Listen: if you have to give up, you can always quit at the end.
And even then not at all.
First comes the setting of goals: tightening the margins of your curves; lifting more than your bodyweight; running a half-marathon without coming apart; reigning in your lifestyle’s excesses; reclaiming movement in a sedentary life; angling for a much-needed career change; or working towards a healthier emotional and mental disposition.
Then comes their pursuit: dreams, plans, goals, calendars, get set, go!
Today a gram vanishes from the scale’s reading. Tomorrow another weight plate is added to the barbell, and then another, and then a—nope. Not quite yet. But still, pretty impressive. A kilometre becomes five and then ten as the pavement turns into your treadmill as you determinedly traverse the hills and valleys of your fitness. You quit smoking and ease up on the drinking, steeling yourself against the magnetic pull of vice. A daily step count now drags you from the office desk to the dance floor on Thursday evenings or a hiking trail on Saturday mornings. One day at a time, like the age-old wisdom says, you work towards a promotion and learn to deal with delays, disappointments, and the burdens of the past.
The path is clear: this is the way, and that is the destination—you get going and you keep going.
The first week’s aches were followed by the second month’s shakes. And still you push on. Three months in and your routines yield results you can feel, see, and share. Motivation, powerful but fickle, has rightfully given way to consistency and dedication. These days you are the first one up and the second person at the gym after the owner when the doors open in the morning, or, when the occasional late night at work steals your sunrise, the last person to rack their weights in the evening. Thanks to your discipline’s rigour, you fill the hours that were were once filled with overindulgence with some academic or creative interests; you stay a bit longer at work to clear your desk and tick off your to-do list. Your goals’ pursuit has turned you into a square push-up peg that cannot fit in the round hole of your former life. Clothes need to be tailored to curve around your contours and your daily routines are kind to your body—rest and relaxation, silence, echoes, patience, and grace. The good stuff.
The glut of results, both positive and reaffirming, are addictive. Now that you are in the thick of things there is no going back. It is all onwards and upwards from here on.
Whatever the price for progress may be, you are willing to pay it. In the end, you say, it will be worth it.
Remember this: whatever the price, you are willing to pay it.
Six months slip into a year. Milestones are passed, some memorable, some seemingly not so much. The first pull-up was an incredible high that brought a keen sense of accomplishment, but some of the clocked miles vanished into statistical anonymity because they were not personal bests. The much-changed lifestyle, seemingly impossible to attain once upon a squat, has now become metronomically normal. You have found an elusive sense of balance. Along with it comes an unexpected sense of boredom. The results, whatever their metric, are harder to notice. The hours of determined work do not seem to be rewarded with tangible success. Every inch now costs a mile, and each mile is less enthusiastic than the one before.
Surely you should have arrived at your destination by now.
How, then, is it that your goals can still be there and not here?
You have come far, but not far enough. Halfway, you tell yourself when the frustration runs high, when the plateau seems to stretch on and on, is nowhere it all.
You can throw more weights around, run faster, jump higher, superset the entire workout, put in longer hours at the job, and take on more assignments, but none of it will speed up the journey. The destination remains the destination. You will arrive when you arrive. Not before, and certainly not later.
Anyway, did you not say that whatever the price you would pay it?
Well, the going rate for progress is patience and everything, all the time.
Everything. Your will, your discipline, your determination, your enthusiasm—this is the weekly levy, it is the ritual tax. To compound the difficulty of the task you must know this: yesterday’s price is not today’s price—your goals will demand more from you with each passing day. The inflation is enough to deflate all but the most ardent of pursuers.
All the time?
All the time. Every day, amigo. Three-hundred and sixty six days in leap years. You can pause for rest but you cannot stop the continuous exertion of effort. Even when Mercury is in retrograde—especially when Mercury is in retrograde.
With each day, as you work towards your elusive goals, you have to appreciate what the wise know: halfway is further than you have ever been, and sometimes it is as far as you can get.
Faced with this truth, quitting seems like a viable option. A gambler would tell you to cut your losses and take what is already in your pockets home.
But this is ain’t a poker table. This is life. Regardless of what the river card might be, if you have to give up, you quit at the end.
How do you know the end is the end, you ask?
Tell you what, it looks familiar. When you arrive at the end you see a new and distant horizon. Paths you have not walked before eddy out before your feet. The forward pull of momentum feels familiar. That is when you realise that you have been at the end before. Many, many times.
On the first day when you made your plans—many do not get this far, this is an achievement all by itself. In the second week when you began putting them into action—even fewer take the first steps to turning their scribbled resolutions into milestones. And on the fiftieth day when your muscles did not falter, that was an end too, because so many were discouraged from overcoming the fatigue of training on the forty-ninth. In the second year of committing to your career, when the possibility of a promotion even began to look likely, that could have been the end as well—not everyone is able to face each work day with drive and determination. Fewer still are able to find joy in the fulfilment of daily tasks. The end was there when you nearly let yourself slip back into the current of comforts from days gone-by—discipline and dedication are high prices to pay, one realises their worth only when their rewards have been eroded. Strange, but true. And painful.
You arrived at the end yesterday. And you kept going. When your goals are worth it they do not remain mountainous things that need to be summited or races that must be clearly and authoritatively won. They transform and become small, daily challenges that test your resolve. They hide in the mundane and dare you to see their accomplishment for what they truly are: another footstep on the journey, another rung on the ladder, another mile, another weight, another repetition, another attempt to find inner peace, another chance to make it. Before you even realised it, you reached the top and kept climbing, and when you crossed the finish line you carried on running.
Listen: if you have to give up, you can always quit at the end. And even then not at all.
You are always halfway there.
And sometimes halfway is as far as one can get.
— Quit At The End —
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Design: Rémy Ngamije, 2022.
Rémy Ngamije is an award-winning Rwandan-born Namibian author, editor, publisher, photographer, literary educator, and entrepreneur. He is the founder of The Forge.