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Finding Myself In 24 Hours
By Jonathan Darling
It’s 30 minutes until 9:00 and I pull into the parking lot at Paris Mountain State Park in Greenville, South Carolina. I have butterflies and my palms are sweaty. The Unbreakable 24-hour hike is a half hour from starting and I am still trying to convince myself that this was a good idea.
Less than a year before, I had decided to read the book “Unbreakable. A Navy Seals Way of Life” by retired Navy Seal Thom Shea. Thom wrote the book after being encouraged by his wife to write letters home to their kids, explaining lessons he would want them to learn if he never made it back. The book was incredible, but one section stood out. The 24-hour Challenge. Thom believes, that anyone can walk for 24 hours, however, most will quit and give up due to negative self-dialogue and an inability to keep one’s word. He stated that if you can go, and commit, and walk for 24 hours, you would push past your preconceived limits and negative mindset to begin winning in life.
I needed this in my life. Up to this point, my life had been one of starting and never finishing. I didn’t believe in myself and didn’t believe I was made for anything. I constantly fought with myself and my negative dialogue and a belief that I wasn’t good enough. After reading his book, I knew I had to do this challenge. I was terrified.
As the parking lot started to fill up, the only thing similar among this group of people about to embark on this journey was the sense of uneasiness. No one really knew what to expect, however, everyone seemed to be searching for something. What we would come to find out, is we were all searching for the answer to one question: Who am I?
The hike started, and for the first 12 hours spirits were seemingly good and the scenery had been beautiful. At about 8 hours in, we stopped at a lake in the middle of the park and took a dip. The cool water seemed to dull the burning in my feet and make me forget, for only a moment, that we still had 16 more hours to go. A few internal battles had started wagging with some of the participants but mine had yet to start. I was beginning to fear my hope of discovering what I was made of wouldn’t happen here.
We moved on to a hard surface in the Traveler’s Rest to begin the night stage of the hike. The first leg seemed to fly by but the next thing I knew, I’d hit a wall. It’s 3:00 am and we are taking a break, all of us laying or sitting on the cold pavement. I didn’t want to get up. I didn’t want to move. If I could be honest, I wanted to call an uber and be gone. I still had 6 hours to go.
For the next 3 hours, I was battling a barrage of negative internal dialogue. Everything inside of me was telling me to quit. My feet, knees, lower back and thighs burned. I had a slight headache and my mind kept telling me that I wasn’t good enough to finish. Every negative event and decision played back in my head trying to remind me of the type of man I believed I was. Every time I had quit, every time I had given up, replayed in my mind along with the voices of all those who had doubted me, made fun of me and told me that I would never be enough. They were loud, almost overbearing, but deep inside, a small, very faint, weak voice called out….. “take another step”.
This voice, however faint at the start, kept calling to me. It was pleading with me, “take another step.” Each step I took, it got louder. We would circle back every so often to our base of operation, resupply and then set back out on the trail, and each time, the voice got louder. My feet hurt, my legs cramped and I could barely stand but it was almost as if the pain and fatigue were somehow fueling this voice inside of me. As each thought of quitting popped up, the voice kept calling me to keep moving and not give up.
It was at that moment when the blackness of the night sky started to shift to a light shade of blue and the sun started to peak up over the trees that this once still, the small voice sounded like it was coming through a megaphone. It was screaming at me and reminding me that I WAS enough and that I HAD what it takes. It reminded me that God had made me with a purpose and for much more than I could imagine. It told me that no matter what others thought, their fears and limitations do not have any power over me. At that moment, at 6:15 am, 21 hours after starting our hike, I found myself. From that moment on, you could have chopped off my foot and I wouldn’t have quit. I could do it. I could honor my word. I could do more than my self-imposed limits suggested I could. I found my true self in 24 hours.
Do you need to find yourself? Do you have negative beliefs about yourself that are holding you back? Believe me, you were made for so much more. You were made for a purpose and to impact this world in an amazing way, but maybe it’s time for you to find that out for yourself.
The questions is, are you willing to take 24 hours to change your life?