I stared up the mountain. There was no way. The soles of my feet stung, my calf muscles shuddered, and now a lump swelled in my throat.
What had I been thinking? Why had I ever set foot on the ascending trail of a 14,000-foot-high Rocky Mountain? Yes, I had trained a bit. But daily walks and occasional runs had only carried my body past the tree line. Above me, row upon row of switchback still stretched up.
I slumped down onto a rock. What was I thinking? I had attempted to summit a 14er. I had taken a risk. And I had failed.
Or had I?
I shifted my gaze from the remainder of the rising trail before me to the expanse of sky behind.
Had I truly failed? Or had the experience of taking a risk been worth my falling short of the summit?
Maybe it wasn’t the end achievement that mattered so much as the understanding I could now carry into life’s next challenge. And perhaps there was a reason my parents hadn’t scoffed at the idea of climbing a mountain but had hiked with my siblings and me.
This wasn’t the first time Dad and Mom had eagerly jumped in to share the joys, struggles, and risks of my passion. Instead of pointing out my ineptness, they have always been quick to support and encourage me. Even when I doubt myself, allowing touches of perfectionism to hinder my success, my parents understand the significance of taking a risk and graciously prod me forward.
I don’t climb mountains every day. But, like other teenagers, I face all sorts of risks and opportunities to go beyond my comfort zone on a daily basis.
Should I strike up a conversation with that kid or not? Shoot for an A+ or simply allow B’s to get me through? Should I accept a challenge or stick with what’s comfortable, familiar, and easy?
Life is bursting with insecurities that we all—at some point—will have to face. Why not step out while we’re young? Parents, why not stretch us as teenagers in ways that will prepare us for tomorrow by giving us firsthand experience today?
The word risk shouldn’t scare us. It should excite us.
When I return to Colorado again someday, I will have studied, hiked, run, and trained like I didn’t before. And who knows? Maybe my boots will scrape the summit.