Obstacles – what do they mean?

The bus where Rosa Parks was arrested in by trying to overcome an obstacle. Photo by Maia C / Flickr Creative Commons License.

Staring at a screen with a stiff neck and a fragile sense of positivity, I am silly enough to start wondering what obstacles are for. Not obstacles in an obstacle course – though to be honest I don’t know why you would make running more difficult by making me stretch my legs in an impossible jump, but athletic I am not – but obstacles in a more literal sense – the barriers we find in life.

We will all meet them, sometimes we will see them coming and other times they will surprise us. But a true process of growing up – for me, at least – has been realizing life is hard for everyone.

Even with this realization (which I must clarify people had informed me before, but I never really understood it in its full meaning), I still struggle to understand the purpose of obstacles – why they are there and how do I get around them?

I want to be a writer, a journalist, a story teller, but since I graduated from university that hasn’t been a possibility. In all fairness, circumstances are not the best right now, options I was counting on fell through at the blink of an eye and now I found myself surrounded by mountains I must (supposedly) climb. And I wonder – why are they there?

It is impossible and inconceivable, in times of struggle and fear, not to consider the demoralizing option of giving up. If so many things stand in my way, if so many obstacles are blocking my vision of the future, maybe I am not meant to be a writer, maybe I am not meant to be what I have been working for in the past three years. Maybe it’s time to give up, to abandon my dreams. In the end, are obstacles meant to test or contest us?

Does not reaching an objective mean you are not meant to reach it, or does it mean you should try harder? Does it mean you learn something new, or just keep the old things you already knew safer within you?


When Alice Walker was in school, she was hit in the eye with a BB gun by one of her brothers. She became blind on one eye and lived with scar tissue that was apparent and ready to be discussed and cussed by her classmates. She was suddenly shy, quiet, and, I imagine, not quite herself.

Upon graduation, after the scar tissue that made her so self-conscious was removed, she was voted class queen and most popular girl in school.

“[It taught me] really to see people and things, really to notice relationships and to learn to be patient enough to care about how they turned out”.

Alice Walker learned something from her hardship. In many cases, we have no choice but to endure until the mountain moves itself – and then we learn.

Rosa Parks however, overcame her realities for a greater good, and in her case running into an obstacle was not a message to give up or even learn something new, it was a message to fight harder. Her obstacles were overcome and the world changed, but it may not have seemed like that at the time. When refusing to give up her seat to a white person in 1955, it must have felt like pain to be treated so badly, to be pushed aside for the confort of someone else, who was, at the time, thought to be better than her because of the colour of their human skins.

“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true,” Rosa told Sidney Rogers, a few years later. “I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then, I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.

Though it is undeniable that the actions Rosa Parks, mother of civil rights, changed the United States and the civil rights movement, the fact that she stood up (sat down, rather) for herself in that bus stemmed from tiredness, exhaustion. She was sick of the situation she lived in, sick of the obstacles, the barriers, the limitations. Rosa had already given in and sat in the marked “coloured seats”, and now that bus driver was trying to limit her even more.

If you let an obstacle take over your life it will get taller and harder to climb.

In this time of beginnings, with a new year starting full of hope and even something fresh , the barriers of life depend on you. Take these two stories as you will, but the truth is they both produced amazing women who I look up to. Keep hitting your head against the wall enough times, the wall might break down for you to pass, or the mountain will move on its own.  Or maybe stop and think for a bit and instead of going down the path you are now, which is perhaps not working, try another path. Instead of climbing, maybe try to go around it, or leave it a little bit – sometimes peace is the best way to go.

Good luck in 2013.

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Photos by Maia C and veesees/ Flickr Creative Commons License.


5 thoughts on “Obstacles – what do they mean?”

  1. Thanks for sharing theses stories. i to am climbing a mountain where the peak moves as I get closer to it. so far all I can tell is you can’t just focus on ONE thing as a goal. You have to have many, At some point I think all of these things will come together and meet and it will all make sense. SO I’ve been working on my inner self, my relationships and work. Learning to take adversity with honor and dignity and grace. To treat a bump in the road just as that a mere bump not a life shattering event. Good luck if you get any other good advise SHARE!!!

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