My father was in the room with me. He sat in a chair at the end of my bed, I could see immense anguish in his eyes, almost despair. He searched with his eyes to know what I was feeling: pain or not, fear or not, hope or not.
Up until this point (at least from the event of my injury until this point) I had been mostly hopeful, optimistic, almost a sense of gratitude that this thing had happened, knowing that I would have to wait no longer to feel a pain of such magnitude, and would never have to fear the pain again. It had happened, I had survived, the sun rose the next day.
But, seeing my father, my first coach, my loving critic, my most loyal fan, look at me with such a grasping yearn for understanding, I broke. Holding onto optimism for the week that had passed since my injury I was quickly cut down by the sheer effect of this injury, the magnitude and waves it would send through my life. The last decade of my life had a sole purpose and pursuit, now that purpose was in immediate question and doubt. So yes, I broke. Completely. My stoicism which had been accepting pain and struggle had now turned to vulnerability, rushing fear, and the purest uncertainty. I broke down in that bed, still drugged up five hours after surgery. I struggled to put words together, my leg in an immobilizer, it would be in it for four weeks. The injury, hours, days, months, the process, the work, the resetting of my physicality back to square one, the fading of a life’s work and a boy’s dream, and the prospect of a year long return (if the injury even allowed it) registered immediately in my throat. Shedding tears I said three words when my dad asked what I felt.
“It’s so daunting.”
Barely being able to say that last word.
I was immobile for four weeks. Not able to walk without two crutches, not able to drive or fit my braced leg in most cars. But I did what I could to better myself each day. With a sharp decline in my physical progress and ability to physically train I turned to my mentality and knowledge. Four weeks of reading and sharpening my training knowledge so I could approach my pursuit with intelligence and without doubt. I planned and programmed for four weeks straight, reading and digesting everything I could find to plan my comeback. I planned everything, drawing out my next year in the gym.
During those weeks I watched a good amount of television too. One of the movies I watched was Everest. There is a scene in the movie where the characters are discussing their reasons why they wished to summit Everest. One of the character’s response instantly struck me and opened up my heart to what was ahead of me:
“I’m climbing Mount Everest… because I can… because to be able to climb that high and see that kind of beauty that nobody ever sees, it’d be a crime not to.”
That’s when it hit me. During the previous weeks I had been balancing on an edge, my mind almost sinking into completely destructive doubt and into the undermining question of why do I want to come back so bad? Why risk failure? Why risk another, more serious injury? Why voluntarily put yourself on the racks of physical pain and psychological anguish for my foreseeable future? Why do I train?
Hearing this quote, rewinding it multiple times and writing it in my journal, I had my why. I found my mountain. I had my mantra.
After four weeks of no physical training I returned to the gym. I began the program I had so meticulously planned while I was home. The first step on my mountain’s incline.
During my first workout I was pissed. Everything was terribly hard and a set of ten reps on the bench press felt like a 2k Row test. I had lost much of my physicality but my mind was firing. I was boiling with anger and sincere dedication to something I loved, a passion visible in my eyes and in my drenched t shirt. Today as I write this, I vividly remember myself saying out loud between sets “Climb the mountain.” The volume would rise and curse words were carefully placed to update the phrase as I threw my weights down after each set. (Thankfully the music was loud so no one heard me. I wanted to train, not embarrass myself.) That phrase saved me. And it saves me today.
So… Find Your Mountain. Find the reason why you do this. We all have various stories and completely different lives. Find what is unique to you, find that personal goal, that sliver of a moment that first brought you through our doors. Make it a battle. Fill it to the brim with passion and pure discipline in pursuit of reaching that summit. Once you have found it, once you have your Mountain in your sights, do not let your eyes fall away from its summit.
And Climb Your Mountain. What other option is there? To stop and turn around? Go back to base camp? What will that give you? Temporary relief? Not even genuine relief. It’ll give you temporary comfort. And you should never desire fleeting comfort in life. Your summit holds the ability to offer you life long comfort and confidence. So do away with the pull of a temporary escape from the harshness of your summit attempt. You know the pain, and you love it. You want it. That’s why you found this mountain. You want a life of impassioned turbulence in pursuit of a noble, clear-eyed, full-hearted goal. On the mountain you do not want relief from the crushing winds of a pursuit. You do not want relief from the rising and broken steps and valleys of progress. You want to be on the incline, in the breach of your battle, you want impassioned turbulence. You found this mountain. You brought yourself here. Now it requires full measure. You are on your mountain. Climb Your Mountain. “It’d be a crime not to.”