“I hate hiking!” is a story I’ve been telling myself for roughly 33 years. It was a stubborn, silly thing to claim, especially since — until this weekend — I’d never actually hiked.
What I really meant is that hiking makes me uncomfortable. It is a new experience. It’s something I’m not skilled at. It challenges me. It pushes me beyond my comfort zone. It falls outside my wheelhouse.
Last week, I spent several days trudging my way (literally) over the river and through the woods of Oregon. At first, an obstinate little voice inside my head was urging me to dig my heels in, refuse to go on and hitch a ride back to civilization. (Or at least craft a series of snarky Tweets to send once I returned to a reliable wifi signal.) Somewhere around the five-mile marker it occurred to me that by hunkering down in my head and focusing my energy on all the comforts I was missing, I was actually missing out on the amazing things right in front of me. As soon as I hit my internal mute button, I began to discover that I kind of love hiking.
Sure, I had to stop and wheeze-it-out at various points. My body was sore in places I didn’t know it was possible to hurt. I had to use an outhouse. But that was all okay, because there, in the middle of nowhere, with no cell phone signal and just about every modern convenience stripped away, I found myself living fully present in the moment. And that is a really, really good feeling.
I realize I may never relish having my feet restricted to “real shoes.” I may never enjoy physical exertion in sweltering 90-degree heat. I’m definitely never going to love an outhouse. But I really liked the version of myself I met at the top of the hill, the base of the falls and the end of the path.
There’s no doubt it’s easier to write something off completely than it is to try and struggle, flail and fail. But a comfortable life is a life with blinders on. Sure, you can get ahead, but you’ll miss out on the things that matter most. When we settle for comfortable, we settle…period. We end up depriving ourselves of not only experiences, but of becoming the best version of who we are.
A wise person once told me if it doesn't scare you, it doesn't grow you. Get cranky. Get angry. Get frustrated. Work up a sweat. Work up worries and doubt. Then let go of that balloon of uselessness. You don’t have to take the world at someone else’s pace. You just have to put one foot in front of the other until you find your stride… then get on with the getting on.
Say yes more than you say no. You never know. It may take you someplace more beautiful than you ever imagined.