Eight years finishing dead last during PE sprints taught me to avoid public displays of speed and agility. A sunrise hike in Lake Tahoe spent panting on the sidelines made me solemnly swear to myself and the rising sun that I would never hike again. I’d rather miss out on an experience than risk exposing my weaknesses.
I dreamed of trekking in the Himalayas long before I set foot in Nepal. Once I was there my heart longed for time spent in the sanctuary of nature. An adventure in the Himalayas meant more to me than any temple, museum or palace. The scars of wounded pride still gnawed at me and my habits of avoidance told me to skip the trek. But I couldn’t. This was the Himalayas. A once in a life time experience.
I hoped the hike would be easy. I hoped I wouldn’t lagged behind. I hoped I wouldn’t feel humiliated by my weakness. I’d spent the last two years exercising regularly and was much stronger than I’d been in Lake Tahoe or eighth grade. I’d tested the waters with hike in Bali the year before. I knew I was physically able to trek the Poon Hill Circuit in Annapurna, but I still feared my weakness.
I trekked slowly, really, really slowly. I climbed a stairway to heaven at the pace of a toddler. I thought the climb was the hardest part, but the descent was so much more challenging. Every joint in my body hurt on impact. I lamented about my aching bones to no end. My group had to stop and wait for me every few steps so that I wasn’t completely in the dust. If slow trekking were an Olympic sport, I’d bring home the gold.
Slow trekking may have hurt my body, but it didn’t hurt my pride. I got over being embarrassed on the first day. I was far more concerned with putting one foot in front of the other than anyone else’s judgements. I was proud of myself for every step I made through the pain. My soul was nourished by the beauty of my surroundings. I had my best friend with me and a great guide to pass the time with conversation and blubbering.
I didn’t dazzle anyone with my athletic prowess, but it didn’t matter. My outlook changed, that matters. I now know a strength in me that I didn’t know existed. I know that it doesn’t matter how slow I go, it’s showing up and doing the work that matters. I know there are so many scenarios in life that I won’t be the shining star or will look flat out stupid. I know avoiding these experiences altogether robs me of the chance to learn, grow and live life to it’s fullest.