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  • Paul Cumbo

The View From [Near] the Top

A few days ago, I was talking to a senior. This is a solid kid: intelligent, generous, humble, and hard working. He's faced some challenges and he's overcome them with an impressive tenacity and patience for a guy his age. And yet, he's feeling a definite malaise. Stuck in a rut, so to speak.

As we talked through his situation, I invited him to consider that he was very near to a point where the figurative view would change radically and suddenly, after being more-or-less the same for the past three and a half years. I likened it to an experience I've had climbing mountains.

Now, I'm no technical climber, but I've scrambled to some peaks and ridges here and there. And whether was the Adirondacks, the Patagonian Andes, or the Nepal Himalaya, I've found the same thing happening: The view stays the same for a very long time, and then it suddenly changes. The degree of change (literally) depends on the steepness or roundedness of the pinnacle, but it's the same idea regardless. More or less suddenly, the final steps of the ascent reveal a sweeping change in perspective.

Now, of course, it's likely that another higher peak lies beyond, obscuring the view. But for a while, achieving this pinnacle affords a whole new look at the world. Anyone who's done any such upward hiking or climbing knows that a sort of adrenaline-fueled last push sets in when the peak is in sight. That's not the tough part. It's the last mile or so, when we know it's not too much farther, but we still have plenty of work before us. That's where it can be toughest: When the end is almost in sight, but not quite yet.

And I wonder: How often do we give up--or at least slow down, discouraged by a long, slow climb with a seemingly unchanging view--when the top is so, so close? As for my student, I hope he left our conversation encouraged. Because really, if he just pushes through, his world is about to get much, much bigger.


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