I failed today. Just another failure in a long string of failures, some small, some large. This just happens to be one that comes at the last hurtle of a long race for me. A stumble that sets the finishing line just a bit farther away, much to the disappointment of myself and loved ones. In my mind, now, I feel as though I am an abnormality. I feel deficient compared to some I know and many I see in day-to-day life. This particular race has taken me much longer than most and in that sense I feel like a charity case to be pitied. As I look back, there have been so many things that have gone wrong on the road to this goal. Apathy, depression, procrastination, disillusionment, frustration, distractions, wondering, the list could go on.
I’m not writing this, however, as a work of self-depravation; rather, as an article of hope. I have never been one to wallow in misery and I don’t want to come off that way now. This is merely an assertion, to my family, to my friends, and perhaps even to myself, that the struggle isn’t over yet for me. I am not one to give up.
If you were to ask a mountain climber, who had just come back from a failed attempt to summit Everest, would he try again? Despite the time and energy, cost and hardships, the work and suffering (not just for him but his loved ones as well) I would bet you that person would say “yes” every time. Why? Because, this person isn’t doing it for anything or anyone but themselves. They are doing it to complete a goal they had set for themselves. I am much like that person.
When I was eleven, still in Cub Scouts and unprepared for the hard trials a long hike could dish out, I went on a fifty mile backpacking trip with my father and a group of older boys. This was actually my first backpacking trip, a tall order for someone so young. I remember my father got me a kid sized external frame pack and I hiked the first two days in an old pair of sneakers.
On the morning of the third day my mother met us on a road that intersected the trail. She had come to pick up any boys that wanted to go home before the next three days of grueling trail. Some of the younger boys (thirteen to fifteen year olds) decided to leave. When my mother took me aside she asked me if I wanted to go too. She said that there was no shame in it because other boys were going to leave also. There was never a doubt in my mind. I told her I wanted to finish. She walked to the car and came back with a small brown box that contained my first set of hiking boots.
The next few days were hell for me. We encountered rain and cold followed by sleet on the fourth night. I cried one day, as I hiked, because my body was pained to move and I was frustrated with myself for being so weak. I remember being so exhausted that one night I couldn’t eat. I just lay in my tent feeling beaten and anguished.
On the fifth day, in the early afternoon, I walked down to the parking lot where a van was waiting to take us home. There was no celebration or awards only the personal knowledge that you had done it. I had help, of coarse, not just from my father but also from the other adults with me. I held up the rear of the group most days and slowed everything down. But I did it. I finished in spite of physical and mental stress. This has been a metaphor for most of my life.
I rely on those around me for help when I need it and the ones who really care have been there for me time and time again. I am embarrassed that this particular goal has taken me so long to complete especially compared to others, yet I will persist. Not for anything but the knowledge that I could. Maybe I was wrong to use the analogy of a race. To me this is more like a solo run. I don’t care what others think or say. I certainly don’t care how long it should take. For me this goal will be about how long it did take.