The parking lot was empty when I arrived; a dirt-covered, unpaved, rocky landscape. Passing cars, their headlights on, surely wondered what I was doing. I was wondering where they were heading just the same.
After all, it was five in the morning and we were deep in a canyon.
The sky was black as my friend pulled up next to me. The air was cold and our prospects were shaky. We were about to climb a mountain.
Climbing the mountain
The highest point in Orange County, California is Santiago Peak. It is part of the Saddleback Mountain range. And on this chilled November morning, my friend and I set out to reach the top.
Recent fires had damaged the more direct (closer) routes. So, we were essentially starting at sea level, miles from the regular entry point. In fact, before we even reached the start of the first trail, we walked for several miles along the narrow street.
Backpacks on, flashlights lit, moving right alongside the spare car or two that passed by.
Resilience meets 5,500 feet
In any challenging situation, no matter the circumstance – be it a long run, a lengthy article, an important meeting, a mountainous hike, whatever – there is a simple lesson to observe:
Time moves quickly.
We climbed to the top of Santiago Peak that day; I achieved my goal. Over a span of 10.5 hours, we traversed 22 miles and gained 5,500 feet in elevation. Most people do that kind of hike over two days.
We had it done before dinner.
And when the trail got steep, when we looked to the top of the mountain from our lowly vantage point and saw how much further we had to go, I reminded myself: time moves quickly. Whatever pain I feel now will be gone in the blink of an eye.
All that will be left is how I feel about myself.
The options before you
Ten hours is nothing.
You experience two sets of them each day. So to quit when you’re out of breath or your thighs start to fatigue is pointless. Because just as soon as the day has begun, you will just as quickly be home, weeks later, reflecting back.
And in doing so, you’ll have two options.
You can either look up to that mountain and smile with pride, knowing that you achieved what you desired, that you reached a mountaintop. Or you can avert your gaze. You can avoid looking up at all, knowing that the site of that mountain will fill you with feelings of defeat.
What do you choose?
It’s up to you. Are you going to push through the discomfort and continue the climb? Or will you give in, quit, and turn around before ever getting to where you want to go?
Time moves quickly. Whatever obstacle you face, whatever challenge lies ahead of you, know that the day will soon be a memory. And with that realization, choose the path you committed to. Climb that mountain, write that book, send that email.
Don’t let the literal or metaphorical elevation gain deter you. Instead, put one foot in front of the other. Take the next step forward and know that so long as you keep going, you will reach your mountaintop.
I’ll see you there.