Keep Going

“This is the final boarding call for American Airlines Flight 623 with service to Kansas City…”

Our 13-year-old daughter and I had just completed our mad dash, Home Alone style, through the Phoenix terminal.

“Thanks for waiting for us,” I basically gasped.

There’s really no excuse for almost missing an 8:00pm flight on a day when there was nothing firm on the agenda.

But we did.

I didn’t budget two hours prior to our departure, we had fun things to do like hit the Nike store, eat pizza, take a few sneaky photos of three Lambos in a garage and figure out how to ride those street scooters.

My former airline working mother-in-law is reading this in disappointment for pushing it so close to a flight, there’s no doubt.

I brought Addi with me yesterday because I had a big work meeting. She hung in the hotel during the 4-hour meeting, then we got to hang together the rest of the time.

She got a haircut, we had dinner, we ate candy in the hotel room while we watched the Chiefs break our hearts, we stayed up late watching Shark Tank, we slept in a little, got some work done and then got to the highlight of the trip.

Hiking Camelback Mountain.

It was the second time for me, I’d hiked it several years ago during a work trip for a different job. Much of it was familiar.

Where you have to park your car and walk to the trailhead. The huge cactus at the first major switchback. The bouldering you have to do to reach the summit.

What I didn’t remember quite as vividly was how tough of a hike it was. I’d like to blame older age and not being in great shape, but our daughter was having a tough time too and she’s definitely cut out for physical activity.

It was tough.

It’s a 2,700-foot climb that took us about 90 minutes to summit. I asked Addi at least 6 times if she wanted to turn around at various points where we stopped for water, beef jerky and trail mix.

Part of me was hoping she’d say yes. For my sake, not hers.

But my favorite of her answers, was “stop Dad, that would be such a waste of time for what we’ve already done…”

I’m not an avid hiker by any stretch, but I do love it. Every time, without fail, when I look at the top of the mountain from the bottom of it, it’s an overwhelming feeling.

There’s excitement, sure. But also the reality that you’re in for it a little bit.

Heading into a pretty tough bouldering stretch, with sharp drops on both sides, we got to have a conversation that likely benefited me far more than it did her.

“It’s overwhelming if you look all the way up, just take it one step at a time, look at the rock in front of you and keep going…” I told her.

Again, it was much more for my own burning legs and compressed lungs, she was a badass up there.

A half-mile or so later, a super cool breeze picked up, the air got thinner and we saw groups of people taking pictures with no more rocks above them.

We’d made it to the summit. One step at a time.

If you’ve ever hiked to the top of a big hill, let alone a mountain, the views are shocking and refreshing.

It evokes a sense of pride, awe and accomplishment.

These past couple years have been tough, if you’ve read anything here the last few weeks, you’ve picked that up.

There have been plenty of times when I wanted to throw in the towel and head back down the proverbial mountain.

I’d had enough.

Too much pain. Too much time twisting on the hook. Too much discomfort and learning new ways.

There’s a good friend, I’ve hinted at him several times, who has been in my corner every twist, turn, switchback, stumble, point of exhaustion, fear of tumbling down the mountain and fall these past couple years.

I could go back and look at his texts because I haven’t deleted any of them, but it would take too long. I imagine he’s told me 75 times one simple phrase:

Keep going.

Would I have headed back down without reaching the summit without his words? Impossible to know, since I haven’t had that choice, but my guess is yes.

I would have stopped short. I would have said that’s good enough. I wouldn’t have kept going deeper.

But like Addi’s realization today, it would have been such a wasted effort up to that point.

I’m not at the summit yet.

I’m not exactly sure where it even is or what it will look like. There aren’t any groups of people smiling and feeling relived quite yet around me.

It’s still pretty rocky, with a steep incline. With a fear of falling on both sides of the trail.

But I’m going to keep going.

And whatever you’re facing that feels like it’s suffocating you and making your legs burn, I hope you will too.

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