I’ll never forget that day. Exactly one hundred and seven stairs stood between me and the third-floor classroom where I was supposed to meet my professor. I had a massive project that was due, and I hadn’t worked on it one lick.
You see, me and school never got along. There is just something about sitting in a classroom that makes me want to pull my hair out. I love to learn, but I detest structure. To be forced to learn in assigned classrooms from exactly 6-9 P.M. every weeknight was almost too much for me to handle. And then to compound my struggle by giving hours of homework each night was everything short of absolutely unbearable.
That’s why I hadn’t worked on my big project. Well, that was one of the reasons. It’s true that I found the rigid structure of the school system to be extremely discouraging, but I was also extremely busy. I had been married for less than one year, and I had a newborn daughter as well. That meant three mouths had to be fed on one income. And that one income came from me. I worked a more-than-full-time job all day, and I went to school all night. I wasn’t particularly fond of my job, but nothing could rival my disdain for school.
So there I stood at the bottom of the parking garage stairs. I couldn’t afford to actually park in the garage, so I had to park several streets away and walk over. It was a daunting sight, looking up at those never-ending stairs. On that particular day, I was physically exhausted from work, mentally exhausted from stress, and all I wanted was my home with my family. I hadn’t yet eaten dinner, I needed to shower, and frankly, I wanted to cry.
I felt absolutely miserable in every possible way, and how fitting it was that a seeming mountain was still left to climb. The physical and mental struggles were nothing compared to my school struggles. I would have willingly endured a thousand terrible work days if it meant I could forego this meeting with my professor. I had to entirely fake it on a project that determined my grade for the whole class.
“Why am I here?” I thought to myself. “Wouldn’t I be a million times happier if I just went home and pretended this place didn’t exist? How easy would that be! I am destroying my happiness and my well-being just so I can get a silly piece of paper that says I sat through some lectures.” These and a thousand similar thoughts rushed through my mind as I stared up the stairs.
But the entire process only lasted a second. Perhaps that was the moment I became a true man when I decided to take just one deep breath and sprint up every single one of those one hundred and seven stairs. I rushed into the classroom, met my professor, gave my presentation everything I could muster…and I passed.
As I ran up those stairs at a break-neck speed, I remember only one thought being stuck in my mind. I was George Washington, and those stairs were my Delaware River. I had my doubts, just as the father of our country had his, but deep down I knew what had to be done. I sprung a sneak-attack on my enemies by surprising and overwhelming them with everything I had to give. I embraced the challenge, and I conquered it. Just like George Washington, I won the war.
Ever since that day, I’ve viewed stairs much differently. I have made a personal vow to not use an elevator if it is at all possible. I want to embrace my challenges–I don’t want an easy way out. I want to go through the terrible pain of crossing the Delaware River so that I can experience the wonderful joy of winning the war. One thing I’ve noticed about stairs is that they always go up. Infallibly, stairs lift you higher. They bring you closer to heaven; they bring you closer to your goal.
I’ve encountered many a Delaware River since that day, but no longer is there any hesitation on my part. Even if I can’t swim, I’m going to die trying. And if I can’t make it to the top of the stairs, I’m going to collapse somewhere on them. I’ve got a war to win, and I am going to fight.