The last month has been a whirlwind of my favorite thing: change. (Insert sarcastic emoji here.)
Between parting ways with my former job of nearly four years, taking a spur of the moment road trip to Colorado, and beginning a new career, it’s safe to say that the change has been a little overwhelming.
I have lately found myself realizing how much of an extremist I truly am. I like being in control, but change doesn’t really allow it. And when change won’t allow it, I discover how much of an “all or nothing, black or white” person I am. I’m finding, through all of the changes occurring in my life, that I simply do not know how to be in the middle or attain that elusive thing called balance.
In Colorado, Will and I learned of this trail called the Manitou Incline. I kept seeing on t-shirts “I Survived The Incline!”, and it was safe to say that I was intrigued. It is near Colorado Springs, begins at around 6,500 feet altitude, and it has a gain of just over 2,000 vertical feet in a little more than a mile. It used to be a railway system, but now all that remains are the wooden tracks that serve as stepping stones on the hike. Upon researching this trail, I knew I had to complete it. Not just to say I did it, not for the incredible views, and not just for the intensive work out I’d get from it. I wanted the damn t-shirt.
We set out early that morning, found parking after about 20 minutes of searching, and we were on our way. Standing at the bottom of the trail, I was ready. I was nervous, but I was ready. I couldn’t wait to get to that summit and breathe in the spectacular world around me.
It only took me a few minutes to realize how non-acclimated to the altitude I was. I was winded, sweaty, and not sure how far I’d truly be able to go. I took small breaks every couple of minutes, but I didn’t feel too bad because everyone around me was doing the same.
When I thought that I was halfway up, the summit was in clear sight. It looked like the trail was about to get pretty dicey and steep, but seeing that summit was reward in itself. I kept going as the August sun beat down on my black hat, ensuring that I was well-hydrated and resting when I needed to rest.
At one point a littler higher up the trail, I could literally feel and hear my heartbeat in my throat. It was beating with everything it had, my legs were starting to become jello, and I was tired. So, so very tired.
In that moment, I took a break and I sat on one of the wooden steps. I realized just how “in the middle” I was. It would be pointless to turn around and head back down now, but the top just seemed so far away. In fact, I couldn’t even see the top anymore. Where had it gone? That was the only thing that was helping me keep going. (Besides the shirt, of course.)
I knew that I had to keep hiking. I’d come so far, yet I still had so far to go. All I could do, I concluded, was encourage myself the rest of the way, keep my head in the moment, and enjoy my present journey during the middle of the incline.
Making it to the summit was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It took way longer than I thought it would, but I did it. I accomplished something I never thought I’d do, I pushed myself and my boundaries, and I experienced the entire journey of the incline from the very bottom, all the way to the very top.
You see, as an extremist, I know how to “start the hike” at point A, and I know to reach the summit at point Z, but what I learned through the incline, and what I’m learning through my recent changes, is that the middle is sometimes where the greatest of the journey happens. Instead of concentrating on point A or point Z, maybe I need to start spending a little more time on points B-Y. It’s not to say that point A and point Z aren’t filled with many wonderful opportunities, or that “black or white” aren’t really good colors, but if I spend all my efforts focusing on them, I miss the beauty that is the middle, the grey, the incline. And although I don’t know how to exactly be okay with the middle at all times, I’m learning so much by taking in the view.
Oh, and I got my damn shirt!