All endeavor calls for the ability to tramp the last mile, shape the last plan, endure the last hour’s toil.
~ Henry David Thoreau
When I was in junior high, I wanted to go to a movie that was only playing at a theater that was located about five miles from my house. No one was available to drive me, so I had to ride my bike there, and for me at that time, five miles might as well have been 500. So off I went on my Kmart 10-speed, pedaling west along the ragged shoulder of a very busy five-lane road for what seemed like hours (this was before both bike lanes and bike helmets, so it was actually pretty risky). My fatigue and anxiety grew steadily the farther I got from home and into unknown territory. I had never actually been to that theater before, so I didn’t know exactly where I was heading or how much farther I had to go at any given point. (I have mapped this route on Google and can’t believe it was such a big deal at the time, but trust me: it really was.)
I don’t cope well with extreme anxiety, and it was too much for me to keep going forward down an unfamiliar road, in howling traffic, to an unknown destination, much too late in the day for a kid to be out alone on a bike. Certain I was never going to reach the theater and live to tell the tale, I turned around and pedaled back home as fast as I could go.
Many years later, I moved to an apartment located just off that busy thoroughfare I had been heading down, and became familiar with the neighborhood. I eventually determined that I had turned around less than half a mile from my destination. Five more minutes and I’d have seen the marquee. But I was so blinded by my own fear that I couldn’t proceed one more foot.
This story reminds me that more often than not, we’re closer than we think to where we’re heading, and that the last mile is always the hardest.
I’d love to say that this experience taught me never to give up and that I’ve persevered through my fears right up to the end ever since, but I’m not that strong of a person, frankly. I’ve folded under pressure a time or two since then. Nevertheless, I do remember the lesson, and it has inspired me more than twice to keep going even though it seemed as if I would never arrive at my destination and live to tell the tale.