I recently finished Into Thin Air by John Krakauer and . . . wow. Just wow. I was so captivated by every word of this impossible story.
But, as captivated as I was, throughout the duration of the book I couldn’t silence the voice inside that wondered and questioned how these folks could risk everything on something so uncertain as the summit of Everest. For many who read up more on the statistics and the cost of it all, it seems like a very selfish thing to do when there are others — like wives, husbands, children, parents, friends — to consider.
Of course, I’m speaking from the point of view of someone terrified of heights; whose craziest adventure this far could very well have been the transatlantic flight I took to Iceland last August.
Plainly put, I do not have the mindset of a mountaineer. I do not find thrill standing at a ledge overlooking infinity, or joy when glancing back down and seeing how far I’ve trekked. Therefore, I can’t fully judge them. I can only sit in awe, mouth agape, and reflect on how incredibly different we all, as humans, are wired.
Once I read the last words of the book, I took some time to reflect on the awful, incredible, life-changing adventure I had just been taken on from the warmth and comfort of my bed in California, almost 8,000 miles away. There was a deep, unsettling feeling that I couldn’t shake. I had decided to open myself up to learn more about those who froze, fell, or died from oxygen deprivation high on Everest on that day back in 1996. And because of that, they were no longer, and would never again be, just a statistic on Wikipedia.
Like Doug Hansen, who had previously attempted to summit but wasn’t successful, so pulled extra shifts at his job as a postal worker in Oregon so he could afford to make the journey back and hopefully reach the top. Which he did. Only he died trying to make it back.
It took a few days before I realized that these alpinists, though 100 times bolder than most, aren’t too different than the rest of us who haven’t ventured close to the so-called Death Zone.
Everyone is seeking something greater, something worthwhile… just like Doug Hansen was. If it’s not Everest, it’s something else. We wake up each day in the shadow of that big, mountainous thing we want most. And we either do something or we do nothing to achieve it.
Which brings me to part two of this post.
Slow Progress is Still Progress
I have been doing nothing to help me attain my Everest-sized goals (like writing a book or moving to a new state). I haven’t even been doing much of anything to attain my anthill-sized goals (like writing for this blog).
This was supposed to be a no-pressure, on-the-side hobby that got my mind off of the more serious and structured parts of life. But, like I do with most things, I assigned importance to it, and therefore I turned my back on it. I lost sight of what is at the core of its existence: being candid. And open. And honest.
So here’s the honesty I’ve promised by starting this blog.
I’ll admit that the fact that I’m even writing this is a lot. A huge hurdle has been conquered by opening this page and typing those first few words.
This past month has drained me — both mentally and emotionally — and there honestly hasn’t been much that replenished those resources that typically keep me going strong.
There has been a major shift at work that has challenged me more than anything I’ve dealt with before; family stuff that has thrown off the equilibrium I’m used to in that facet of my life; and a general cloud (figuratively and literally with the weather) that has hung around my existence.
Don’t get me wrong. There has definitely been a fair share of moments of warmth and sunshine — like the winery tour I took with a forever group of friends a couple of weeks ago, and the major breakthrough I had with my mom and dad that same weekend. Not to mention, I got to spend some quality cuddle time with my darling pug, Pearl, who lazes her days away down in San Diego with my parents.
But for some reason, when those brilliant days tucked in for the night, they took along with them the bit of genuine happiness I felt. And it hasn’t been so easy to stir that happiness back into a constant state of existence.
The good news is, I feel myself slowly clawing my way out of this rut I’m in (hello first blog post in a month). And like most times I find myself having to navigate through a tough season of life, the revelation that it was even happening at all started with me vocalizing that I was feeling off.
I’m so lucky that I am surrounded by friends both near (hi roomie) and far (hi college roomies) who will take the time and really listen. 99% of the time, I hear myself talk about what is troubling me and it sounds so trivial that I can’t believe I am even feeling troubled in the first place. But it’s that 1% that doesn’t seem so inconsequential.
That 1% represents the lack of satisfaction in where I think I should be compared to where I am. And I know I’m not the only one familiar with that horrible feeling of displeasure in your life.
That pressure I put on myself to be a certain way or reach a certain place scares me away from the potential that exists not too far off. And I know reaching that potential is as easy as making little decisions here and putting to action little things there. So then why is it so dang hard?
I’ve come to realize that the more I do nothing, the more prevalent that 1% might become. Avoiding it won’t make it disappear. It’ll make it more apparent than ever.
So here I am. Making a little decision to do something about my anthill-sized goal. Hoping that by doing it, my Everest-sized goals are quick to follow.