When I was young, my father took me on a spelunking trip to a cave now buried at every entrance. Today it is a grave.
Back then, it was a relatively popular spot known for its long, narrow passageways. Some of the mapped passages are called The Birth Canal, The Aorta Crawl, Vein Alley, and Scout Eater.
As scared as I was, I did not have enough fear at that age to deter me from entering the Birth Canal. The Birth Canal is around 18in diameter; they say the entrance to a washing machine is a good comparison.
At some point, I took a wrong turn and ended up squeezing around a narrow vertical bend. To illustrate, I went through a hole in the ceiling that bent into another straight passage. Immediately after pulling my feet through, I hit a dead end.
With no room to turn onto my back, let alone turn around, I knew I was stuck.
The feeling inside the cave at that moment is hard to describe. It was like being swallowed by the Earth. The walls were collapsing, and the air was running out, my radio scrambled, and my water turned dry.
"I am going to die."
My safety buddy pulled on my legs while I fought with the walls of the cave, trying anything I could to get a little more space. I was sucking in my lungs, wiggling, and pushing with my hands and elbows.
There were several moments that I wanted to stop fighting and give in. Unfortunately, you can only fight for so long.
In reality, it only took me something like 10 minutes to get out. And when I did, I fled the birth canal as quickly as I could crawl backward.
When I emerged from the canal, relieved as ever, I was not the same person I was when I entered. I learned to keep fighting even when it feels like there is no way to win. You face the most challenging and most painful moments when you are closest to a breakthrough.