Following my feet.....
The world is a big place and at times can make us feel very small. The enormity of it all with all the people, places, and things going on, and here we are, just tiny specks in the grand scheme of things. But yet we are given the opportunity for this life, with this limited time span, to do with whatever we choose to do.
In the face of that enormity there we stand with our hopes and dreams and when those do not materialize, or we struggle in achieving our goals, it can feel like the world and the powers that be are telling us that we are not good enough and that we can’t succeed. The message we can get is that for whatever reason we should not pursue those dreams, that we should not take the risks required to chase them, and that we should just leave things as they are.
Sometimes the message may come from people within our own family or core group of friends. Sometimes it is people in our professional lives, and sometimes it just feels like the entire system is bearing down on us telling us we are crazy and that our dreams will never happen.
While the world is indeed a big place and accomplishing our dreams can be very difficult and require a great deal of hard work, let me remind you that anyone or anything that tells you it can’t be done and that you can’t do it are simply lying to you. To all of you that have been told those lies in an effort to push you down or make you feel like you can’t do something, know that those are lies and please, please, please, do not listen.
Tune out those voices and shut off those tapes so they can’t play any more. Tell uncle Phil or grandma Ruth they don’t know shit and no matter how small their view of themselves or the world is, they are not going to box you in, limit you, or destroy your hope and faith in all that makes this world so wonderful to live. Tell them you still believe in dreams, you still believe in love, you still believe in possibilities and you will chase your dreams no matter what. Because in the end it isn’t so much about actualizing your dreams (which in all honestly is super cool and that is what we all want to do) it is about being engaged in the chase of those dreams so our lives have meaning and purpose.
I am writing this from one of my favorite places in the world, Colorado, as we are preparing to climb a 14er. As is my practice, we drove to the trailhead to check it out and make sure we could find it. We do this because we leave so early in the morning it is dark and those twisty dirt roads in the back woods can be easy to get lost on. The drive was beautiful and it was great to get out to the base of the mountains at the trailhead just below tree line (around 10,000’). To feel the wind blow, see the snow on the peaks, hear the trees bristling in the breeze and the sun hot on your skin at that elevation.
This climb was not that difficult. It was a shorter climb as far as miles go for a 14er (around 6 up and back), and the overall hike not too difficult (rated a class 2 out of 5). However the ridge-line leading up to the peak was pretty narrow and in June it still had snow on it. This was either my 18th or 19th 14er. I forget a bit because they are all spread out over the years with kids and whatnot and also no doubt because I am getting older each year and can’t remember it all. But each one brings an excitement with new energy and at least for me a sense of awe.
I love the physical challenge but am the first to acknowledge that my effort is no sprint, just a slow and steady pace. These climbs are always a challenge for me with a backpack filled with water, some food and extra clothes, then add in the length and total elevation of the climb, and being at altitude, it is all more than enough for me at this stage in my life. So it always feels like a nice accomplishment.
But in addition to the physical side there is also just the awe-inspiring beauty of the mountains. I love the sheer magnitude of the 14er’s, with all of their strength, beauty, and yes brutality. Then there is the uncertainty and extremes with the weather you can face on any given climb including rain, snow, wind, and the sun/heat. It is never the same and always something to be respected and appreciated.
The thing I like so much above all else is how it strips you down to the bare elements and reminds you of your place in the world. To climb a mountain is not to conquer it, but to have had the honor to share that sacred space and to acknowledge you are but a traveler along for the journey on this magnificent planet, being present in a space that has been there long before you and will be there long after you.
Plus there is the reaffirmation of one of the truths of life; that success is built on just staying on your feet and continually putting one foot in front of the other steadfastly marching toward your goal. No matter what happens, no matter how slow you are going, no matter how off course you find yourself at times, if you just keep getting up, moving forward, putting one foot in front of the other, you will make progress and you can get there.
Toward the end of long climb, when you are tired and worn out by the pitch of the climb and the altitude, and you are still trying to get to the top, getting there forces me to one simple essential. I tend to just block out all else and just focus on picking up one foot and placing it in front of the other, and then doing it again, and again, and again, until all of a sudden you are there. Not fancy but it works.
I wonder at times, with so many different hikes I have done, and a solid number of these 14ers under my belt, why I ever forget that essential truth in my regular day-to-day activities. I get so busy with the small stuff of life, the next appointment, returning another phone call, whatever, that I forget to focus on my goals, my plans to achieve those goals, and the work I need to do along the way. I forget to glance up and look at the peak in order to remind me where I am going. The business and grind of life just seems to water it all down and before you know it another 6 months has slipped by and here I still am in the same spot. Rather then steadfastly working toward my goal, I at times fall away from seeing the goal and just get caught up in the process of life, surviving day to day, and then realize I have wandered off course and no longer advancing.
Why do I do that to myself and why do I ever listen to those voices? The ones that say it can’t be done, the naysayers who tell me to be grateful for what you have and don’t rock the boat. Stop looking for more, stop trying to reach those goals, be content with what you have and ride it out. You can hear them every day as they tell you not to take those risks, that you are too old, you are not talented enough, you do not have the right experience, (whatever it is - you can fill in the blank on what they tell you).
Since I was “let go” from Oklahoma and was forced back in to the job-hunt market, I have applied and been rejected many times. In fact, I now have over 200 rejection letters/emails from different job applications. Over 200! And guess what, with all of those applications and efforts not 1 single return call for even a phone interview or a follow up on anything. Not one.
Now I know I am not the end all of all candidates and realize that there are some very talented people out there with extensive experience and training. But I also know that my resume is not exactly empty and I have been able to accomplish some things in my lifetime. So one might say well stop applying for jobs you are not qualified for, that you do not have experience in, and blah, blah, blah. Well maybe. But I know if I don’t shoot for what I want I for sure won’t get it so I might as well keep stepping up to the plate, take my swings, and see what happens. Never know, I might just hit one out of the park.
So here is where the “one foot in front of the other” thing keeps coming back at me. As I said, I get lost in the woods of life sometimes, just wondering and surviving my day-to-day existence. Some days it feels I can’t get back to my path and my feet go idle and I lose sight of where I am trying to go. And that is wrong of me. While I am ever so grateful for my life and all that I have had the chance to do, I still want to do other things, reach other peaks, and accomplish new things. So here is where I need to stay focused and just keep pressing forward. Keep believing in the things that gives me hope, strength, and courage, know what I believe in, and along with a lot of hard work (and a little luck) I must trust that it will all work out. And of course it does and it will one way or the other, whether I ever reach my goals or not, this I know.
So no matter where you are on life’s journey, keep trekking forward toward the things in life you want the most. Don’t listen to the others telling you it can’t be done, that it is not worth the risk, that you can’t do it. Maybe you won’t get it done but it still matters that you keep pushing and moving in the direction of your dreams. Because in the end while success is wonderful, life is made up of and lived in the cracks of time where we are in the midst of the process. Where we are living life the way we want to live it with a purpose that matters to us, and with the people we want to do it with. In the end it doesn’t really matter if you actually ever get there, it matters that you keep putting one foot in front of the other over and over in a way that is consistent with what you believe in and how you want to live your life. May we always keep pushing forward, with faith, trust, and love in our hearts.