I remember the first time I saw those mountains. Actually, I thought about them long before I saw them. I had really only heard about them. And that was good enough. But I had aspirations long before those mountains. But I guess, in retrospect, those aspirations didn’t measure up to those mountains. Those mountains were simultaneously a culmination and a beginning; what I strived for, and what I hoped to achieve. Little did I know those mountains would be the opposite of what I wanted, the opposite of what I was capable of doing. Instead they would take on the persona of that which could not be done; a constant reminder of the fresh scent of failure. That smell just lingers. It gets in your clothes, and it doesn’t leave. It gets in your nose and permeates your pores. It gets in your conscience and reminds you of what your quashed dreams were made of. Those mountains are a cruel mistress – one you never could reap pleasure from.
I remember the second time I saw those mountains. This was during a life reset. There would be many of those, but this was the first in the presence of the mountains. Reality reared its head and reminded me of what I do and do not like. Those mountains seemed all the more appealing the second go-round. Those mountains were kind of like the second try at a relationship: all those things you felt were not negotiable, well, the second time you’re more forgiving. But for how long? I’m not sure what I gleaned from my second glance at those mountains. I didn’t accomplish much in their presence. I wasn’t able to summit. I wasn’t even able to make basecamp. But this second look at those mountains seemed to be all the more welcoming. Maybe I had learned something since that first glimpse. Maybe when I turned my back on those mountains after that first foray I had grown. Maybe. But I hadn’t shown my ability to overcome them; to stake my flag. No, that second glimpse at those mountains just left me feeling unfulfilled and wanting more. I knew I would be back. I just had to prepare myself. There was no way I wouldn’t return and conquer those mountains. I just needed to prepare myself. I needed to gain wisdom and insight. I needed to mature. Those mountains would be there waiting for me. I just had to make sure I was ready.
I remember the third time I saw those mountains. I felt I had accomplished what was necessary to be competent and productive in their presence. I felt I then knew what it would take to climb to the top. I felt I knew that I could climb to the top over and over again. I felt that I would want to. I felt that nothing could stop me. But, it would seem, those mountains were smarter than me. Tougher than me. Those mountains had seen fools like me before. They would see fools like me again. They would not suffer fools. Those mountains would not give an inch. Time to reorient. Time to take stock. Challenges had been thrown at me by those mountains, and it would seem that any ground I gained was quickly taken back from the trajectory, altitude and elements. Those mountains were not interested in giving me anything. I would have to take it. But to do so I would have to prepare more. I was not refined enough. I was not smart enough. I was not capable enough. Others had what it took to face those mountains, others had what it took to reach the summit. I wanted to be like those others, ready to face those mountains.
I remember the fourth time I saw those mountains. This time I had grown wiser. I would no longer try to summit. I would just take shelter in their presence. I had grown smart enough to know that I was not a match for those mountains, but that I still appreciated them. They still represented much to me. But like a scorned lover, their very sight stung me with the failures of the past. Why I had I returned? Was I a glutton for punishment? Was I looking for more direction? More cruel reminders of the harshness of their elements? On this fourth trip to those mountains it slowly settled in that I would never match those mountains; my defeat was no longer in question – it was imminent. I would never conquer their peaks. Before I had vowed never to return – this is true, but time and again, I did. Those mountains were, to me, like the bright light to the mosquito. Calling me in, only to zap me of life. What were seen by so many as the essence of their being was, to me, the essence of my defeat. Those mountains, I vowed, would not beat me again.
There will not be a fifth time for me to see those mountains. It is not in me any longer. Those mountains are a cruel joke. An unattainable prize. Something not within my grasp. Had I never seen those mountains, would I be better off? Have those mountains corrupted my ability to tackle other great peaks (and feats)? Perhaps. An unattainable love. A heart broken, time, and time again. The saga ends with my admission of defeat to those mountains. What once was aspirational has now become just a nagging reminder of what could have been and never was – of time spent, and nothing gained (?). If something was gained then it was the bitter reminder that fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Those mountains will not remember me, but I will not forget them…
Don Quixote Impersonator