Climbing the Mountain

Elisa A. Escalante/ LMSW/ 9-29-2020

“I climbed a thousand mountains, and then that hill stopped me in my tracks” -EaE

     I talk to clients and friends about the circumstances that people are dealt, as well as the decisions we must make in our everyday lives. Unfortunately, some people are born in holes, and must fight their way to climb out. Others are born on flat grounds and will stroll and deal with the potholes and barriers that inevitably pop up. Then, there are some who are born on top of mountains. (The highly privileged) The top of the mountain is where many people want to be, but unlike the ones born on the mountains, the average poor to middle class individual must climb their way to the top. The disenfranchised have the most tasks: climb out of the hole, get through the stroll, get to the mountain and climb more. This is the fight that many may not be willing or able to make. One point is, we are often only as strong as our perceived ‘weakest link’, ‘weak’ in this case meaning underprivileged (so not actually weak but born into unfortunate circumstances). If we can throw ropes in the holes and assist them in climbing out, we have a moral responsibility to do so. Why? It’s never a child’s fault if they were born poor, neglected and/ or abused which can then rob them of the opportunity to climb out of said hole.

     However, the individual’s freedom of will is always there, climbing out of the hole will always be their individual choice alone. Someone can throw a rope or ladder to someone in a hole and they may neglect to climb it. Some people may be strolling and the moment they see a mountain, they turn and walk in the other direction. The average individual strolls, stumbles, trips, gets back up and attempts their way back into life at a steady pace. There are many that will try climbing the mountain, work themselves to exhaustion and decide to climb back down to join the comfort zone of the stroll, once again. Then, even the stroll can be tedious, boring and full of frustrating barriers. If people are anywhere from poor to middle class, they have deep holes and difficult mountains to climb if they want any chance at bringing themselves out of their current situation. This is a kind reminder that we cannot get anywhere without working for it, tediously, almost every day of our lives. I am also compelled to admit that sometimes people will continuously climb only to be overwhelmed by tumbling dirt and rocks which may push them back down to the bottom. (The unfortunate life circumstances that can/ will happen)

     I believe one of the best things I was taught by my beloved strict parents and through my military enlistment was to accept the miserable path toward success. Not maybe it will be miserable… it WILL be miserable. There is no avoiding it! They made it clear that avoiding misery was NOT an option, fatigue and misery will happen and I must adapt accordingly. Also, the reality that sometimes, hard work, will go completely unrewarded. These concepts helped me realize that we do not need instant gratification every day to keep up hard work. We need to work at our goals every day, and one day, delayed gratification may come. Sacrifices will include free time, relaxation, pleasures, friends, family time and more. So, the question is, are we ready to make this strenuous climb and sacrifice these things? Or would we prefer to stay in the hole or take the steady stroll? There is no wrong choice here, as there is a risk and hardship either way.

     Many times, I have worked with people to help them toward their goals, and the same lines often come up. “But I don’t want to do this.” “I don’t feel like doing this.” “I’m tired”. They are often confused as they see their role model humans in the spotlight appearing ‘happy’ with ‘all their shit together’. The reality is, no one has magical excess energy, or the ability to slow down time to accomplish these things. Pursuing success is not a permanently happy life. The journey is not always happy, the end result is not always happy. Pursuing success is a means to get ourselves into a more ‘comfortable’ position, but nothing about the journey is comfortable or comforting. It’s terribly hard, and many will give up and accept what they have as is. In most cases, we have been taught wrong regarding what chasing success really means, and what it will feel like. Chances are, if you know of someone that has worked hard for their success (not the ones that were born on mountains, but the ones that climbed the mountains) they are exhausted. I’m exhausted, while many will look at my messy hair, dark undereye circles with the mentality of “What’s wrong? Your life is good!” All the while negating the work it took me to get to this point. In addition, the work it will take me to stay here or keep climbing.

     Here’s what happens with mountain climbers… we climb halfway up a mountain and feel conflicted. We worked so hard to get halfway up, so we don’t want to climb down now, though we are exhausted and may feel tempted. We are also so tired we may not want to climb up anymore. We are stuck in limbo in this spot where less people are at. Many have chosen the stroll and we could not pull them or force them up the mountain with us, then there are those that were born at the top of the mountain looking down at us and laughing. In their minds they ‘earned’ it, and we climbers are less talented or less hard working than them. Climbing a mountain is a lonely and tedious journey that we may question everyday of our lives. Meanwhile, some may envy us if we are in the middle of the mountain and they are on flat grounds. They may not have seen our journey up and assume we got there effortlessly. Then there are those fighting their way out of the hole, they deserved better in life, they deserve help. We should help them IF we can afford to help them, as they have a much longer way to go than the average person and they are building up grit as tediously climb out the hole.

Another concept I learned from one of my favorite clinical supervisors is that every choice in life has risks. Staying in a hole has risks, keeping a stroll has risks, climbing a mountain has risks. For example, staying in a hole leads to depression, isolation, self-pity and overall misery. Staying with the stroll often means getting sedentary, complacent and envying those on the mountain that ‘you could have been’ had you been born ‘more privileged’. (The reality is being under privileged is always a factor, but it doesn’t negate the fact that we must climb) Then climbing the mountain means chronic exhaustion, frustrations, embarrassments (more spotlights are on you) etc. There is no way to live through life risk free, therefore I choose and also encourage many others to shoot for that mountain top. If someone does choose to stroll and they are happy with it, let’s be happy for them. However, if we choose to stroll through life because we fear the work of the mountain, there is a crucial thing to evaluate. Ask this question: Is my comfort zone worth sacrificing my dreams and goals for? Yes or no? We are at risk regardless, fight for something that is worth it to YOU. This metaphorical mountain could mean anything. A degree, vocational training, a ‘dream’ job, homeownership, raising children, building a business, an honorable military career, an alternative lifestyle that many may not understand but it feels right to YOU.

     If you want to climb your mountain, climb it. Also remember to have the unconditional acceptances that it will be hard and others can practice their freedom of will to continue their stroll. The mentality of “I’m not going to climb until someone helps me or joins me” will keep you… stuck in the stroll. That’s the unfortunate truth. You can take very few people with you, the only ones you can take are the ones willing to climb by your side and help, otherwise you will be dragged back down where you started. Climbing the mountain requires tenacity, grit, increased independence, self-acceptance, boundaries as well as the many sacrifices listed above. Again, if you choose to climb, climb toward something that is worth it to you.   

Published by functionallymentall

Social Worker, Writer, USAF Veteran

One thought on “Climbing the Mountain

  1. Wow! This article makes you look deep inside yourself. I have been in the hole and in the stroll and I’m almost 59 and I’m climbing the mountain. There are some days I feel like I can’t climb another inch. I get overwhelmed and frustrated. Life is definitely not a bed of roses but instead, it’s filled with lots of thorns. I may never reach the top of the mountain but I’m damn well gona get as far up as I can!
    Thanks for helping us look deep inside ourselves. And please keep the articles Coming.

    Liked by 1 person

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