The first athletic performance success I remember was winning the chinup contest in second grade. It was a President’s Physical Fitness Test event; at the end of it, my 9 chinups – executed on raw energy and fear of failure – proclaimed me as “the strongest boy in the grade.”
Along the professional path, many travel roads of physical and mental endeavor: lifting weights; combat sports; extreme events such as climbing, parachuting, and remote backcountry hunting; and mental pursuits to fortify and codify the mind and spirit. At times, the endeavor becomes the ethos as the young are often defined by what they can accomplish. Statements – such as “I am a Judo Man,” “I am a Crossfitter,” “MY workouts are the best functional fitness program in the world” or other similar demonstrative proclamations – define the era as the exponent moves along his voyage to become the professional he visualizes. And as the path continues, items of at-the-moment “critical gear” are stored somewhere; and new, the next-defining-moment “more critical gear” replaces it – and often finds a place next to its predecessor as times rolls on.
Somewhere along the way, the professional grows into his mind, body, and spirit and streamlines what is actually NEEDED and what is a “nice to have.” The mystery of what makes a lifelong calling an actuality ceases in many ways to a reality – and the cost of the profession is balanced against the rigor of time, ability, and acceptance to pay the price. Some choose to deviate. Others take an alternate path. But a few choose to continue on – realizing that its completion will coincide with the completion of life, and not before.
Was the time wasted in pursuits that now adorn garage storage areas, old boxes filled with books long cast aside, or boots, weapons, and clothing now packed away? Should one forget the past and what he was to only look forward to the next challenge?
I think not.
I spend a lot of my time in solitary places, far from crowds and bright lights. Many times, I hear echoes in the forest and the mountains, whispering and calling to me in the night. My mind often roams back to when I first came to such places – younger, more excited at times, and certainly with much to learn. It is in that time that the echoes of my past call to me: places, events, people, and decisions that shaped me then, shape me now, and will shape me as I continue. In many cases, they are now long ago – echoes of things done and prices paid. I could no sooner forget them than I could go back. They hover there – perhaps now only for me to tell the young to remember them and to learn from them. I am an old man now – so they are distant echoes.
But I hear them just the same….