“Climb the mountain,” the hiking instructor yelled, and I thought to myself, it’s only a steep hill, but I kept my mouth shut. Let the young fellow call it a mountain and encourage us to climb as if it were Everest. It was May of 2001 and spring semester was over. I had just completed 17 credits towards my master’s degree and was taking a hiking class while waiting for my directed study to begin at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, MI. I was 54-years-old and as agile as the teenagers around me.

The instructor yelled again, “Climb the mountain.” I walked directly behind him and heard the pretty girls giggling behind me. Unlike the others, I walked with ski poles. As the climb got steeper, I would occasionally tap the instructor with the tip of a pole and ask for his hand. He was good natured and always obliged. 

When we stopped to rest, I joined the girls. I told them one good thing about being the oldest student in the class was that I could ask for help whenever the going got rough, something they wouldn’t do because they were young and robust. They had to prove they could climb without assistance. I was old and robust, but I didn’t tell them. I let them think I needed my hand held by the handsome instructor. 

Sometimes we do need our hand held when going through life’s rough patches. It’s always nice to know there’s someone willing to step forward and help us climb whatever mountain we’re facing. Over the years, however, I’ve learned if you don’t have anyone to assist, you can do it on your own. It may be a little harder and it may take longer, but you can find the tenacity within yourself and discover how strong you are.

The more mountains we climb alone, the stronger we become. Without an entourage of friends, neighbors, or lawyers we must look inwardly for the resolve required to meet and overcome the challenges of each day. My melancholy nature prevents a Pollyanna attitude. My sister got the carefree Irish gene while I’ve always been stuck with the more somber German DNA. So you see, some days it’s sheer determination that keeps me going.

Perhaps you understand. Maybe some mornings you just don’t want to get out of bed. If so, remind yourself you’ve climbed lots of mountains throughout the years, and you can make it through one more day. I wish young people wouldn’t give up without a valiant effort. Some of them need to hear words similar to those of my hiking instructor.

Climb the mountain, young folks. Taken a step at a time, it isn’t all that difficult.

Sharon Kennedy

Sharon M. Kennedy is a freelance writer from Brimley, a small town on the shores of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Sharon writes a general interest column for a number of local newspapers. She admits she’s a late blooming “Boomer” and tends to forget that most women her age are enjoying retirement while she’s embarking on a new career. After teaching English Composition at a local university, Sharon turned to her real love. Writing stories that tug at your heartstrings or make you chuckle is her hallmark.