As I stood to give my opening address which I entitled, “Be Proud of Your Pearls,” I talked about how our pandemic struggles, as well as many others that we face throughout our lives, reminded me of the oyster. For just as the oyster creates something beautiful out of discomfort, we too can use difficult experiences in our lives to create beauty.
A simple grain of sand can be such an irritant that it causes the oyster to create a substance called nacre to protect itself and ease the pain. This happens over and over until it forms a beautiful, much desired pearl. In much the same way it is during our seasons of heartbreak, pain, and struggle that we are most likely to build these sought-after qualities.
Throughout the day presenter after presenter unabashedly shared their G.R.I.T. producing experiences. Their transparency was both beautiful and refreshing. So often we are expert actors and actresses playing the part that is expected of us, not allowing our true selves to be seen. The problem is, only when we share openly and honestly can we truly help others who are also struggling. Vulnerability is uncomfortable and frightening, but necessary if we wish to form a more authentic bond with those around us.
I bet all of you can think of a situation where you divulged something that you were grappling with and soon after, someone else chimed in admitting they had a similar experience. They never would have mentioned it if you had not been brave enough to be so forthright.
Our keynote speaker for the day was Lia Mort, the third season winner of the reality competition show, Tough as Nails. Even though she bested 11 other worthy opponents to win the title, she was very open, reassuring us that she did not always feel tough. This was hard for us to picture as we saw her in action on clips from the show, and considered her time spent in the Marines and Army. Her candid honesty certainly helped us feel better about the times we have felt anything but tough.
I don’t know what it is that you might be struggling with today, or what you may be forced to struggle with in the future, but I do know this; struggling is a part of living, but we can find comfort in knowing that these experiences can be used to produce something good. That said, be proud of your pearls, you created them, they are part of you, and they are beautiful.
Rhonda S. Kelley, Executive Director, Juniata River Valley Chamber of Commerce