I’m fortunate that my wife and I met at a beautiful University in a little town in Hamden, CT that is situated right next to a small mountain called The Sleeping Giant. Her family lives near that mountain still so when ever we come to visit I try to make it back over to the Giant. Why? Because that mountain made me a Marine Officer. I was 225 Lbs my sophomore year of college. I had been drinking every single day with my fraternity brothers and living it up, indulging in what I wanted, whenever I wanted.
A year of finishing thirty-packs of beer and handles of vodka, sometimes in the same night and no I’m not exaggerating, left me very “fluffy.” It also turned me into a creature much like your average citizen we see in the world today. My waistline seeped over my belt like the edge of a cupcake and I usually did nothing productive with my life until after 12 PM. Even at that point, productivity equated to walking down dorm road to go into the campus cafeteria to eat a fried chicken sandwich drenched in buffalo sauce. The model of productivity. I think in that year I pushed a lot of limits. I pushed myself to the brink of giving into temptation and indulgence. After all I did everything in life 100% or not at all.
It was that same year that I decided I wanted to do something better with my life and Join our nation’s finest fighting force. The United State’s Marines. In attempting to do so I showed up at a recruiting office where a short, Female, Gunnery Sergeant told me something no one had the balls to say to me in a long time. It was something I really needed to hear.
“You’re fat.” she said. “You need to lose twenty pounds before I can even consider you for entry into our program.” She followed up with some very pointed and terse questioning. “How far can you run? Can you even run a mile? Can you do a pull-up?”
I was flabber-gasted, I had been in her office for 10 minutes and this women had already called me fat and questioned my manhood twice. She ended by pointing out, “listen you can figure this out and get in shape. It’s not going to be easy. Start running. Every day.”
That was the awesome, educated, and effective advice I received to lose 20 lbs, “run every day.” I did what I was told and started small. I found some other effective ways to improve my fitness, but running was the one constant I engaged in every day. When I finally got the balls, I started running up the mountain situated right next to my dorm room. Late night parties were generally followed by a painful run up that mountain. One that usually resulted in me jumping off of the trails to hurl last night’s mistakes into the tree-line. Then back on the trail for more pain. Eventually I learned to moderate some of my night time actions so that I could perform better in training.
After a lot of hard work, I attended officer’s candidate school in Quantico, Virginia and graduated in the top 10% of my platoon. The chunky fat kid wasn’t fat any longer and I owed a lot of that to the real life metaphor that was sleeping giant mountain. Every time I got to the bottom of that mountain I had to start running towards the hardest trail I could discover. It started flat and rocky, then it got steep and rocky. At some points I had to bear crawl and struggle for air to push on further. Moments were harder than others and it always ended with me standing on top, thankful for the hard lessons the mountain taught me.
When I return to that mountain (which now isn’t much of a mountain compared to some of the different peaks I have crested) I am reminded of all of the hard work I put in to get to where I am today. In the achievement oriented society we live in I think it is important to reflect on the things we have accomplished. To consider how far we have come even though we may be in search of accomplishing other goals. I believe people who can set goals and achieve them have a universal skill. One they can apply anywhere as long as the path is made clear to them. That mountain reminds me of how far I had to come to earn the title Marine Officer.
Today I no longer wear a uniform and frequently I find myself questioning my identity. I wonder who I am, where I am heading, what is the legacy I will leave behind. Running up the mountain reminds me that people will remember me as a man who took on challenges and set out to achieve them. Running down the mountain reminds me there will be more challenges in life as there always are. Who ever you are, where ever you may be. If you’re reading this, there is something you have accomplished previously that you can build upon. Even if it was just graduating high school. You set a goal and achieved it. Remind yourself of that and take that courage to push yourself forward to try new challenges. Go out and climb that fucking mountain.