My house sits at the top section of a very steep hill. “Steep” is an understatement. I’ve heard bikers uttering swear words as they grind up it in the easiest gear that they can muster – eyes fixated down so not to see what’s coming. I’ve witnessed walkers pause and sigh in unison at the halfway point. Coincidentally, or perhaps conveniently, there is a cemetery that sits right along that steepest segment of the hill, just in case one needs a place to rest. I’ve had friends tell me that they do not want to meet at my house for a bike ride because they’d prefer not to ride up the hill at the end of the ride.
Last week, I was walking down the hill on my way to the local market and caught a glimpse of our neighbor’s son walking toward me while pushing his bike up the hill on his way home from school. I often see him walking to or from his elementary school in town, but this was the first time I’ve seen him with his bike. I briefly reminisced about growing up in a house that sat on a country road at the top a long and steep hill. Biking was my main form of transportation as a kid and riding to a friend’s house, the local park, general store and even school sometimes was not a short trip. Of course, there was no way to get home but by going up. I’d have to play all kinds of head games to keep pedaling.
Back to my story about my neighbor’s son. As we passed each other, I stopped and mentioned to him my experience of me trekking up horrible hill that I grew up on when I was his age. I told him that THIS hill, which he is climbs up most days is twice as steep. “It’s killer,” I said. He’s a quiet kid and not much for small talk, however he looked up at me, shrugged his shoulders and said, “after a while you get used to it – it’s not that bad.” He then proceeded to put his head down and trudge on.
I thought about that for a while as I continued my walk into town. I thought about how many times that I have already made the climb back to our house in less than a year of living here. I’ve climbed it at the end of long bike or elliptigo rides. I’ve walked into town or onto local hiking trails and back home several times a week and before I gave up running all together, I was running up the hill to get home. The boy was right. After a while, it’s not that bad. You get used to it. You go up it without much thought. You stop fighting the hill and instead, make peace with it.
How true this can be for any challenge we are forced to take on that can seem monumental. When the going gets tough, we can easily drift toward a mindset of, “I can’t possibly do this,” “I hate this,” “I don’t want to go through with this,” “It’s too hard.” We may choose to avoid trekking up “our hill” simply because we don’t want to deal with struggle. We can try our best to find ways around it, but at some point, we’ll hit another hill. How much distance are we willing to cover to avoid hills? How long will it be before we run out of steam looking for alternative routes? By denying ourselves the opportunity to start climbing, we deny ourselves the opportunity to know what is possible. Once we get used to hiking, slogging, schlepping or marching up hills (it doesn’t matter how we do it), we are less tentative and fearful of any others we encounter along our path. One foot at a time – break it down. We just do it. We get up it and over time, we know that we can do it again and again. Perhaps what was once a place of struggle will eventually, be replaced with happiness, hope, empowerment and confidence. BRING ON THE NEXT HILL!