“I hate hiking.”
I stood by this statement no more than three years ago. Despite my active background, despite years dedicated to a professional sport, I believed a picture of a mountain top could be admired just the same without making an effort to walk up that mountain. I was the laziest person I knew.
“I hate mornings. I hate new people. I hate moving.” I had a lot of “I hate…” in my vocabulary, and no matter what anyone would say, I stood by my statements, unbudged as a cliff. Every small thing I was against, was just one more example that built the big statement I didn’t want to acknowledge: “I hate change.”
I hike now. I hike every week; I walk everywhere; I climb mountains.
A few days ago a close friend told me ironically: “I’m sure that the first hike you took, was an amazing experience.” We both laughed.
It wasn’t. It couldn’t have been. Because beginnings suck.
My first hike alone was a 12 km trail on the hills of Fiesole, a small town near Florence, Italy. It’s what I consider now a pleasant walk; what I believed then to be hell on Earth. Every step was painful; each thought a confrontation with my hidden truths. I finished that walk feeling like a superhero, and despite cursing for five hours before reaching my destination, I decided to take on another hike.
It took three months, dozens of walks, and hundreds of gorgeous views before I decided to plan what I believed to be my ultimate hike: 1300 kilometers. That was when the beginning became exciting.
Every new project, especially for a writer, is a dream come true. Characters are playdough ready to be molded to their author’s desire, plots are to be defined and every detail to be decided. Planning each chapter, each sentence, editing and changing wording is exciting, is new, is fresh.
That was true for my “big” hike as well. Choosing a destination to walk to, planning what gear, which paths, what cities and towns to pass through, was new, challenging, re-energizing. It gave me life; it made me challenge my ever known “I hate…” statements.
I read many articles about how starting something can go one way. It’s either motivating and inspiring or hard and unfriendly. What if it’s both? What if, whatever it is you are ready to take both scares and uplifts you at the same time? What if the mountain you are most afraid to climb will also be the one that will reward you with the most breathtaking view you’ve ever seen?
In my experience, after two years of training on different types of weather and terrains, it’s more likely that beginnings are both as exciting as they suck.
I still curse on the big climbs, when the road is too flat, or when my feet don’t want to move faster. I still swear when the hill seems neverending, and the forest gets thicker and darker. Yet, with every climb, with every walk, at least a dozen smiles touch my lips. When I catch a glance of a hedgehog making its way through the bushes; after I put distance between myself and a wild boar who had decided to follow me for a few meters; when I reach the top of a mountain I never climbed before, and I allow myself a moment to be silly and feel like Superman. And at last, when I am back home, in the comfort of my bed, surrounded by my people, looking back at those beginnings and knowing that the bigger the challenge, the greater the joy.
Because beginnings are exciting. Because beginnings suck.