There’s something the mountains always do to me when I spend a short time in them: remind me to stay grounded and hike my own hike.
My hiking partner knows exactly when I’ve fallen into this spell. I become quiet; my head filled with random thoughts, often of ones to get me to focus on putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes I’m trying to write out in my head how to describe everything that I’m experiencing in that moment. Other times I’m thinking of my future and what I expect of myself. I pull away or drop back behind her, hiking my own hike.
It’s hard not to compare oneself to others who are joining in on the hike- one who may be better prepared, faster, or more experienced. And the moment I find myself allowing those thoughts in, I struggle with my next step. I have to force myself to stop, take a look around (being miles into the woods) and be proud of how far I’ve come. Just me and my body, no one else to rely on or thank but myself.
I experienced this multiple times throughout my hikes this past week- hiking with new friends. At one point the snow was too deep and I didn’t have the right gear. At another, the trail was so steep, I couldn’t see the person in front of me. At the top, the wind was so strong I was terrified to take the next step. It got to the point that I didn’t care about the (missing) view, but had to mentally finish the hike. I had to get to the tippy-top. And I did, with tears in my eyes: excited that I had raced up to the top but terrified because I didn’t know how I was going to manage to get back down. Fear kicked in and I had a little panic moment, for about ten seconds. I said to myself out loud, “hike your own hike” and I did. I focused on me and got myself back down to the treeline where I could finally breathe a full breath of air without struggling. It was with the help of someone more experienced, better prepared and faster that I made it down safely. If I had continued to compare myself to that person, I would have let fear overcome that last leg of the trip and not summited. And then, I would have been disappointed.
We don’t always summit the peaks we set out to reach, and I don’t mind. The mountain isn’t going anywhere anytime soon so I know I’ll always have a second chance. Or third. Or fourth.
“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”– Albert Einstein