I found something I wrote in February 26, 2002. I was 16 days away from the gibush—a week-long intense tryout—for Shayetet, the Israeli Naval Commando, that includes marches on the beaches of Atlit while carrying bags of sand, and hours of sprinting in and out of the sea. I had been training for the gibush for months (the picture was taken during training).
I was 18 and scared shitless. Not of failing or not passing the test, but of reaching a breaking point and giving up. I was afraid of not being as strong as I thought or hoped I was. Of reaching a wall and not making it through. Of disappointing myself.
This is the pick-me-up note—painstakingly word for word—I wrote myself almost 15 years ago:
“I believe there are moments in a man’s life which can either make him or break him. He has a split second in which to make a decision that will alter the rest of his life. Making a decision between quitting, giving up, and grind his teeth and finish what he started, not only finishing but triumphing. There is no way, no way, I’m not finishing that gibush. They will physically have to put me on a bus because I will not leave. I’ll take everything they throw at me and take it. I’ll do it because that’s what I have to do. If I’m in the hard sand with a bag and a weapon, and my legs are so sore that with every step I feel an echo of pain, and the instructor starts running faster, I’ll run faster. No matter what, I will grind my teeth and do what I have to do. If all the other people who have passed have passed, so can I. I know what I can and can’t do. This I can do.”
First, considering what I want to do with my life, I’m glad my writing has improved. But I did finish that gibush. I didn’t pass, neither did I pass another gibush I did for a different unit the following month. I got a chance to do a second gibush for the Naval Commando the following summer, passed, got dropped a class six months into training, went to the gun boats for two months, was sent home for four, then back to a different Naval Commando crew where I kept training. Two years and nine months after I wrote this—12 years ago next week—I finished training and became a Naval Commando. I learned that if the person next to you can do it, so can you. I learned that it’s all in your head, there’s nothing you can’t do, and, most importantly, that the race isn’t always won by the fastest runners, but by those who keep running.