Scrambling Through Life
Do you ever feel like you are scrambling through life? That no matter what obstacle you complete or finish line you cross, you are never really settled? I know I am, and to quote Winston Churchill, “Life is one damn thing after another.”
A few weeks ago, some of my coworkers and I decided to summit Mount Olympus. Mount Olympus is a very difficult hike in Salt Lake County, where you climb over 4,000 feet in only 3.5 miles, making it quite steep. And when you get to the peak, you have to literally scramble up boulders and rocks until you reach the top. When we finally reached the end of the hike, I realized how symbolic it is for my life.
In totality, the hike is roughly 7.5 miles (even though alltrails.com says 6.3 miles), and so we decided to meet at the base at 6:30 AM. That way we could beat some of the crowd, the heat, and still have the remainder of the day ahead of us after we completed the hike. I got up early, packed up my backpack with bug spray, snacks, sunscreen, chapstick and plenty of water. I had my hiking boots laced up, my gear on and I was ready to go.
When we arrived to the trailhead, I went to put my backpack on, and much to my dismay, I saw that my water pouch was leaking EVERYWHERE. The little attachment wasn’t screwed on all the way, and so everything was soaked. I took it out, tightened the straw piece as best I could, and put my backpack on anyway. But I was still leaking, and my backpack was so wet. Pretty soon, my entire backside was drenched. It soaked through my several layers on top and my hiking shorts were drenched. It was chilly at that early hour, so I was pretty miserable.
Here we are, hiking up this intense hill, doing switchbacks that were never ending, lungs and legs burning, and I am so wet and so uncomfortable. I kept thinking, “Seriously? Of COURSE this would be my luck!” I came prepared, and yet here I am.”
But isn’t that so fitting of life? This was the first of many, “Aha’s” that hiking is a pretty beautiful (although it wasn’t beautiful for me at the time) analogy of life. How prepared for life can you really be? How many times do you plan and prep, and schedule and prioritize for things in your daily life, and yet you are still unprepared? I know that’s true for me.
And so my first lesson I learned was no matter how prepared you are, or you may think you are, something in life will come in from left field, and knock you off your feet. So being prepared is important, but even more so is being able to roll with the punches and be adaptable. Because something else will come up. Like I said at the beginning… One thing after the other.
Find Your People
Because of the steepness of the hill, we were quickly above the hustle & bustle of the Wasatch Front. We could see the highways filling up with cars as they were making their way to work and life, but we were in the calm of nature, with nowhere to go but up. We had great conversation, but I am attributing most of that to the fact we were hiking with psychologists! We talked about reincarnation, and if it does exist would you do it or not? We talked about hopes and dreams and goals and ambitions. We learned more about each other, and we laughed quite a bit too.
And because of my wet backside, and the fact that the leaking wouldn’t stop, I ended up dumping my water out. But anytime I needed a sip, one of my coworkers was there to give me a drink of their (un-leaking) water pouch.
So here I was again, hiking, panting, burning, talking, laughing, and realizing that I have found my people. And also how important it is to have people. People you trust, people you love, people who challenge and push you, all the while encouraging and supporting you. Some people may not be fortunate enough to find their people in their work place, but I have. But regardless of how you find them, I’ve realized the importance of finding your people in your life.
The Unpaved Path
The last lesson I learned was a reminder that life is hard. Life has always been hard, and it will continue to be hard, but I’m a pretty firm believer that sometimes we make life even harder by not following or listening to the advice of people who have gone before you.
And so there we were, a little more than 3 miles in, overlooking the valley and the unique geology of the mountains and rocks we just hiked, when we get to the hardest part of the hike: the scramble to the top.
Something cool I learned this hike was that hikers will leave little cairns, or trail markers marked by stacks of rocks, to let you know you are on the right path. Anyway, we found a cairn at the very beginning of the scramble, and so up we went. We were straight up bouldering up the side of this massive peak (something I have never done before!) when all of a sudden the path seemed… off. We were scaling up the top of a mountain when the path had massive trees in the way! And so I hollered down to Anna, who went around the mountain, where she definitely blazed a trail (and was basically climbing on a cliff). We couldn’t figure out where we went wrong, but we could tell we were definitely no longer on the path.
We scrambled (literally) a little longer and then we made it!!! The view! Oh the view. It was worth every switchback and incline, and even scrambling up the wrong boulder. But when we were at the top, we saw the path that we should have taken. And that was the path we took down. Funny enough, at the bottom of the correct path was a HUGE cairn. The biggest one I’ve ever seen, with a big boulder as the base and it just continued up from there. We giggled on the way down (the much easier path) about how we missed that, and we tried to figure out where we made the wrong turn.
I don’t think we actually ever found where we veered to the left, rather than staying on the path but that’s when my final epiphany hit: that scramble was hard, we always knew it was going to be hard. But because we didn’t pay that much attention, and follow the designated path, we made it even harder than it needed to be.
How many times have I done that in my life? How many times have I ignored the counsel of my people? My parents, my family, my loved ones, and paved my own path? Too many times to count really. And although I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned while I was walking those unpaved paths, why did I feel the need to make life even harder for myself?
So my take-a-way from this lesson was listen to those who have gone before. Life is already hard, there is no real reason to make it even harder out of stubbornness or pride.
I’ll conclude with Churchill’s quote again, “Life is one damn thing after another.” We would finish one switchback, just to turn the corner and see an even steeper one that followed. And then when we got to the top, with legs burnt out and all, we still had to scramble to the summit. That hike was one thing after another. Just like life. But like life, the hike also had beautiful moments and important epiphanies. The three most important of my take-away’s are:
- Be prepared, but also be agile when things don’t go your way.
- Find your people, they will make life so much more enjoyable, and they will the best support system when you are going through something difficult.
- And lastly, listen to your people. Follow their advice, because it is coming from a place of love, and there is no reason to make life harder than it has to be.
If you ever get the chance to do the hike, I definitely encourage it. I also encourage making sure your water pouch is screwed on tightly. And you should listen to me, because I already paved that path for you.