“It was difficult; it was hard, and I wanted to quit, but I’m glad I did it anyway.”
—Austin Goldberg, on Productive Flourishing’s episode on the Wayfinding Academy)
I have done this. I have felt this. But not in a while. Well, there’s hiking the Harding Ice Field trail two weeks ago, but the glad on the finished-end of that was milder than the hard in the middle.
It’s been a while since I had the edge-of-the mountain glorious kind of satisfaction in pushing my limit. And I’m wondering: am I too old for this?
Here’s the thing: in one way I know I’m not. At a base level, I can scan my horizon and pick something that will push me to my farthest edges. I’m good at coming up with projects. But these ideas are merely strenuous—there’s no zing like the light on a blade when I assess them. And while I can almost get on board with strenuous for strength’s sake when it comes to my physical self, I balk for my other dimensions when that’s the chief rationale.
Maybe that’s nothing new.
My teen experiences climbing and bouncing down rocks were watershed moments for me. They’ve anchored my understanding of myself, my grit. Time has made them gleam like a worn gold ring. So when I pull my memories of them out right now, can I remember how I walked into them? I think… I think the first one was a lark, subbing for another girl who was sick? Or were we going together, but since she couldn’t go I got to use her hiking boots? She had good boots. Better than my sneakers, better than the boots I got later.
I was… curious.
Once there, I decided I was committed–as in, I’ve come all this way so I might as well try this once.
Once over the edge, I gained that knife’s edge zing: a new way of experiencing something that continues to frighten me so much it yanks my guts out from below.
After I committed, the program lead clapped me on the shoulder and said: you can come with me any time, on any trip.
That’s what sealed the deal. The zing, and the affirmation. Together.
I think getting my bachelor’s degree was the same. Though, at four years, it was more tiring than two weeks of climbing. And there were lots more tears.
One of the reasons I’m taking grad classes again is to feed my mind something it can chew on. I had thought perhaps the classes would also touch this important piece I know I’m also currently missing: the stretch to the ends of my fingers, the strain that means I’m growing. After a semester, I don’t know why I would have—after all, that wasn’t what happened in my other grad program. That was interesting-enough, and fun, because I like school. But not enough zing for a PhD. Not even any tears.
I survey my landscape, and figure an epic effort would do me a world of good…if I could only pick it out. As I tell my Silver Award girls, it needs to have a why big enough to pull me along when everything gets difficult. So that when I’m choosing what to do, I still do epic and not something comfortable.
Nope. Right now all the large-ish things I’m doing are, as far as I can tell, just for me. That’s not a why that will drive me. There’s the poetry, of course, but that I-can’t-quit-you thing is no more a stretch than breathing is.
Maybe being in this place is more about knowing what the stretch is like, knowing certainly that I can survive it, and being unwilling to settle for anything less. Time-in-grade — age — has brought me here, but it’s not about being 49. It’s the collateral of living on purpose, with as few excuses as possible.
Maybe I’m waiting again. Waiting still.
What if endurance is my latest stretch?