{31 Days: Day 29} New Heights

This 31-day challenge has taught me a lot about writing, organizing my thoughts, creating things in a pinch, and most importantly: climbing to new heights!

The great thing about climbing, is the view gets better and better. You can’t always see where you’re headed, but when you turn around and look over all you’ve already conquered, it feels pretty good. And even when you walk through some pretty rough terrain, once you see it from higher up, it falls into place to make the “big-picture” a far more glorious sight.

When I was in my (very) early 20s, I was somehow in charge of the young-adult group at church. I had planned an overnight camping trip, followed by a hike up one of our local mountain paths. We ascended some 5,000+ feet and I thought I was going to die. First of all, I am one of the most out-of-shape people you’ve ever met in your life. In your life. I get winded just talking about exercise. It’s pathetic. Here we were hiking up as a group, and I was breathing so hard it felt like my lungs were trying to escape out my ears. My heart was pounding somewhere above my head, and I was holding everyone back. EVERYONE. I wanted to stop for “snacks and hydration” breaks every 100 feet because I needed to catch my breath. I was trying to pass it off like I was doing fine, but I was doing horrible. Horrible! I promise you at least all of them were thinking, “Why was this her idea? Cause she really sucks at hiking.”

We passed a few people on horseback, on their way down the mountain. When they heard we were planning on reaching the top, and we still had 21 switchbacks to navigate, they shook their heads and wished us luck. One said, “Without horses?” What in the world were we doing? Had I organized a group suicide in this camping trip? I wanted to jump on the back of one of the horses and tell everyone else, “Save yourselves! Ride!” but I couldn’t even catch enough air to utter “help” to the horsemen. I was done in.

At one point, one of our group members asked me if I wanted to use her trekking poles. I said yes, thinking at the very least, I could run one through my temple when no one was looking, and put myself out of this misery. Interestingly enough, however, those trekking poles made a world of difference. I wasn’t holding anyone up anymore, and I was keeping pace with the rest. All I needed was that little bit of support, and I was able to enjoy the rest of the ascent. It was still a tough climb for me, but I fared much better with a little help.

When we got to the top, after four hours of hiking, I remember feeling like I had just won the lottery. I had DONE it. And I had come so close – so many times – to giving up. Sticking it out and getting to the top of that mountain was an experience I won’t soon forget. I remember putting both hands in the air and shouting, “WE DID IT!” like a total nerd, but I was an excited nerd. My lungs didn’t explode, my heart didn’t pound right out of my chest like I thought it would – I had done it. Even though I thought I couldn’t, I did it. My technique was awful, but it got the job done. When we were standing at the top, looking over the switchbacks and valley we had come up from, I remember just soaking in the glorious view. It was amazing. Exhilarating. Profound.

We made it down the mountain in half the time it took us to go up. Going down was a lot easier. I was familiar with the trail, I knew what to expect, and I didn’t have to climb. I just had to be gentle on my knees. I was out of breath most of the way down as well, but not because I was exerting myself; it was because my sister’s ankles kept giving out and she would suddenly crumple to a little heap on the ground, and I couldn’t stop laughing. Like those toys, where you push the bottom and they just collapse? That was her. I’m not the nicest sister in the world either, and even though she had encouraged me on the way up, I was the first to laugh at her for falling down. If you knew her history of weak ankles, though, you’d think it was kind of funny, too. Trust me. I’m not evil. Eventually she grew tired of being a spectacle for everyone and she went to the back of the pack. I offered her one of the trekking poles, and wouldn’t you know it, she fared much better with a little help. No more stumbles. Smooth sailing the rest of the way.

Maybe the poles were magic.

My point is this: when your path seems impossible, do not think you have to do it alone. Do not refuse help from those around you. Some of them are better equipped than you realize, and can give you the tools necessary to make it to the top. Or to find your way back. Whichever way you’re headed. Don’t give up before the victory materializes. The view, the rush, the shouting like a nerd – it’s all worth it. Then, once you’ve conquered your journey, you can go forward to new heights. The world is waiting. Start climbing.

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