Don’t worry, this is the hardest part.

I’m here to tell you this. Don’t worry, this is the hardest part.

The hardest part is getting ready to jump.

You’ve sat at your window for years, carefully tending your reasonably sized farm with reasonably sized success while, just out of the corner of your eye, you’ve always kept track of that tiny speck on the horizon, a mountain top. You can’t see it from here, but everyone says there’s a city full of wonderful things there. Or perhaps you can’t see the mountain at all, but you’ve known friends and accquaintances who have left the farm and years later reported the wonders and their successes. You always said you’d like to go there someday, but somehow today ends up being the day you decide to leave. You stand with your foot at the edge of your property and turn around to look again at the nice, tidy rows of your garden which produces nice, tidy safe sums of food and comfort. It’s good here, you could stay. It would work out alright.

Don’t worry, this is the hardest part.

The hardest part is getting started.

The farm is behind you now, and while you were nervous the first few steps you took were smooth and flat. But the hill is starting to rise before you now, and you’re beginning to realize just how far away that mountain city must be. You lean into your steps but, as you pause to take a break, you can’t help but turn your head back and gaze at the valley, your farm still in sight. It’s still just *right there*. You haven’t lost anything yet. you could still do it, still turn back. No one would be wiser, or if they noted, no one would blame you. You ran such a nice farm after all. You were a very good farmer. Everyone liked you as a farmer, they don’t know what to make of you now. You can still see it, still go home. It seems so much easier than pushing up over that hill ahead of you.

Don’t worry, this is the hardest part.

The hardest part is staying on the path.

You made it over that first hill and the farm is somewhere lost behind you, now. All you have is rolling hills and steep, wooded paths greeting you each morning. But you’re passing other lovely, comfy little farms on the way, staffed by friendly, charming folk that come to the fences as you pass. And their words are complimentary and kind. “Hey, I heard you were a talented farmer! I’ve got good things that need done. Stop and stay a while.” And their faces are honest and their farmhouses glow so cheerily from the road and you know it would be a good life, there. So much cheerier than the meandering path you’re following.

Don’t worry, this is the hardest part.

The hardest part is staying warm.

The road has been uphill for days and you’ve lost sight of the mountaintop. At night, you tend a little fire and wrap yourself up tight, every muscle sore and every nerve tired. You aren’t even sure if you’re still on the path that leads to the mountain city and you’re pretty sure your food is running out any day now. You rub your wrists and think, not for the first time, that you’ve made a foolish mistake. It was a mistake to pass all those cheery farmhouses and offers of work, it was a mistake to not wait until you had more supplies, it was a mistake to leave the farm in the first place. You were a good farmer. But the path seems just as long behind you as it does before you, and by now you’ve gotten too used to walking it. But it feels like a failure, a mistake.

Don’t worry, this is the hardest part.

The hardest part is beating the mountain.

The dawn broke and found you at the crest of the cursed rock you’d been climbing for months. You thought you’d be happy for the break, for the easy downhill walk. And it is nice, the feeling of having that particular climb behind you. But then you raised your eyes and squinted into the sun to see another craggy mountain ahead of you, and another behind that. The realization hits that you will need to do this, over and over again, for who knows how long. You wanted to stop, wanted to rest. But the city wasn’t at the top of the first mountain. You would need to take this rest and climb the next one all over again.

Don’t worry, this is the hardest part.

The hardest part is encountering success.

You are stronger now. Your legs are strong and your hands are calloused from gripping granite and scaling boulders. You learned how to make do with what you find, rather than what you packed, and the path seems familiar now, no matter where you go. You’ve started to encounter small hamlets, even cozy cities here and there on your journeys. They seem lovely and interesting and sometimes you encounter folk who have heard of what you do, offer you food and good cheer. And each night when you take a rest in these places you wonder, is this the city you heard of? Is this the mountain city where you should stop? But it never feels quite right, quite enough, and by morning you’re itching to pull on your boots and get back on the road, even if the moment you are underway you begin to doubt.

Don’t worry, this is the hardest part.

The hardest part is writing home.

Your letters are infrequent, but you do try to send them. Your mum’s packages catch up to you sporadically, in the next village you pass. They’re thoughtful comfort gifts, if not exactly what you need on the road. Fuzzy mittens, baked bread, bits of colored cloth. And always included, always, is the words of encouragement and the quiet question. Have you reached the mountain city yet? Your friend got there a month ago! (Perhaps they can give you directions.) And so you write back, hesitantly, telling them of mountain paths and what you have seen in wild empty spaces, on the antlers of the silent deer you ran across at midnight and the sound the wind makes over the wetlands at dawn. The next package will include rainboots for the wet and a gun for wildlife and the firm belief that you’ll get to that mountain city soon and buy a big fancy house there.

Don’t worry, this is the hardest part.

The hardest part is changing.

You never did seem to buy that fancy house in a mountain city of wondrous things. One day, as you finished sweating and cussing through a tangle of briars and stones that threatened to cut through the soles of your boots, you stop and notice a far mountain peak behind you, or maybe just slightly to the west. It looks similar to what you saw once, from your farmhouse window, but slightly different from this angle. Maybe you’ll veer towards it tomorrow, or maybe the valley to the east looks more intriguing. The uncertainty is still there, under your calloused skin and worn feet and tangled hair that smells of mulberries and sweat. You never stop doubting, but you think you see a nice place to camp just a little further off, up that hill, next to an unusual sunset.

Don’t worry, this is the hardest part.