By Samantha McKenzie
On the drive back from my daughter’s high school orientation, we talked about her goals for 9th grade, her new schedule, the host of clubs and activities available, and her fears. She had every right to be a little apprehensive. Her class is made up of 700+ wide-eyed freshmen, in a school of 2,600 students.
She reflected on middle school and told me that she’s learned to push herself and not get comfortable with getting a mediocre grade. “I could have been happy with a B, but instead I decided I could do better and I did. I ended my year with all A’s,” she said.
Of course the mom in me was happy with the A’s I saw on her report card in June. But this morning, I was more happy with the story of her discovering her own ability to want more for herself.
I told her about two photos I had found in a magazine when I was a fourth grade teacher. I hung those photos in my classroom hoping to motivate my students. The first photo was strategically placed in the most visible spot. Every day, my 20 students could see the image of a man, all suited up in his climbing gear, at the peak of the mountain, with his hands proudly on his waist, looking out at the majestic scenery around him. He looked satisfied with his accomplishment and you could tell he had reached the top and achieved his goal.
The other photo was positioned a few steps away. It was the same man, in the same attire, at the same mountain. But in this photograph, he was at the base, looking up at how steep the mountain was. And boy was it huge. His journey was going to be a challenge. It was evident.
I told my daughter this morning, like I had told my students before her, that everyone wants to be the guy at the top of the mountain. They want to feel his sense of accomplishment and bask in the glory of the scenery from the top. The want the view, the photo, and the success. But most people don’t to struggle. They don’t want to go through the challenges of the climb. They look ahead to the tougher things in life and they talk themselves out of it. They give up way before they even get started.
Today’s talk in the car was for me as well. I challenged Samiyah to become the valedictorian of her class. I challenged her to run for Student Government president, to be the captain of the debate team or to be on the team that wins the state championship. I told her to always search for that intrinsic feeling of accomplishment (the one only she can describe), the one she felt from getting all A’s or from getting on the cheer squad last year. And the repeat it each time. I encouraged her to stay determined and hungry for it. I inspired her to find her own mountain top.
Stretch your mind beyond the impossible. And of course, if you accept, be ready for the tough challenges and the rigorous road ahead.
Find your mountain top and take the climb.