A couple years ago my brother and I planned a backpacking trip in Shawnee state forest. It was going to be a 3 day hike over Labor Day weekend. The hiking plan seemed good, I wasn’t worried. You can’t plan the weather though, and the weekend we went hit temps in the high 90s before noon. It was hot as balls and it sucked. We hiked about two miles, stopping every 5 minutes and trying to pay attention to how we drank our water so we wouldn’t get sick. After those two miles we decided it wasn’t worth it. We turned around and drove two hours back home and watched a movie and ate dinner instead.
When a hike starts to suck there are two ways to walk: backward or forward. Neither is wrong, one is no more brave than the other, they’re just choices.
Unless passion is involved. When passion is tangled up in the hike our eyes don’t see a second option, the only choice is to continue on. Eyes never look back, feet never turn.
When something is meant for pursuing, failure and road blocks never feel final. The sweat and dirt and nausea are only something to fight through, and it makes the goal look that much sweeter. If the feeling is ugh or yuck or hell no, then the goal won’t be sweet. The perseverance will feel good, but the success will be empty.
There’s no shame in turning around and going back, and continuing on doesn’t hold more bravery.
I used to see the world as a book with a limited number of main characters fighting for time in the spotlight. What a shame it seemed to be an unnamed character. Just the curly haired girl in the background at the zoo that the important people moved past on their way to some essential plot point. I thought I wanted to be one of those main characters, famous and respected for some work I had done and some toil I had suffered through. I thought I wanted to be the person who hiked that trail even though it sucked and I wasn’t having any fun. I figured the success would be fun enough to make up for it.
I don’t care about that story anymore. I’ll be the curly haired girl making faces at the monkeys in the background of the world’s story, as long as I am having fun in mine. My story may not end up being one that’s recognized or awarded, and it may not provide anything to the greater good. It might just be a story about a curly haired girl with a life well lived, who didn’t battle the heat or torture herself into fame. That girl in the background at the zoo: the only person who knows that the monkey made a face at her first, who turned back on the trail and enjoyed rare and lovely time with her brother, even knowing that she was a quitter in the scope of the story of the world. A quitter, but one that is holding the reins on the story of her life, making the choice to stop when it’s not worth it, and race on when it is.
I don’t think I’ll be famous the way I wanted when I was a kid. But I’ll be damn happy hugging my dogs and reading and writing and engaging kiddos in the world we live in, because those are places in my life where road blocks mean nothing.
Keep up the good stuff friends.