When I was younger, I thought that life was a one-way road. I thought that life was one huge mountain to climb, and once I got to the top, once I "made it", I would have arrived and everything would be easy from then on.
Now I know that when I get to the top of one mountain, there are only more and more mountains to climb. As I reach the clearing, and turn the corner at the tip top of my mountain, I look at the beautiful view, and I stand in awe for a moment, but then I realize that, as far as I can see, there are only infinite more mountaintops.
When I finally came to this realization, it changed me. I no longer saw the point in striving, in working so hard, and sacrificing everything to get to the top of this mountain. I finally realized that, as cliché as it sounds, it's not about the destination. Whatever is at the top of this mountain is not worth it if I'm not enjoying the climb.
I've also realized that life goes in cycles for me, and probably for all of us. For me, the pattern seems to be: work really really hard for a really long time, then sail for a bit; repeat, repeat. Remember when you were a kid and you would go sledding on a snow day? Remember how you had to climb up the hill, pulling your sled behind you. Then you'd get to the top, jump on the sled and fly down the hill in pure bliss. You'd reach the bottom in a fraction of the time that it took you to climb the hill. But the high you got from coming down was so great that you immediately started back up again. And again. And again.
It's the same with our mountain climbing. We could stop when we reach the first peak. We could just set up camp and ignore the other mountains. But usually, the call to climb to new heights beckons us, and we can't resist the urge to feel the rush again, to stand in awe on another, higher mountaintop. And so the cycle goes. And this is all fine and good as long as we are enjoying the journey. As long as the reward for climbing the new mountain is greater than the effort it takes to get there.
Dan and I climbed Mt. LeConte last weekend, so the mountain analogies are fresh on my brain. One funny thing that we noticed was how we kept passing the same people on the trail over and over again. There was a large group of us who started at the same time. Inevitably, some would go faster than others, so we eventually split up into several smaller groups. But then someone would have to stop to pee, or take a water break, or have a snack, or bandage a wound. And during that time, the rest of the group would pass them. We played this game of leap frog all the way up the mountain.
Other people are inevitably going to reach our destination before we do. That's just a part of life. But eventually, we'll all get there, and we'll all be in the same place, and the timing in which we got there will be irrelevant. The group sitting on the porch rocking chairs at the top of Mt. LeConte wasn't concerned with who arrived there first. We were all happy to be sharing the experience of simply being there. But sometimes it is difficult and painful to watch others arrive at our mountaintop before us. And even more-so to watch them sailing down the other side effortlessly while we're still struggling every step of the way. But it helps to know that everyone is at a different point on their journey. And I can almost guarantee that if someone seems to be sailing effortlessly, an enormous amount of struggle and sweat and sacrifice have come before that. So don't take that away from them. Let them have their moment. Eventually you'll have yours too.
What about you? Have you found that as soon as you achieve one goal or mountaintop that another starts beckoning? Or are you satisfied with what you have accomplished, and just want to settle in and relax for a while? Let me know in the comments, I'd love to hear from you!
Till next time,
© Haley McManigal 2016
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