“What would the world look like through his eyes? What stories are behind the faces?” These are some of the questions I find flooding my mind as I watch people strolling down bustling streets or boarding BART. I pondered for a great time over how I would attain the answers behind the faces. Yet soon enough I realized the answer was closer than I thought. Yet this realization was met with a mixture of feelings: Mountain climbing.
I enjoyed my Chuck Taylors. They were comfy. Well worn. Safe. I enjoyed walking the streets in those shoes, going through my life following everything I knew how to do best. I knew my shoes very well. I enjoyed sticking to the safest and flattest routes, and I was careful to avoid any hills that might trouble my path. Yet, what was to be gained by following this simple forward motion?
That’s when I decided to swap out my Chucks for a pair of running shoes. Running was never my forté and the concept of joining cross country to spend hours everyday putting myself through daily torture was not something I had thought I would ever agree to. I’d never played a sport or owned a pair of running shoes. The thought of stepping outside of the realm of what I knew best terrified me more than anything else. I had no idea how to embark on the journey that would become my mountain. Yet one thing was certain: I wanted to discover the answers to my questions.
As was to be expected, this new experience was every bit of the torture it promised, yet there was more to gain than I had realized. Through the daily challenges the coaches unleashed upon us, I became closer to the people around me who suffered through the same pains and experienced the same successes. Bonds were created, a sense of family was formed, and this was worth every moment of the pain. What was greater was when I realized that I could walk through the hallways of school and look at runners and no longer wonder why they joined cross country. Not only did my fellow team mates no longer seem crazy to me any more, but runners everywhere seemed to lose their insanity. Today I can watch as a runner jogs down a street and now I know something behind the face. I climbed that mountain.
I believe in mountain climbing. By challenging an everyday path with a mountain, I came to realize I can learn things I never knew I never knew. A mountain may seem like an impossible thing to embark upon, yet I believe the view from the top is worth every moment. Having climbed to the top of a mountain, you can feel accomplished that you climbed the unknown and gained a new experience along the way. You can look at fellow climbers with a new understanding. You can more accurately form your own opinion with a new perspective, and with this new perspective an opportunity for equality and understanding is open to all. And most importantly, you can look across the valley at other mountains yet to be climbed.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.