on sufferfest-ing

Sarah Marquis

The story in The New York Times Magazine about Sarah Marquis, a 42 year-old Swiss woman who walked 10,000 miles of wilderness in 3 years, alone, and endured all sorts of crazy natural and man-made calamities along the way, was excellent food for thought. Her need to test herself in isolation, to persevere over seemingly arbitrary challenges that she fashions for herself, to travel and experience huge swaths of the earth on rather trying terms – all in search of an “inchoate feeling” that gives her life substance – seems bonkers and maladjusted, yes, but somehow also completely self-actualized and inspiring.

This line especially spoke to me: But perhaps the reason to court a sufferfest – to explore or adventure, or whatever you want to call it – is that it makes a person feel alive.

I’m no Sarah Marquis by any stretch of the imagination. My personal extremes are about eight thousand times less extreme than hers. But the compulsion to go to them is familiar to me.

In fact, I seem to be courting sufferfests right and left these days. Learning French and (pretending to learn) Spanish are the ones I talk about here – but there are many more. Sometimes there is no reward, only suffering. But sometimes it all pays off and there is a feeling of extreme exhilaration and purpose. I am in the midst of a work-related sufferfest right now that I’m hoping will come out on the side of the latter. Only time will tell…

(Photo: Joel Marquis)

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