what I can do...I'm willing to try anything." He later embarked on a journey to skate across the country with a friend, from San Diego to D.C., and he succeeded. Hollywood called and asked for him to be a stuntman, and is now one of Hollywood's most coveted stunt actors.

Feldman makes sure to differentiate between positive illusions of control and the denial-based, disingenuous positive thinking that Lock rejected. Positive illusions are inflated views of someone's ability to control the future, not distortions of the situation. It's the ability to see your failures and problems accurately, but it's also the ability to ask "what now?" and believe there's always something you can do about them.

In all these stories, however, is a common theme. Lock rowed across the Atlantic with a friend. Pieretti also skated across the country with a friend, while Melvana, encouraged by a friend, moved to Los Angeles and grew successful as an electric violinist. None of these subjects were alone, and there were people who were there for them, unconditionally.

The truth is we will all have different ways and formulas to become supersurvivors in our own lives, and everyone has their own style of resilience. Feldman closes his article with the sentence that "believing that someone is by your side -- someone you can count on -- is one of the great secrets to supersurvival." Supersurvivors didn't do it alone: they had support, and they had resources. They could not do it without the untold supporters who had their back, and although it's not everything, perhaps knowing and having someone who will always be at your side is one of the keys to supersurvival.

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Why High School Musicals Should Be As Respected As Sports Programs Are

The arts are important, too.

When I was in middle school and high school, I felt like I lived for the musicals that my school orchestrated.

For those of you who don't know, a musical is an onstage performance wherein actors take on roles that involve singing, and often dancing, to progress the plot of the story. While it may sound a little bit nerdy to get up in front of an audience to perform in this manner, this is something you cannot knock until you try it.

For some reason, though, many public schools have de-funded arts programs that would allow these musicals to occur, while increasing the funding for sports teams. There are a few things that are being forgotten when sports are valued more than musical programs in high schools.

Much like athletic hobbies, an actor must try-out, or audition, to participate in a musical. Those best suited for each role will be cast, and those who would not fit well are not given a part. While this may sound similar to trying out for say, basketball, it is an apples to oranges comparison.

At a basketball try-out, those who have the most experience doing a lay-up or shooting a foul shot will be more likely to succeed, no questions asked. However, for an audition, it is common to have to learn a piece of choreography upon walking in, and a potential cast member will be required to sing a selected piece with only a few days of preparation.

There are many more variables involved with an audition that makes it that much more nerve-racking.

The cast of a school musical will often rehearse for several months to perfect their roles, with only several nights of performance at the end. Many sports practice for three or four days between each of their respective competitions. While this may seem to make sports more grueling, this is not always the case.

Musicals have very little pay-off for a large amount of effort, while athletic activities have more frequent displays of their efforts.

Athletes are not encouraged to but are allowed to make mistakes. This is simply not allowed for someone in a musical, because certain lines or entrances may be integral to the plot.

Sometimes, because of all the quick changes and the sweat from big dance numbers, the stage makeup just starts to smear. Despite this, an actor must smile through it all. This is the part of musicals that no sport has: introspection.

An actor must think about how he or she would respond in a given situation, be it saddening, maddening, frightening, or delightful. There is no sport that requires the knowledge of human emotion, and there is especially no sport that requires an athlete to mimic such emotion. This type of emotional exercise helps with communications and relationships.

Sports are great, don't get me wrong. I loved playing volleyball, basketball, track, and swimming, but there were no experiences quite like those from a musical. Sports challenge the body with slight amounts of tactic, while musicals require much physical and mental endurance.

The next time you hear someone say that it's “just a musical," just remember that musicals deserve as much respect as sports, since they are just as, if not more demanding.

Cover Image Credit: Cincinnati Arts

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10 Shows To Watch If You're Sick Of 'The Office'

You can only watch it so many times...


"The Office" is a great show, and is super easy to binge watch over and over again! But if you're like me and you're looking for something new to binge, why not give some of these a try? These comedies (or unintentional comedies) are a great way to branch out and watch something new.

1. "New Girl"

A show about a group of friends living in an apartment in a big city? Sound familiar? But seriously, this show is original and fresh, and Nick Miller is an icon.

2. "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"

Ya'll have been sleeping on this show. It's a musical comedy about a girl that follows her ex boyfriend across the country. I thought it sounded horrible so I put it off for WAY too long, but then I realized how incredible the cast, music, writing, and just EVERYTHING. It really brings important issues to light, and I can't say too much without spoiling it. Rachel Bloom (the creator of the show) is a woman ahead of her time.

3. "Jane the Virgin"

I know... another CW show. But both are so incredible! Jane The Virgin is a tongue-in-cheek comedy and parody of telenovelas. It has so many twists and turns, but somehow you find yourself laughing with the family.

4. "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"


Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been in popular news lately since its cancellation by Fox and sequential pickup by NBC. It's an amazing show about cops in, you guessed it, Brooklyn. Created by the amazing Michael Schur, it's a safe bet that if you loved "The Office" you'll also love his series "Brooklyn Nine-Nine".

5. "The Good Place"

Another series created by the talented Micael Schur, it's safe to say you've probably already heard about this fantasy-comedy series. With a wonderful cast and writing that will keep you on your toes, the show is another safe bet.

6. "Fresh Off The Boat"

Seriously, I don't know why more people don't watch this show. "Fresh Off The Boat" focuses on an Asian family living in Orlando in the mid 90s. Randall Parks plays a character who is the polar opposite of his character in "The Interview" (Yeah, remember that horrifying movie?) and Constance Wu is wonderful as always.

7. "Full House"

Why not go back to the basics? If you're looking for a nostalgic comedy, go back all the way to the early days of Full House. If you're a '98-'00 baby like me, you probably grew up watching the Tanner family on Nick at Night. The entire series is available on Hulu, so if all else fails just watch Uncle Jesse and Rebecca fall in love again or Michelle fall off a horse and somehow lose her memory.

8. "Secret Life of the American Teenager"

Okay, this show is not a comedy, but I have never laughed so hard in my life. It's off Netflix but it's still on Hulu, so you can watch this masterpiece there. Watch the terrible acting and nonsense plot twists drive this show into the ground. Somehow everyone in this school dates each other? And also has a baby? You just have to watch. It might be my favorite show of all time.

9. "Scrubs"

Another old show that is worth watching. If you ignore the last season, Scrubs is a worthwhile medical comedy about doctors in both their personal and medical life. JD and Turk's relationship is one to be jealous of, and one hilarious to watch. Emotional at times, this medical drama is superior to any medical drama that's out now.

10. "Superstore"

I was resistant to watch this one at first, because it looked cheesy. But once I started watching I loved it! The show is a workplace comedy, one you're sure to love if you can relate to working in retail. If you liked the Office, you'll like Superstore!

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