Just to get to the place where I stand right now–at the rock bottom-base of a massive mountain, looking up at the steepest incline, one that dizzily disappears into the clouds, I had to pay so very many dues. It seems that opportunities don’t fall into the laps of dudes like me, they are seized. Earned going against the grain, fighting every day against resistance, for years. Needless to say, along the way, there were some sleepless nights.

Days that went so late, they became early again. Barreling through the bloodshot buzz of a second and third wind, I often found myself so tired, I was numb. Hours would turn to minutes, the razor blade beep of the alarm clock slicing through an unconscious early morning, seemingly seconds after closing my eyes.

It was in those moments of a very late night or an eerily early morning, that through the dull pain, a man finds his purpose. Stress and exhaustion evaporate into the ether when in contact with the white-hot flame burning in the middle of the determined man. Wiping the fog of fatigue from my eyes, I would feel the electricity of higher ambition course through my veins, believing that on the other side of this weariness was my dream. Knowing that one day I would earn my rest. And one distant night I’d be able to sleep soundly, confident that I had done what was necessary.

Just a few hundred yards from the crowded condominium in the Philly outskirts, where my family resided at the time, were train tracks. At regular intervals over the course of the day, the train would rumble through, stopping traffic to a dead standstill as it passed. Often seemingly miles long, the freight train would pull countless cars and shipping containers straight through your territory, disinterested in your plans, moving at a blinding blur.

In the darkest hours past midnight, returning home from the grind, or up into the wee hours writing, I would hear that train coming. Making its rush forward into the dim black evening. Carrying its massive load with intent. Fixed on its destination, oblivious to rain or snow, heat or cold. Disrespectful to the elements. Not the least bit concerned with how late or early it might be.

When I’d hear that train’s horn in the distance of the dark night, I’d absorb its power. That sound gave me strength. I’d close my eyes, breathe deeply and smile. I’d remind myself that I was that train. That I was pushing forward in the direction of home–toward my destiny. Carrying whatever weight they’d dump upon me, undeterred. An iron horse charging forward into the still and quiet of the shadowy dawn, unstoppable. I could feel its dominance wash over me.

There are sounds that give me life, quite literally invigorating me… The thumping bass of the grimiest rap music. My father’s gravelly voice, urging me on. The dense metallic clang of 45 lb plates cozying up to one another abruptly. The rhythmic beating of the hearts of my loved ones; my daughters’ carefree laughter. And off, in the recesses of my mind, making its resolute, relentless push… The train.