What defines the word “tough”?
According to the dictionary:
tough adj ˈtəf
Definition of TOUGH
1 a : strong or firm in texture but flexible and not brittle b : not easily chewed “tough collarbone” “tough expired energy bars”
2: glutinous, sticky “tough ShotBloks”
3: characterized by severity or uncompromising determination “tough hill repeats” “tough ride”
4: capable of enduring strain, hardship, or severe labor “tough cyclists”
5: very hard to influence : stubborn “a tough negotiator”
6: difficult to accomplish, resolve, endure, or deal with “tough goals” “tough luck”
7: stubbornly fought “a tough race”
8: unruly “a tough peloton”
9: marked by absence of softness or sentimentality “a tough critic”
Although I don’t want to be considered sticky or unruly, the word tough contains more meaning than most. The people that I respect and admire, are those that I use “tough” as a descriptor. I recognize the feats they have accomplished, their resilience in times of chaos, and I am impressed and deem then “tough”. I have even used the term “tough cookie” as if to add some sort of sweetness or deliciousness to a hardened situation.
Tough is a word I use when I am reminded of my own humanity and weakness. When the odds or the terrain are stacked up against you, it is common to say that was a “tough” ride, or I am going through a “tough time”. Tough can be a challenge. It can be a magnifying glass on your vulnerability. It can humble you.
Tough is not brittle. Our bones can be breakable, our hearts can be soft, but tough holds resolution. It is desired to be flexible, to be understanding, but at times it is important to hold your ground. To be stubborn. To stand up for what you believe in. To be “tough”.
Some days I feel tough, and other days I feel far from it. It is a distant memory of times that I conquered, and a blatant reality of those times that I failed. But those are the days that make you “tough”. The days you perservere. The days that you quit. The days that you learn from your mistakes. All of this is defines “toughness”. You aren’t always right, and you don’t always win. But I can still consider you “tough”.
I think bike riders are quite “tough”. We are stubborn. We can be fragile, yet we can be extremely determined if not slightly insane. Take this toughness factor into your life but don’t forget that even the toughest can still laugh at themselves and love others. Don’t take yourself too seriously, but feel free to continue to be a “tough cookie”.
Come to think of it, I actually dislike that phrase “tough cookie”, I prefer my cookies to be slightly undercooked with all sorts of gooiness, yet I may prefer my teammates to be a bit tough. I think I will take that term out of my verbal arsenal now.