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Within each of the 50 hash marks exists a memory of pain. Ranging from the cardiovascular confrontation of trying to catch my breath, to the unreal undertaking of trying to lift a telephone pole over my head (see: Atlas), high school football conditioning was as much a fight on a physiological front as it was a mental melee. 

Every day I, along with all of my teammates, would wonder to myself, “Why do I do this? Why do I put myself through all of this pain?” 

Though my time with high school football is long gone, I still make routine trips to the Central Campus Recreation Building. I am included in approximately 60% of young adults that frequent the gym, a group who willingly choose to endure one to two hours of physical pain almost every day. To the layman, it might seem counterintuitive to ask why we do this, but doing so allows me to derive meaningful insights about the nature of all types of pain, not just physical. Pain itself, in all shapes and forms, serves as a reminder of our capacity for growth and love. 

Running long distances, or even short ones, can prove daunting to many people. The notion of having to struggle between breaths, as their legs slowly diminish in power along with their will to continue, can banish the idea of cardio from the mind of the exhausted exerciser. In fact, a recent study found that only 8.9% of frequent runners actually enjoyed running as opposed to hating or just tolerating it. 

Despite the momentary pain and suffering, runners choose to run for the many tangible benefits of this (often exhausting) pastime. Running improves bone and muscle strength along with providing a strong basis for caloric afterburn, which is burning calories after a workout is done. People are willing to undergo momentary, harsh pain if that means improving their life in some way

The willingness to undergo pain to progress applies to all other forms of exercise as well. The callouses developed from weightlifting are symbolic of the pain necessary to grow and the soreness involved with the aftermath of a long day of exercise validates growth in skill and endurance.

Emotional pain shares a lot of similarities with its physical counterpart. Our emotional limits are constantly tested, with new challenges relating to our capacity for empathy and patience arising every single day. The testing of these limits can cause us to feel hurt, disillusioned with reality and far from the people that care about us. 

However, we must be broken down to be built up. The only way to move forward is to recognize that your current position isn’t where you want to be. It is the momentary challenge that will give way to a greater, fuller understanding of the world around us. 

The pain we feel validates the growth we undergo and care that we hold, it is a reminder that we did and do love. The cause of our sadness is not the cold absence of passion, but the proof we held warmth inside us to begin with. 

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t feel sad or that our sadness is unimportant within the greater context of growth. Put simply, the idea that emotional pain is symbolic of our growth and of our capacity for love should be used as a tool to help direct our sadness in a positive and productive way. It’s a way to remind ourselves that, no matter how dark things may seem and how inescapable our sadness can feel at times, it’s all moving us somewhere. 

Each one of the hash marks on my high school football field represents a moment of pain and weakness. Fifty clear examples of instances where I felt like I couldn’t match up to what was in front of me. However, after fighting each of those 50 times but not always succeeding, I became stronger. 

To build ourselves up, we must be broken down and we must feel the progression of pain. Change will never be easy and we are only bound to face more emotional challenges as time goes on. However, we should learn to embrace this pain because it is a constant reminder that we feel, and that, in the end, we grow. 

Zhane Yamin is an Opinion Columnist & can be reached at