The line between passion and obsession is blurry, and for the most intense personalities it very quickly disappears with each passing moment. There comes a point where everything is surrendered in the name of achievement, of desperate success. The fire burns you, but you fear losing it lest nothing remain to light your way.
But at some point, you will be forced to choose between an obsession that is steadily destroying you, or a life less consumed and more fully lived.
Mark Twight fled to the mountains as a crucible, seeking the clarity that comes from either succeeding in an attempt to summit difficult routes or dying on the snow-covered slopes. Many of his achievements remain untouched – the Reality Bath, for instance, remains unrepeated, although many argue this is due to the route’s suicidal nature rather than any significant difficulty – but he has also documented perhaps more than his fair share of failures.
In 1987, Twight and climbing partner Jeff Lowe failed an attempt on the South Pillar of Nuptse in the Nepalese Himalayas. Despite their best efforts, the pair was forced to concede defeat, starting back down without having hit the summit. In spite of his desperate drive to reach a peak that had already beaten him earlier that year, Twight “gave way to fear, trading [his] dreams for the bland taste of survival.” It was a difficult choice, and one seemingly at odds with his philosophy of success or death.
It wasn’t the last time he made it. “Glitter and Despair”, the article in which he details the failed climb, is not the last piece in Kiss or Kill containing one of Twight’s failures. Faced with the very real possibility of the end, even the cynic nicknamed Dr. Doom chose to give up and save himself for another day.
Five years have passed since the last time I handed in a letter saying I was forced to make a difficult call. Another uniform, another dream, another life I thought I could live – gone because I knew it was destroying me. Whether it was the nature of the job – the hours, the numbers – my hellbent personality, or simply poor timing, a career as a personal trainer at Fitness First simply wasn’t the right thing to chase. I could not separate the drive to succeed from the reality that it simply wouldn’t happen overnight or day after day.
It began to cost too much: the expense of the hospitalization is almost insignificant next to the expressions of the loved ones forced to watch as I tried to explain myself over and over again. The price of the bottle of brandy paled next to hearing someone describe their fear at finding me face-down in the garage next to it.
And so in the face of the storm, I chose to survive. I chose to cut my losses and live with the disappointment rather than die trying to summit an impossible peak.
There are other mountains. Other routes. I tend to lose track of that when I’m in a particularly intense mood – which, as a full-time trainer, was basically every day of every week.
I was a cadet officer for three months. I was a trainer for six. Maybe some day it’ll be a year, then two, then four. I have to believe that some day I’ll be whoever and wherever I’m supposed to be.
For now, I can breathe. Regroup. Recover. And one day – maybe not too far off – I will have to rise again.
30x each 4-way JJ
1×6 each @ 35/40/45kg
3×20 Back Squat @ 50% 1RM
Avoid setting bar down during rest
15x20s Thruster @ 35kg / 10s rest
- This is from Day 2, Week 3 of the Gym Jones Man of Steel training plan’s Leaning Phase. It quickly became the worst workout of my life when, partway through the fourth round of thrusters, I realized I was barely able to breathe. I was sure I was going to pass out, but the fear of dropping the barbell on my head in an empty gym kept me going. Afterwards, I lay there for an hour before finally locking up. It was quite an experience.