You begin climbing because you want to reach the peak. It is the snow on the top of the mountain that rouses you from your slumber, prods you to wake up and start walking. You feel the heat of the fire that has ignited within. It is this fire that will sustain you through the winding roads and the biting winds.
You know you’ll make it to the top. You believe with full force of conviction that you’ll stand on the peak and scream words of victory into the void.
But then you don’t make it.
You slipped, you stumbled. You fell.
You didn’t make it.
And in the nether worlds, you will sit and brood and wonder why you ever started. You’ll curse and cry for ever having thought that you could make it.
I hope in those moments, a voice whispers to you- it was never about the peak, it was always about the climb. Had you never been stirred to start walking, you’d still be fiddling with grass at the foothills. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But tell me, does it live up to the exuberance of believing?
Of trying? Of failing?
Kurt Vonnegut drives a similar message home when he says,
“When I was 15, I spent a month working on an archaeological dig. I was talking to one of the archaeologists one day during our lunch break and he asked those kinds of ‘getting to know you’ questions you ask young people: Do you play sports? What’s your favourite subject? And I told him, no I don’t play any sports. I do theatre, I’m in choir, I play the violin and piano, I used to take art classes.
“And he went wow. That’s amazing! And I said, ‘Oh no, but I’m not any good at any of them.’
“And he said something then that I will never forget and which absolutely blew my mind because no one had ever said anything like it to me before: ‘I don’t think being good at things is the point of doing them. I think you’ve got all these wonderful experiences with different skills, and that all teaches you things and makes you an interesting person, no matter how well you do them.’
“And that honestly changed my life. Because I went from a failure, someone who hadn’t been talented enough at anything to excel, to someone who did things because I enjoyed them. I had been raised in such an achievement-oriented environment, so inundated with the myth of Talent, that I thought it was only worth doing things if you could ‘win’ at them.”