Education reminds me a lot of rock-climbing.
Here is a wall, your instructor says. Here is the information about it: that part there is difficult, be careful. There is your goal. Climb to it: you have a time limit.
And then, the next year, another wall. And another. Every few years there is a celebration, and you get a certificate, and you advance a level. Some instructors don’t care whether you succeed or not. Others will give you a leg-up.
But there is always another wall, and the holds are smaller and wider apart, and you graduate from racing up with confident feet to searching for delicate cracks, and gritting your teeth, and leaping upwards, and hoping you did it right.
When you are young, bouldering feels exciting. Just hanging from the wall is a joy, trusting your body to hold you, creeping along and up a wall slowly but surely.
As you grow older you get stronger, and better, and start to look for walls that look interesting. You get bored easily. Your body is better at holding you, your fingers are stronger and wiser.
There doesn’t really seem to be an ending point, but there are always people farther ahead than you.
Not everyone can afford the best gear. Those who can afford it always seem to have a better grip, and when they do slip they never fall as far. You and the others, your chances are limited.
You learn to be cunning. You learn to plan under pressure. You learn how much you need to sleep and how much coffee you can drink before you turn into a quivering ball. You learn to be so efficient with your time, with your energy, hanging from the wall with aching arms and clock running low.
In the end, success depends as much on dedication as skill. You have to love it, because it is tiring work that leaves you limp and achy, irritable. It takes apparently inordinate amounts of time and money. But really, the instructors promise, it’s good for you. It’ll set you up for life.
You can’t live at the top of a wall, you think, but when the next year brings a taller sheerer cliff than the last, you still powder up your hands and leap.
I might do my honours part-time, over a year and a half. I can’t see the holds for the wall at the moment.
(This I know for sure: I’m better at metaphors than I am at rock-climbing, and better at essays than either.)