Thursday, July 23, 2009

It's all about the climb

As I write this from Wyoming, my younger two children are at a camp which allows them to challenge themselves and take risks. And they are literally climbing mountains. The climb is but a metaphor, really. To me, it has been an important part of my parenting to encourage them to venture outside their comfort zone, to put one foot in front of the other as they look uphill, even as it has me catching my breath with apprehension; we both grow.

My parents instilled in my brother and me a sense of adventure. My father used to exclaim to us that we should reach for, grasp, the brass ring on the merry-go-round of life. He even framed one and presented it to our mother on one of their wedding anniversaries. She was his brass ring. The risk that paid off.

Neither my parents, nor I, advocated/advocate the sort of precarious behavior that can lead to a child's self-harm or destruction. I have cheered them on to try something untried. If they fail, then they fail. If they discover that they don't like doing things that make them uncomfortable, well, then they have learned something about themselves. There's a lot behind the axiom, "You don't know unless you try."

In my experience, it has been vital to my children and me to let go when letting go presents itself. I may be gripped with fear or trepidation about something they want to attempt, but what if I persist in denying them and the thing hoped for and never tasted becomes a deep regret; a resentment?

I wonder what Blake would be like if I had not signed his enlistment papers for the Marines? If I somehow had the power to have prevented Kenny two years ago from embarking on his vagabond lifestyle? Would they be the capable, interesting, brave and courageous young men they are today? Young men with tales and strength born of risk, of facing fears neither one knew they even harbored?

It's not always about reaching the summit; it's often about how one gets there. Half-measures avail us nothing. We poise at the turning point. And then... we leap.

My daughter Jess articulates my point the best:

"Ain't about how fast I get there, ain't about what's waiting on the other side, it's the climb." ~Miley Cyrus

I have always been inspired by Miley Cyrus. However, her newest hit single, "The Climb", made me reflect on my life even more. Cyrus talks about how even though you're going to come across obstacles in life, you can overcome them if you believe. In just a matter of days, this song will constantly be playing in my head. This is because I will literally be climbing mountains in the backcountry of Wyoming. I realize that it will be tough, but as long as I keep pushing on I will eventually reach my goal and end up on top.

The program that I will be taking part in is known as TVR Expeditions, which is affiliated with Teton Valley Ranch Camp, north of Jackson Hole. I have been going to the camp for the past five years, last summer being my final as a camper, but now they offer this special program featuring an eleven day backpack, and then, finally, summiting the Grand Teton, which involves intense rock climbing.

Figuratively speaking, the climb will prepare me for what I will be experiencing in the coming school year. After about a year and a half of attending boarding school, I will be returning to New Canaan High School. I left because I couldn't handle things, but now I have the confidence to rise above them. Academically, I have not been doing so well. Junior year is the most important, in my opinion, so I will have to trust that I will succeed as long as I keep my faith. There will be ups and downs during the transition to living at home again, like not taking the freedom I will be obtaining for granted.

When I make it to the top of the Grand this summer, I will be sure to remember the feeling, and take it with me when I go back home. As Cyrus states: "There's always gonna be another mountain, I'm always gonna wanna make it move. Always gonna be an uphill battle, sometimes I'm gonna have to lose."

We all slip sometimes, but I will never fall.

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