In the past two weeks I have been in four different states, overcame a long battle with a fear of heights, and fell in love with a piece of carved cedar wood.
Through expanding past my usual comfort zone the self growth zone was engaged and lessons learned. Some lessons were truths reinforced, while other were new ones learned along the way.
I am on a month and a half long journey from southern California to Skagway, Alaska. Why Skagway, a four by twenty two block town with a summer population of only 3,000? I have been hired as a guide for the summer, taking cruise ship tourists rock climbing, zip lining and hiking in the south-east Alaskan wilderness. While being a day excursions tour guide is not extremely glamorous it is a stepping stone in the right direction to be an outdoor wilderness instructor.
So, the first leg of my journey was a bit of a detour instead of just the direct route north. Flying from Santa Barbara, CA to Indianapolis, IN, I visited my mother and sister. The plan was to stay with them for about a week then head to Arizona. From there the plan was to run my first foot race through Monument Valley, staying with some slackliners until the race. Finally back on track to the northern migration, heading to Vallejo, CA where my brother lives, and catching ride-shares up the coast from there.
As it turns out, plans did not quite end up working out how I thought. I write this to you back at my parents home in California with an ace-bandage and ice wrapping my right knee…
In a mere two weeks I have accumulated eight solid lessons to share.
Lesson 1) People do not change, their personalities only become more acute.
Even if you have not seen a person in years, and maybe they moved towns or states, they might have made superficial changes to themselves or have gone through major life shifts. Whatever the case, that deep seeded personality is who they are at heart, and somethings about a person can never change. All there is to do about it is to accept them as they come.
Lesson 2) Choices, not chance, determine your destiny.
There are many points in the last two weeks I experienced how powerful choices are and how much control they yield when consciously made.
Due to the circumstances I put myself in, being in Indianapolis was taking a huge emotional toll on me. Thankfully I had a friend from home living in Chicago, IL, and who was so warmly welcoming. I chose to spend the weekend with him after a few days with family. Fun new experiences were had and a friendship grew more solid.
Deep dish pizza is intensely dense, long lining in the snow is painfully cold on your feet, subways are silly fun to surf, and playing the wave game in the city is a blast. (I’ll give you the low down on how to play the wave game later. You’ll love it.)
So thank you Chris for showing me a great time in “The Windy City.” Thank you also for showing me what it means to be a great host.
Another point of making a good choice was traveling by airplane from Indianapolis, IN to Pheonix, AZ. I got stuck in the middle seat by the wing, next to someone who didn’t even want the window open. When I went back to the flight attendants to get my water bottle filled I noticed a whole open row of seats in the back. So I switched seats, was able to wiggle around as much as I wanted, stared out the window with my face pressed against the glass, and even got in about 50 airplane chair sit-ups.
Also, if you are riding a greyhound for four hours and a tall dude sits next to you with a huge bag that causes him to sit sideways, forcing his huge shoulders to take up half your chair space, go ahead and choose to move. There is no need to suffer through it and be an upset, silent grump like me.
Little choices like this accumulate to shape your happiness.
Lesson 3) Don’t let drunk people give you a piggy back ride on icy sidewalk.
“Just don’t run.” I asked of him.
And of course, what does he do? Takes off hauling-ass down the street.
Slips, smashes his face and hand while bashing my knee and ripping my pants. His fault for running. My fault for agreeing to hop on his back. (Six months later, revision this article that left knee is much better but still slightly bothersome at times.)
Lesson 4) Fear and confidence is a mental game. If you’re choosing to go for it, choose to go full-assed.
I finally sent my first highline, after many struggling and some what half-assed attempts over the past year or two. (A highline a piece of 1” webbing anchored to two points across a gap and tensioned horizonatally. A send is a successful walk form one end to the other without falling.)
“Shift Change”: a 60ft line rigged over a two lane road near Devils Canyon in AZ, established by Jared Marvel.
i had walked from one end and was almost to the other, when there was a shaking in my confidence as I now faced walking to the anchor, a potentially painful scenario if I was to fall.
I dropped and caught the line, knowing I was going to fall before it happened. Jared told me it was all in my head. I have the skills, but I just let myself drop instead of staying up.
I knew he was right.
After that I really did experience a shift change in my mentality and reality. Once I decided to not let myself get freaked out, just focus on breathing, I walked across that line no problem! I even forgot that I was high in the air and it all felt easy.
Thank you Jared. And thank you Andrew. You two rock!
Lesson 5) Being impulsive can be totally awesome. Let it happen.
Impulsivity is another form of control. What I mean by that goes back to choices. If something calls you, it’s ok to go for it. As the wise Paul Marsh once told me, “Everything that interests you is a clue to You. Follow the clues.”
I had one day to walk around down-town Flagstaff, where my only plan was to experience where I was. I made many friends with strangers, received a beautiful sound healing session, and let myself fall in love…with a Native American 6-hole flute.
After a day of exploring the down town and waiting for my ride to pick me up, I went searching for something warm to drink.
“You know that look you had on your face when you walked in?”, a stranger turned to asked me as I sat outside a coffee shop as I sat down with some hot tea.
“No. What was the look?” I asked him back.
“In the moment. You were just in the moment. Thank you for reminding me to be there.”
What a lovely moment of sincerity forma stranger. This moment happened after I had visited Sacred Rights music shop. I made friends with lovely lady working there and she offered to give me a sound healing on the sound bed there. (A sounds bed is a large hallow wooden box that you play the sides of in different ways. As you lie on the bed it send the sound vibrations through your body.) If you ever have the chance to experience such a healing, I surely recommend doing it.
I had already come back to this multiple times because of all the lovely cedar flutes in the shop. After this sound healing I wanted to take a piece of that moment and Arizona with me on my travels, so I indulged in purchasing a beautifully crafted instrument.
This flute and I are going to be together for a long time, sitting on mountain tops, becoming part of the wind, and learning the intricate intimacies of each other.
Acting on impulse is as ultimate in the moment that you can be. The urge is that instant, following through with it can only happen once as it is. Of course, I condone acting on positive impulses and not the ones that create and perpetuate negativity.
To act on positive impulse if to let yourself be free.
Lesson 6) Fatigue, fear and becoming frantic lead to dangerous situations.
For the second time I popped my right knee cap out of place. It was the same exact movement I made in the same state of being as the first time. (Luckily once you dislocate something once the next times are not nearly as painful and debilitating. However, you are also more susceptible for repeating the injury.)
This time I was trying a bat hang off a highline named “Apache Crest.” (Bat hang is where you hook the tops of your feet on the slackine and let your body hang down.) I was unable to get the move, started getting physically tired and mentally panicked, where then I frantically tried to swing myself back up on top of the line.
The pop was loud and I knew what had happened.
I’ve had to miss the 25km run I signed up and paid to participate in through Monument Valley. Now I am doing what I can to heal quickly because I take off on a month long journey to Alaska in just a few days.
(By the time I got to Alaska I was able to hike again. 2/3 months later I was back to trail running and rock climbing. Though 6 months later now this knee still gets extremely soar and gives my trouble.)
This injury could have been prevented. How? By realizing I was not in an optimal place of being, taking a step back from my panic, assessing my physical and mental state, and just resting for a few minutes. In this time I could have regained my composure and strength, thus allowing me to move through the next steps with a graceful calm.
Lesson 7) You can plan and prepare, but ultimately cannot control the force of life.
Plans are like a skeleton. The body gets filled in with time. Things happen and plans change, shaping the body differently than what was originally intended. Accept it as it comes and move on from there. Complaining, wishing the situation happened differently, or stressing over change does not help.
Lesson 8) Breath and drink water.
Finally, my friends, I leave you with a words that have been running through my head recently: Choose to be happy. Do not stay where you are tolerated, go where you are celebrated. Go ahead and wear those fancy clothes; burn the nice candles; send a postcard or letter to that person who’s been on your mind; do not save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
Enjoy some pictures from my journeys!