I love a staircase. A fancy one. A spiral staircase! A rickety old one. We’re fortunate to live near some amazing state parks which provide incredible staircases with hundreds of steps which lead to beautiful places. Sometimes the steps are part of the mountain. In any case, the steps I enjoy most are those that take us from the bottom to the top. We’ve found some amazing things at the top… usually the view, and the views I love most are the ones where we can see not only how far we came to get to the top, but also far beyond where we came from. Lots of good stuff at the top. Once we even found an ice cream shop!
There are lots of reasons people don’t climb steps. Some are legitimate, some are just excuses. Some staircases are dangerous- they’re steep with few landings, and may or may not have good railings. Some of the steps along the way to the top of Hanging Rock are narrow and irregular and you have to watch your footing because you really could take a major fall with one wrong step. Sometimes people don’t climb the steps because they just don’t care enough about whatever is at the top to expend the effort. Lots of reasons.
Life is kind of like that, it would seem. Just about anything you want or work toward is going to require climbing some steps. Usually lots of them. If you want a college degree, you have to graduate from middle and high school first as steps along the way. If you want to build a house, you have to buy a lot first and plan the layout of the house, etc., as steps along the way. Most things in life are sought or traveled through paths. At the same time, I always think of the major things in life that we work for the most as summits we reach the ‘top of’. And there are always steps that get us from the bottom to that top, whatever we may each decide is ‘at the top’ for ourselves. It may be that house in the suburbs… it may be family… what’s at the top is different for each person and each life. Personally, the successes I’m still hoping to reach aren’t things I can show you in a picture, or draw you a map to. But success, no matter how you define it for yourself, rarely just tumbles down the steps to find you. You have to climb for it.
And it’s really not that simple. Sometimes you aren’t even guaranteed that what you thought was at the top will actually be there once you climb all the steps. Sometimes the potential fall is also so potentially devastating that the calculated risk is too great. If you get near the top and fall, the damage will be much greater than if you turned back after only a few stairs. Sometimes there are dangers near the top that you couldn’t see from the bottom, and therefore weren’t prepared for. The staircases we climb in life aren’t the safe and simple, elegant and attractive, fancy schmancy ones like you find at the mall or in a posh hotel. At least not always, although I do enjoy those occasional fancy schmancy climbs in life too.
People climb to varying degrees and heights. Some people fall on their first climb and never climb again. Some people seem to never fall, and find no end of heights to climb to. Some people take a nasty fall and wait a good long while before attempting another climb. I’m in that mix somewhere with just a touch of each of those traits. I’ve taken some nasty falls, I’ve climbed to some places that Angels fear to tread, and I’ve taken some lengthy breaks from climbing. I’ve reached the last few steps just short of the top and wondered if the effort was really worth all it took to get there. I’ve even allowed seemingly sound judgment to stop me from continuing what appeared to be a guaranteed disastrous climb. Regardless of which of those categories I fit into best, undeniably I’m still a climber. Not really ever content to stay at the bottom.
It’s never lonely at the bottom. Lots of people never climb a single flight of stairs, and truly I sometimes envy them. It’s safe and they never fall, or at least the fall you take from ground level isn’t really a fall worth mentioning. Maybe they consider me reckless. Climbing all those steps because there might be a nice view or an ice cream parlor in the sky? Madness. Possibly. Probably. No matter. It is what it is, and we all hold an important place in the grand scheme of things regardless of whether or not we see life as a staircase. That’s just how I see it. Or at least that’s how I see it today!
Here’s the really really important part. The most important thing you can learn from a staircase is who stays at the bottom, who you meet at the top, and who enjoys the climb by your side. The people at the bottom aren’t likely to enjoy the company of a climber, or to encourage anyone around them to climb, but you won’t know unless you tell them you’re going to climb and see their reactions. They may even pressure you to stay put. The people at the top may or may not be worth meeting, but you won’t know unless you climb. They may even pressure you to climb higher.
The people climbing each step with you, sharing your water bottle at the landings, and splitting your fruit rollups? The ones that try to grab you if you begin to fall? The ones who come back down to help you to your feet if you fall? The ones who slow their own climb alongside you because you bruised your knee? The ones who climbed with you in spite of the ominous warning sign at the bottom? Those are your people.
Maybe the staircase is just another one of life’s tricky filters that helps you find your place, and what’s at the top and bottom aren’t really the purpose for the staircase. Maybe.
Cheers from the ThreeFiveZero Staircase