My legs were on fire. Droplets of sweat were beginning to run down my face, and I was struggling to catch my breath. It seemed as if we had been on this trail for days, and yet the summit didn’t look any closer.
Table Rock was doing a number on me.
At that moment, we came upon another hiker who was making his way back down the mountain. He offered some unsolicited encouragement.
“You have one more tough stretch, and then you’re at the summit.”
I wasn’t sure that I’d make it through “one more tough stretch.” Ominous piles of rocks rose before me with the faintest hit of a trail carved into their midst.
“You can’t do it!” They screamed.
“It’s too hard!” They mocked.
“You should just turn back!” They implored.
But a funny thing happened right about that time. My brother pointed out a foothold to me. From behind me, my sister-in-law encouraged us that we were almost there. I turned back to see my wife smiling.
So I pushed forward.
We got to the top of the pile of unfriendly rocks. The trail flattened out at that point and began to wind through the trees. We followed it to a wooden sign. The contents of this sign instantly lifted my spirits and made me momentarily forget the pain of the path.
We had made it. We were at the top. A few feet away, the trail brought us to the scene which gives this particular mountain its name. A smooth, rocky outcropping that slopes off into infinity.
We sat down for lunch at the top of this rocky slope. As I looked out over the South Carolina countryside, I felt as if I was on top of the world. I could see everything.
I could see the road we traveled to get to the state park. I could see the other mountains that dotted the landscape. I could see the city where our journey started. I could see everything for miles. It was a new perspective, one I would never have experienced had I not endured the pain of the climb.
A few weeks have passed since that hike. It has stayed in my mind, etched in my memory. In many ways, life can feel like that hike. I’m not on vacation anymore. I’m back in the real world. Sometimes it’s just plain tough.
Life can beat us up and knock us down. It can mock us as we seek to learn and grow. It can be absolutely grueling.
But it is undeniably beautiful.
I’ve been trying to draw comparisons in my mind between everyday life and my “mountaintop” experience. I’m not sure it’s quite the same. I mean, do we ever “reach the summit?”
Maybe not, but there is something in common between my hike to Table Rock and the struggles of daily life. It can all be described in one word…
You see, I couldn’t actually see everything when I was at the top of the mountain. I wasn’t truly on top of the world. But I gained a new perspective that changed me. It was beautiful. I saw the area around me from a new point of view.
However, I couldn’t see the road signs that had directed us to the state park. I couldn’t see the restaurant where we had breakfast. And I couldn’t see our car — the sanctuary that would welcome me with open doors and air conditioning just a few hours later.
What I’m trying to say is this: whatever you’re going through is worth it. Let me encourage you. No matter how hard life can be sometimes, it is undoubtedly worth it. Because when you get through whatever hardship you’re enduring right now, you’ll look back and see life through a new lens. You’ll have a different outlook.
A changed perspective.
My body was sore and aching when we finally got to the bottom and made our way back to the car. But I was also forever changed — in a good way. I’m still processing what I learned that day. In some ways, I probably always will be.
But more than anything, I just want to encourage you. Whoever you are. Whatever circumstances brought you to this particular post. I may not know you, but I do know one thing.
You’re worth it.
Aaron Charles is a writer and marketing account executive from Indiana. You can connect with him on Twitter, Medium or Instagram. Aaron and his wife Sarah run a Medium publication called Cooking With Sarah that documents their weekly cooking adventures. If you’d like, you can also leave him a tip to contribute to future writing.