We're Always Going Up, Even When It Seems Like We Aren't
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We're Always Going Up, Even When It Seems Like We Aren't

So be patient, hold tight. This too shall pass, and it will help your journey upwards.

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We're Always Going Up, Even When It Seems Like We Aren't

"Life is a journey up a spiral staircase; as we grow older we cover the ground covered we have covered before, only higher up; as we look down the winding stair below us we measure our progress by the number of places where we were but no longer are. The journey is both repetitious and progressive; we go both round and upward," -- W.B. Yeats.

I have turned to this quote from Yeats frequently as time has gone on, and I have thought it more and more to be true. At the time, I thought it was somewhat cliche and after some of the mistakes I have made, it's hard to believe that they lead me to becoming a better and more complete person.

But as I've gone on, the Yeats quote is a truism. Life is a spiral stair where we're going around and up. The pointless things in life give us knowledge when we least expect it.

Last April, I wrote an article titled "There's No Such Thing As Wasting Time". The article's premise was somewhat obvious and self-explanatory, but to me, every second we spend doing something, no matter how important it seems in the moment, is formative in making us who we are. As a Christian, every second I spend doing anything is part of God's plan, and even time spent doing nothing is not wasting time.

At the time, the article was published not only because I believed it, but also as a critique on hustle culture where we always need to be productive. At the time, a fellow Medium author, who goes by a page titled Broken & Healed -- A Stroke at 38, made a meaningful comment about her stroke in her 30's.

"By being still and not 'moving forwards: that's when you advance spiritually," she wrote.

And so we come back to Yeats, one of the most illustrious poets of the modern era. In my last semester college, I studied the contributions of Yeats to Irish Independence and some of his poems and plays. While "The Second Coming" might be Yeats's most popular poem, the poem that resonated the most to me was "Easter, 1916," a poem of Yeats's conflicted emotions commemorating the heroes of the Easter Rising Irish rebellion against British rule.

Historically, Easter Rising could be considered a drastic failure. A group of Irish republicans, undermanned and underresourced, fought for six days against a British army at the forefront of fighting the Germans of World War I. The Irish Volunteers stood no chance: many Irish citizens didn't even stand with the rising. Yeats himself abhorred the violence. Even Volunteer leader, Eoin MacNeill issued an order to stop the Rising. After six days, the British suppressed the rebellion and executed most of the Rising's leaders

Yeats, in "Easter, 1916," clearly does not like some of the Irish heroes that led Easter Rising. He describes Countess Markiewicz, a female leader of the rebellion, as having a voice whose days were spent in "ignorant good-will...Until her voice grew shrill." He describes another major player in the rebellion, John MacBride, as a "drunken, vainglorious lout".

And Yeats had all the reason to. He references that "He had done most bitter wrong/ To some who are near my heart," which is a reference to Maud Gonne, MacBride's wife and Yeats's lifelong love. MacBride had beaten and abused Gonne, but MacBride, like Markiewicz, had been "changed in turn" by his sacrifice for the ideal of Irish independence.

Yeats may have liked Markiewicz in her youth, as well as Pearse, but he certainly did not like MacBride. But at the end of the poem, he commemorates MacBride as well as the other revolutionary leaders:

"I write it out in a verse --
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse...
Are changed, changed utterly
A terrible beauty is born."

Although Easter Rising, ostensibly, was a terrible failure and a waste of lives and time, what the Easter Rising turned into was Irish Independence. Much of this was due to the brutal suppression and executions from the British army, but Yeats has an internal struggle, questioning "was it needless death after all?"

And no -- it wasn't needless, as the Irish did gain their independence and the heroes immortalized themselves in poems like that of Yeats's poem. That time and that effort was not wasted, and their legacies were cemented in the halls of Irish history.

Obviously, we're not perfect people. MacBride himself was not a perfect person. Neither were Connolly, Pearse, Markiewicz, MacDonagh, and Yeats. But these people cemented their legacies and pushed the seemingly insurmountable fight for independence even when it seemed impossible.

I take a lesson from Easter Rising and Yeats himself and apply it to my own life. I see now that the times I thought I was wasting my time, where I wasn't moving forward at all, was still going up. I see the Yeats quote as adding a third dimension to our lives. Even when we feel like we're going down, we're expanding upwards on the z-axis with age -- forever and always.

Even in the times that seemed wasted and pointless, I'm reminded constantly and accidentally that those times mattered. They were a part of who I am now, and the passing of time gave me the wisdom to see that. Even in the times I went through depression, anxiety, and a troubled family history, when I suffered most, that time of suffering gave me endurance, character, and hope. I wouldn't be half the person I am had I not suffered.

We're always going up, even when it seems like we aren't. I know for you, like it is for me, that's probably hard to see and believe right now. But it's true, and give it some time, and maybe look back to see the ways that it was in your past.

So be patient, hold tight. This too shall pass, and it will help your journey upwards.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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