Happy New Year! 2020 was a tumultuous one; unbridled and unrestrained. Did you not find yourself feeling like you were climbing a never-ending mountain that just seemed to get steeper and more treacherous as the year wore on? Mountains are demanding; their journeys can be unpredictable and sometimes even unmerciful, as were many days of 2020. Perhaps that is precisely what makes climbing mountains such an encapsulating adventure. They are a symbol for our lives – our journey, struggles and triumphs. No one lived and experienced last year in the same way and it is a narrow mind that cannot empathize with everyone’s unique experience. However, I do appreciate the value that came from enduring my personally challenging ascent. Afterall, my journey gifted me with some of the greatest rewards cultivated from difficult times – growth, learning, and development.
Growth. Unlike others that found themselves stationary this year, I planted myself in many different places. I moved from Florida to Georgia in January after being promoted to General Manager. Despite the new role, I spent little time in it. Immediately following the move, I travelled to Dallas, Texas for a work conference; then to Fort Jackson, South Carolina for a two-week Army branch qualification course; from there to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma for Love’s University – a General Manager training required following promotion. When I believed I was finally done traveling and could really dig my feet into my new role, my Reserve unit was mobilized in support of COVID-19 in April, and I was activated to active duty again – less than a full year after my transition out – to assist for an undetermined amount of time in New Orleans, Louisiana. Fortunately, the Army realized they mobilized too many of us and I was able to return to Georgia after just two months. I was back in position for only five weeks before I was given an opportunity to transfer to a different side of the business and moved again, this time to Valdosta, Georgia – my peak – where I settled in October.
Learning. Without going into too much detail of the circumstances, I learned (or rather was reminded) last year that some people are not who they pretend to be while others will go above and beyond to show you that they care about, love and support you. That life is fleeting and moments with loved ones should never be taken for granted was reiterated over and over again. I discovered that companies and people have an underestimated ability to adapt to change. Last year, I realized that without mountains, we might find ourselves relieved that we can avoid the pain of the ascent, but in so doing, we would miss the thrill of reaching our peak.
Development. We witnessed events last year as individuals, as a society, as a nation, a continent and a world that portrayed consistent acts of hate, rejection, greed, abuse of power, and much more. We came to a stark realization that a large majority of our leaders have defined success “by being well adjusted to injustice and well adapted to indifference” as powerfully spoken by Dr. Cornel West. However, we also witnessed the coming together of people to combat these evils. In our own ways, we made strides in regarding differences as a celebration of collective humanity instead of nonsensical and illogical division. These actions echoed the idea that development does not happen on the top of a mountain. Rather, it is in the valley that we first slog through – each foot we put in front of the other – that lends to our progress and advancement.
Even though climbing a mountain can be painful, difficult, and sometimes even dangerous, mountains teach us that there is no summit without a struggle. And without pain, how could we know bliss? Without effort, how could we know happiness? Mountains hold the secrets we need to uncover – that it might take time; it might be hard; but if we just hold on long enough, we will find the strength to rise up and persevere. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “We acquire the strength we have overcome.” Let that belief make you capable of climbing any mountain lying ahead of you in 2021. I wish you good health, strength in circumstance, and an abundance of love and support as you confront and conquer your ascents this year.