Have you ever heard the phrase "mileage on a hoe"?
In his most recent and apparently last Netflix comedy special, Dave Chappelle used it with a corresponding story to indirectly explain why he left show business for over a decade. Coined by pimps way back in the day, it’s the amount of stress you can put someone through before they reach their breaking point. Eyeballing it is a skill with real benefits; if you know a person's limit you can manipulate circumstances to extend it that much more.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about breaking points and why exactly they differ so much from person to person. Why some people can carry the weight of the world and others can hardly manage their own struggles. Even stranger still how there’s not even a correlation between life experience and where you end up on that spectrum. So, I spoke with a good friend of mine seeking answers. She’s a counselor - works with broken spirits and troubled minds every day.
I asked her about the line between weakness and actual limits, and how I can differentiate between them.
She told me that it depends. It's about an individual’s life experiences and their built in resistance to stress, but that ultimately it comes down to decisions and outcomes. If there is an outcome that someone needs or wants to achieve, yet they’re making decisions in conflict with it, they must either adjust their methods or adjust their outcomes no matter what they’ve been through. Then she asked me why it bothered me so much.
I now realize that I was seeking an answer that would provide me with some way to fulfill this diesire to identify people's strength, but in the moment I didn’t really have an answer, I never really thought about it. I like to think that adversity builds character, that struggle makes you strong and fuels perseverance, but how much is too much and even then who’s to say? I find myself thinking often of people’s strength, paying close attention to how people respond to stress often just to make a judgment on how strong they are, to see if I could read it.
It's all immediately put into a context of usefulness. How much can you endure? What is your breaking point? To seek the answers to these questions is only self-serving; either to validate your own definition of strength or to identify someone's usefulness - their capacity or ability to do something you think needs to be done. I think of those who've been through worse yet still stand tall, but never really about why or at what cost.
In reality value should be seen in mileage traveled rather than mileage left. Every journey is different; don't need to understand it, just need to accept it. That's not to say that some people really aren't just soft, it's just to say that it doesn't really matter because that line is arbitrary. Mileage doesn't only apply to pimps and hoes, understand that you can get used up doing even the Lord's work. Be wary of people who would sacrifice you for a good cause while unable to endure the same fate.
I’m only as strong as my goals need me to be. If someone's not strong enough to do what's important to them then it simply won't get done, and that's their business. Sometimes it's being strong enough to endure long hours, ill will, or emotional labor without breaking. Other times it's the strength to be disciplined, to compromise, to reflect, or to change. Find the strength to do whatever the goals require. If not, I mean, they’ll fall short.
People can make peace with that, adjust their methods or outcomes, or rise to the occasion. Regardless, it’s still not your business. Unless you're ready to be supportive there’s no good reason for anyone to be concerned with someone's strength. Support those who can’t so they may get to a point where they can, and support those who are already there so that they may continue. Otherwise, just keep it moving.