Monday, July 11, 2011

Reflections on a Decade

Under my name on Facebook it says "Today is your birthday".

Thanks.

Without that little reminder I might have forgotten in the excitement of planning an attempt to climb Mt. Rainier tonight. It wouldn't have been the first time I forgot my birthday. Seeing as how today at 7:47am EST I turned 30, it seemed appropriate though to put a little more thought into a "holiday" that I normally don't really celebrate.

It doesn't seem like it was 9 years ago that I lay on the lawn at the Mission House, staring up at the stars, and reflecting on what it meant to be 21 and an adult (No, I hadn't been drinking excessively). I remember at the time being so overwhelmed by my age and the end of childhood. I was entering my senior year of college and planning to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. I definitely didn't see the events of the next 9 years coming.

My 20's. They are gone now, but it isn't really with sadness that I meet my 30's. Age has never been that important to me, at least once I stopped counting it on my hands and in halves and quarters. Age is life. Life comes with age and vice versa. I love life. I love the gifts that every year brings. My 20's were amazing. When I look back I can hardly believe the things I did and experienced. I can hardly keep up with the radical changes of my personality and direction in life. It's like the lifespan of a Phoenix with a new endeavor and path in life growing out of the former.

10 years ago I went on my first backpacking trip. I hiked my first miles in the deep, hot canyon known as Grand. I was woefully inexperienced, but my bullheaded determination took me places, got me into situations, and it got me out of them. Little did I realize that those hot, sweaty, mistake laden trips were prepping me for the next 10 years of adventure, and had begun to alter my plan in life. Within a year I was no longer looking at going into the priesthood, or becoming a missionary. I was sold on the life of a nomad in the cathedral of wilderness.

My 20's saw me solo hike across the country. And they saw me fall in love and repeat trans-continental journeys with my soulmate two more times. My 20's were full of wonder in wild places. They brought me within feet of grizzly bears, moose, elk, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats. They brought me into a job with the National Park Service that I loved and I miss every day. They took me to the only place besides Michigan that has ever felt like home: Glacier National Park.

My 20's saw me married. And divorced. They took me through losing 2 grandparents and through the marriages of dear friends. I've seen my childhood friends start their own families. I've climbed the highest mountain in the lower 48. And countless peaks besides. I've lost and gained friends. I've seen two of my nieces marry. There has been heartache and loss, but also indisputable joy. The balances of these extremes are what make life bearable, beautiful, and unique.

My 20's have seen me lose 70 lbs and go from couch potato to athlete. In typical twisted fashion, fate and life have taken me from abhorrent of running (and unable to run 1 mile without walking) to running 50 miles at a stretch–logging up to 90 miles in a single week. I left the track and the sidewalks and stepped onto the trails...once I did, there was no turning back.

My 30's start kind of like the last decade. Single and unsure of where I'm headed next in life. Stepping out of the previous ties and commitments into my own space. Once again time sprawls out ahead and I lay in my papasan chair, staring out at the ocean. I've left childhood behind. I've also stepped beyond my formative adult years. Perhaps this decade I will be able to call my own. To truly find whatever it is that I seek in life. When I recap the next ten years I can only hope that it will be as full and beautiful as the last...

I will start by climbing a mountain.

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