The open mouth in the rocky mountainside
swallowed the daylight into darkness,
called out for a visitor with strange sounds,
protected treasures with teeth of terra,
and pleaded me to pierce the pitch black,
that I might uncover its hidden history.
* * *
My friend requested we rest before continuing our climb.
Panting and perspiring, he sat on the stony ground
and propped his elbows on his knees.
* * *
Amidst nature never before known,
I crouched to the earth beside him,
incapable of remaining at rest
from the abundance of adrenaline
and the fantastic feline curiosity
that had overtaken my imagination.
* * *
My friend gulped from his canteen, then sadly sighed.
Sweating and squinting, he shook his head
And told me to go on alone.
* * *
With eyes eager to examine the innards of the ominous opening ahead,
I instantly assessed the preferred path to pursue up the slope.
Through the thorns and thistles of the thick underbrush,
‘round the rigid rocks and the tremendous towering trees
I would travel to arrive at my exciting ultimate objective,
the virgin cavern no man had yet penetrated.
* * *
My friend removed his shoes and poured out some pebbles.
Grumbling and groaning, he put his face in his palms
And said that he shouldn’t have followed.
* * *
I sat down in the dirt and dust
And observed my woefully weary comrade,
a committed, constant, unwavering ally
who supported me through times both great and ghastly
and had suffered spectacular sacrifices of self
that my life’s adventures might go on.
* * *
Gazing up one final time at that captivating cave
whose purity I would now never defile,
I helped my frustrated friend to his feet,
and slapped a hand on his slouching shoulder.
We shared a look, a shrug, and a smile,
And began the long walk home.
* * *
I wrote the poem above a few years ago for a class I was taking while pursuing my degree at the University of Central Florida. On its surface, the poem is about a guy who wants to explore a cave, but decides not to go without his friend, who is too worn out already from their journey that day to join him. But really I hope it conveys much more than that.
The idea of the poem is that we all have dreams, desires, aspirations, etc. that we hope to achieve in our lives. We all have times when we find ourselves as that guy who wants to explore the mysterious cave he sees in the distance. But we also all have people in our lives that we care about immensely, whether they be friends, family, or other loved ones, who simply are not able to accompany us on that journey. We have to make choices about going for that dream at the expense of a relationship or letting it go because that other person is more important to us.
Throughout my life I have heard it said repeatedly how if you really want something you need to go after it with all your might. “Don’t be afraid to take risks,” they say. “Sometimes you have to make sacrifices to achieve your dreams,” they say. “You can do anything you set your mind to,” they say.
All of that sounds great in theory, but what about the other people in your life? Our family, our spouses, our friends — they don’t always have the ability financially, physically, emotionally, or even geographically, to accompany us on our quest to fulfill those dreams.
For me, I have wanted a lot of things in life that I have not gone after. Some of that has been my own fear of failure, or the occasional lack of motivation, or even just not having the money at the time to take advantage of an opportunity. I know, however, that there have also been times when I chose not to chase a dream because it would have meant the loss of a relationship that I valued too much. Maybe that was silly of me. Maybe it was more fear controlling my actions. But as much as I still wish I could have gone on those journeys and explored those caves, I am glad to not have left my travelling companions behind. There is no one in my life today that I regret choosing.
Sometimes it is the dream that must be sacrificed.
“A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.”