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Hi. I’m Michael, a RWU Law Class of 2013 graduate. I’ve traveled all over, from summers spent hiking in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of New Mexico, to an archeological dig on the Island of Crete, Greece. I’m also a former small business owner. My background is varied, as is the direction...

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When Climbing Everest, Look Down...

Posted by Michael Rekola on 05/15/2013 at 12:52 PM

Growing up I was always told the same thing.  Words that rang clear and brought dreams of the future filled with hopes and adventures that were captivating while simultaneously engulfing.

Go find your own Everest…

Go find your own Everest…

Go find your own Everest…

I had never known what the words truly meant, nor do I still know what they mean. This is because it seems that when one takes on a new task, challenge, or endeavor they simply do not realize the consequences that can flow from something seemingly so innocent. 

When I was twelve and my mother signed me up for Boy Scouts, the first time I put on that uniform I never imagined the challenges that I would face.  I never thought of the difficulty that a pair of olive green pants, a tan button down shirt, and an oath to “Do my best, to do my duty…” would bring.  Never could I dream of the ups and downs I would experiences, from the ridicule of the jocks in my high school, to the triumphs of summiting a 14,000 foot mountain with a sixty-five pound backpack.  Never did it seem that I would use those knots that we were taught over and over and over and over again, etched in our subconscious, until I had to blindly tie one in an emergency situation on a volunteer search and rescue.  Not once did I dream, as a twelve year old boy, that I would get to sail the high seas on a schooner nor experience the accomplishment of obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout.  Throughout my time in the scouts I experienced many everests both small and big, but I never thought about it when I first signed up nor when I was knee deep into each challenge.

Because the thing is, that we never truly realize what we are involved in until it is behind us.  Never do we reflect mid-step up the mountain to stare inward at the gravity of our challenges, both accomplishments and failures.  Never once do we pause to reflect over this case on first amendment free speech, or that case on the right to counsel and their gravitas, especially when it is 11pm on a Thursday and we are still in the library just wishing for the comforts of half an hour of late night television and the fluffiness of our beds. But those words of “Go find your own Everest” have always danced in my head, and I think that although I have heard them consistently throughout my life, the meaning still unknown, I would suggest and addendum to that simple message. 

I would argue that the proper message should be “Go find your own Everest, but don’t be scared to look down…” I have spent plenty of time in high places, from tree forts, to rock climbing, to mountaintops, and every one always says “don’t look down”. They say this, because they don’t want you to get scared. They don’t want you to stop.  They want you to focus on keeping your courage. They don’t want you to freeze for a moment and think “Oh damn, I can’t do this.” And while all those hopes are admirable, I believe they are seriously misguided. 

Because when we are in the middle of our own Everest, we never gain the benefit of personal growth until we reach the summit, we never get to look down, become scared and know that we have the courage to trudge on anyways to the top.  We live a life where it’s much easier to plow through not reflecting on the struggles, not reflecting on each inch that we fought for, not reflecting on each self sacrifice that your loved ones made for you to accomplish your own Everest.  Looking down every once in awhile, keeps you honest, awakens you to the present, gives you goose-bumps, and shows you that what you are doing is truly a struggle worth fighting for.

There is an old parable that David Foster Wallace once used magnificently in one of his speeches called “This is Water”:

“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says "Morning, boys. How's the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes "What the hell is water?” 

I love this parable because while I struggle to find meaning in what my next Everest may be, I realized that I was the younger goldfish who didn’t know what water was. 

For the three years of law school I never looked down to reveal the gravity of my accomplishment.  I never stopped to think of the sacrifices of others who supported me throughout my time, like my mother and father who must have endured hours of (potentially verbally abusive) phone calls where I was on the other line stressed out, exasperated and venting.  Or my girlfriend who is also a graduating 3L, I never stopped to think how her words of comfort in certain situations were really the key to helping me push forward sometimes.  Or my brother, who is my best friend, but because of law school I hadn’t spent the most time to talk to even if he needed me. I never reflected on the inches I made from my 1L year where I was a victim of the curve to this year where I succeeded in classes after tirelessly working to improve my legal writing.  I never paused to reflect at the amazing faculty who took time and effort to foster my education. I never stopped to fully appreciate my mentor of three years who I interned with. I didn’t fully realize the power of good advice from our career counselors. I was the young goldfish swimming in water not knowing what water was. I was the one who was climbing an Everest that didn’t stop in the middle to look down.  I didn’t even realize I was on an Everest until I put my last pen down after my last final of my law school career.

My hope now is that whatever my next Everest is I have the bravery to recognize it before it begins and I am able to look down, get scared, and have the courage to plow on.  So as I wake up Friday morning, put on my cap and gown, I just wanted to thank one last time those people who helped push me on each inch, who self sacrificed each day to help me summit this Everest that is Law School.

Thanks to the entire faculty, especially Professor Banks who was always there for a quick chat, thanks to the entire staff for their hard work especially, Erin Wright, who never once minded an unscheduled visit. Thanks to the entire administration, for providing a quality education! Thanks to my girlfriend who put up with my bad studying habits and neurosis, but still kept me centered. Thanks to my brother for always being there.  Most importantly thanks to my father for being a man of unfathomable integrity teaching me life’s lessons through my own trial by fires, and thanks to my mother who provided a heart so big that although she was 6,000 miles away was big enough to engulf me in a warm embrace on the good days and especially the bad days!

As I leave Roger Williams, and transition into a new life, I am thankful for this Everest and all that I learned from it, both academically, spiritually, and personally.

Time to head those ringing word and “Go find [my next] Everest…”