You wake up. The hour does not matter to you anymore, because you have nowhere to be, and nothing to do. This is the curse of man, you think to yourself, as you do every morning. Waking up. Consciousness. Death would be preferable, if only you had the courage to seek it out.
You stumble towards the kitchen and make a dull mockery of what was once known as breakfast. The less effort you put into it, the better. You make your coffee, without which you couldn’t bear to attempt the long walk between your kitchen and your computer room, and then you enter your prison.
8 hours later, you realize you’ve wasted the best part of another day. You’ve done nothing, attempted nothing, learned nothing. Deep inside of you is a man, a real man, a screaming person in chains. He hates you, and you’re afraid of him. You once wanted to be this man, but along the way you decided his path was too difficult. You chose a different road, of safety, and comfort, and hatred towards those who do what you can’t. You followed this road as far as anyone can follow it and remain sane. And too late did you realize that it was a downhill road, covered with a slippery layer of frost, and the further you go, the steeper it gets. With every day you don’t stop, you make it harder for yourself to crawl back up the mountain. And it’s a long, hard crawl.
So you surrender yourself to the descent, letting it take you as deep as it can, and you ignore the desperate screams of the suffering spirit chained inside you, but ignore it as you will, it’s echo still reaches you.
“This is not the way that you’re meant to live.”
And then, one day, you stop. You stop long enough to appreciate the strength of will it takes to stop, and then you’re off again. You underestimated how hard it would be.
But even that little effort gives hope to the prisoner inside you, and hope is the only sustenance a man truly needs. You stop again and again, and relapse and fail, but every time you stop, you last a little longer, and the man inside you comes closer and closer to breaking his chains.
And then one of the chains break. Hope gives way to fury. You stop.. But you don’t resume sliding. You begin the upwards crawl. The mountain still looms enormous, but now the man inside is breaking his chains in a demented rage and you feel his strength carrying you up. You climb, and climb, and then without expecting it, you realize the prisoner inside you has broken his last chain some time ago. You have let him take over, and you have become the man you had in you since you were born. And now you’re at the top of the mountain, fitter and stronger than you’ve ever been in your life, and you see that it’s only the first mountain in a range where each coming mountain is taller than the last. The range has no end, the peaks climbing eternal into the sky. Each one is a hard climb. Each one intimidates you. But now the man inside you is running the show, and the difficulty is a challenge you’re only too happy to take on.
You wake up. It’s 6am, and the hour matters. You wouldn’t sleep past 6 for anyone or anything. You’re out of the house by 7, fresh and clean and energized by a freezing shower and a well made breakfast. You’re on the road, and you know where you’re going. Maybe to the field, to race against yourself, the most difficult opponent you will ever face. Maybe to the water, once again, to race against yourself. Maybe you’re on the bike, or on the rock, or on the mountain, or in the river. Maybe you’re in the air.
You know this is what you’re meant to do. This is living. This is courage. This is confidence. This is what it means to be alive.
At some point, however, you stop and ask yourself.. Where is the coward? Where is the doubter? Where is that old deformed being who dragged me into the darkness and kept me in chains so long ago? Does he also exist deep inside me, a prisoner but still alive, still hopeful, still waiting for his return?
And the answer comes to you in the silence – you can’t hear him anymore. You haven’t heard him for a long time. You were sustained through the darkness by hope, and hope is a brave man’s mistress. The coward had nothing, and starved to death long ago.
– Aljosa Popadic