Resiliency – the capacity to recover from difficulties - is of utmost importance to me. I hold it above many others as one of the most important character traits that a person can possess. Throughout one’s life, fleeting comfort and intermittent successes will occur, but they will unquestionably be matched by sudden changes, drastic turns, and unexpected complications. Whether it be losing a job, a dire health crisis, or the death of a loved one, I find the fashion in which one navigates these deviations a great indicator of future potential and strong character.
Dealing with uncomfortable conditions or potentially life-diminishing events isn’t formulaic. Imagine each detrimental event as a fall into a manhole; some wind up in the muck to splash around a while before drowning, while others can catch the ladder at some point and begin to pull themselves up. Sometimes, debris may hurdle down from above, or when you finally grasp the final rung, your fingers might just get stomped.
I’m a resilient person and there’s evidence that I’ve been that way my entire life, but I don’t recall much in that regard before August 2005. When I was 19, my mother passed away unexpectedly overnight from a brain aneurism. I was jolted out of my sleep by my siblings, sobbing frantically, screaming that “mom won’t wake up!” As I entered her bedroom, I felt a noticeable transformation of my consciousness. Get used to shit like this, I thought.
That moment, as monumental as it was, didn’t knock me into the manhole. Leaving college after just one semester and recently losing my first job found me somewhere on that ladder, but this first notable experience with death, and its life-altering implications, did take me down a few rungs.
Over the course of the next few years, I would find myself repeatedly descending and ascending: losing a job to find another one, picking up detrimental habits and kicking them, having seemingly important people disappear only to be replaced, and all the other physical, mental, and social circumstances human beings encounter.
I’ve spent some time in the proverbial sewer too, at the heights of addiction and financial woes, but I’ve never enjoyed my time there and have gotten adept to pulling myself out or at avoiding going in at all – generally, I prefer life up on the street.
Even still, it’s not always an outside event that causes your descent; sometimes you can send yourself down into the hole. The last trip I took wasn’t because I was pushed in, I jumped. A mundane, monotonous life up on the street had become just as uncomfortable, unbearable as muck-bathing. Deliberately leaving a decade-long, uninspired career in hospitality management to building something from scratch required a trip below; I needed to wade around underneath in search of another ladder and another street.
Each previous, freefalling plunge had built confidence in my own resilience. I held my nose, worked on my grip, dodged the rubble, and defended against the stomps. Giving up a steady income wasn’t easy, and it was a clear shock to my system. However, before long, my feet were firmly planted on the ground. Self-inflicted woes or otherwise, the ability to recover remains just as important.
The act of traversing mountains requires immense resilience; in essence, it’s great mindset practice. Everyone is susceptible to finding themselves struggling or floundering along the way, but, for all intents and purposes, there’s effectively no choice other than carrying on. Whether it be hunger, exhaustion, dehydration, injury, or discomfort, you have very few alternatives to rolling with the punches - continuing to climb.
Long routes and rough days are concentrated trials and tribulations, requiring mental fortitude similar to that which is necessary to handle larger, more complex issues that we face throughout our lives. Mountains are testing grounds; one of the primary reasons that I expect hiking to always be PROACTIVE’s cornerstone is because it does a great job at filtering out those who lack strong character and potential that I’m looking for in others.
As part of our mission, assembling a support group of positive, inspiring people, hiking gives a very clear indication of how somebody may react in the face of challenges and allows empathy and understanding to be shown. Each successful trip out of the depths can be a lesson learned and those lessons can be passed along to those who may still be learning.
We have a limited time to unleash a limited potential. Don’t spend too much time in the muck while you can avoid it, eventually you’ll lack the physical strength to even begin climbing out. It’s the fate met by everybody in all of history. The time will come when it won’t matter how resilient you are, every punch will stifle you. So, when you finally find yourself laying on your back, staring up at that ladder, try to make sure you’re satisfied with your time up on the street.