I recently climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa. The route I traveled took 6 days. Each day took me higher and higher, over the vistas, and above the clouds.
Each day the goal to the summit became harder and harder with each breathe that I took…the air, thinner and thinner.
The night of the summit attempt in sub-zero temperatures, I donned all my warm clothes in managed anticipation. I knew for each step I took I would lag behind the team as my body craved the needed oxygen.
Hike ten minutes, rest 3 minutes, hike ten minutes. I gasped for each breathe. I leaned on my climbing poles, audibly struggling to fill my lungs with air. Each step closer to the summit made me aware that I was one step closer to my limits, as my lungs screamed and my muscles burned. I did not want to believe that the summit was unobtainable…one foot in front of the other, slowly, slowly.
A single tear ran down my face….a sign of the struggle.
With the team waiting for me at a resting point, I sat on a cold rock, breathing hard, and asked my guides if they thought I could make it. They would not tell me no, but allowed me to make my own decision.
I had hiked over 26 miles, I was at 17,500 feet. The summit was only 1,800 feet more but that was 4-5 hours away, and then a long stint back down.
Crying I said I had to go back. I had pushed myself to the acceptable limit without jeopardizing my well being. I decided to turn and descend. A moment of elation in making a decision turned to thoughts of failure after coming so far.
I had posted on Facebook that I did not make it.
The response was cheers, encouragement and others pride in me. I had not failed.
I did my personal best. It may have not been the summit, it may have not been as good as others but it was my best that I possessed.
I gave it my all, my best, everything I could without risking my life…and those around me.
No shame in that.