Lately, I’ve had an influx of people asking me how I can be so “fearless.” I’m never sure how to respond, because I’m not really fearless. No one is, and in fact, it’s quite the opposite. I’m the first to admit that I’m scared, especially when it comes to my newest adventure, Expedition Subsahara. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, being fearless isn’t the absence of fear, it’s going for your dreams in spite of that fear.
I recently took a non-work trip to California. I love hiking, so I made my way to Ryan Mountain in Joshua Tree National Park. It’s a small mountain in terms of overall height, and you can react the top by hiking only about a mile and a half. During that time, you ascend 1,050 feet of steep terrain. When I got to the base, I thought to myself, this is nothing! I’ve hiked way more difficult mountains. I kept my load light and only carried two water bottles, because after all, it’s only three miles round trip.
Holy Moly, This Mountain Is Killing Me
During the hike, I realized that I greatly underestimated the mountain. This is a strenuous hike, my water is long gone and I’m feeling more out of shape than ever. I’m probably three-quarters of the way up, but I had no way of really knowing that. I’m by myself, so in reality, I would be the only one to know if I turned around. If I don’t finish I’m a quitter, and no one likes a quitter (except me, sometimes).
I decide to keep going, but I misstep, roll backward a few times and land in a cactus patch… I’m not sure if you’ve ever touched a cactus, but it hurts if you even accidentally touch it. I had no idea it was so painful. If you land on the hellish plant during a rolling fall, it’s absolutely brutal. I screamed in pain, and because I had cactus in my, ahem, derriere, I didn’t notice that I also rolled my ankle in the fall.
Upon standing up, I realized the ankle injury. I was bleeding and in agony. The smart thing to do would have been to make my way back down the mountain the best I could. But I realized that this mountain, Ryan Mountain in Joshua Tree National Park, is an analogy for life. You set a destination, plan and make goals you want to reach. But just when you’re at the edge of greatness, almost to the top of the mountain, you fall. You twist your ankle. And you get pricked by countless cacti needles in your rear end. It feels like the world is trying to tell you that this is impossible. You should stop now…
You have to decide: Am I going to give up or am I going to move forward despite being knocked down? While I was standing there, weighing my options, a little old lady came strolling down the mountain and stopped to check on me. She helped me get the cacti out of my skin, gave me some water and told me I would be just fine. She said that I was almost to the top of the mountain.
I kept going.
I reached the top and I was fine. Despite being scared, I just kept pushing forward. Maybe it took me longer than I would have liked, I fell and had to push myself and even accept help from a stranger. . . but I did it. Just like with life, when one door closes, another opens if you just persist. You’ll find a way up the mountain.
At some point, we all stand at the foot of a bridge over an abyss, afraid to look down because we might fall, afraid to cross because we’re not sure what’s on the other side. Our hearts tell us to go for it, but our minds convince us that there are too many variables, too many unknowns. So we stay stagnant and keep doing what’s comfortable. We let our dreams die. I won’t be the person who turns back, even if I’m the only one who will know.
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” – Martin Luther King Jr.