Don’t Skip The Trail

I had a chance to get back out to Umstead Park today with my son to go for a nice trail walk and enjoy some of the beauty nature has to offer. As we were about halfway through the walk he started to ask the age-old question, “Are we there yet”, which prompted me to share some insight about life which I’ll share here.

The trail is a metaphor for life and the only thing certain is there is a beginning and there is an end.

We all start out the same way, through birth, although everyone’s trail looks different. 

My perspective on the trail and the difficulty in certain spots is based on my experiences in life up to this point. I might be able to easily navigate certain terrain more easily because I have come upon similar things before and can use those memories to help me get through.  There will inevitably be spots though where I need to pause and consider a plan of how to get to the next step; which rock should I step on to propel me forward, should I jump or take a long step, is there any spot that looks slick. All of these types of things come at us at different speeds and at different times, too. You have to be ready to seize all of the opportunities when they are presented to you and make the correct calculation and best decision with the information you have to go in the right direction. 

My son has a different perspective. For starters, he is much shorter than me so his view on the world is already different. Everything looks bigger and scarier and his footing is a little unsteady because of the surface area of the roots and rocks. It’s not harder, it’s just different. But he also doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. The things that I am looking out for, right or wrong, may not be things that he even considers and that can work in his favor, too. There is also a lot more fear of the unknown because he hasn’t seen as many paths as I have and hasn’t climbed as many hills so his mind isn’t callused as much as mine is.  That will come in time and he’ll have to endure these when they come upon him.

That’s why support systems and having people you trust are so important to get through life. We all need mentors and guides at various times and those lessons taught (like Yoda on Luke’s back during Jedi training) will come in handy as we are on our own and have to make decisions in real-time. You can walk the trail of life alone and maybe do just fine but it gets lonely and dark and depressing that way. Finding purpose is a lot harder.

You won’t always know if this path will lead to the right spot but if you continue to evaluate the terrain coming ahead you can try to get back on course if you happen to veer. So this hits another parallel, what happens when you get way off course?

We all get deep into situations we shouldn’t have whether it is a poor career choice, poor health, or a poor financial situation like when I was in $18,000 of credit card debt. That sucked. I couldn’t believe I got myself in that big hole on top of the car payment and student loans that needed to be paid off. Not to mention the other bills that had to be paid each month.

But I had a choice.

I could continue to go down that path even though I had a feeling of where that was going to lead me; more stress, more anxiety, more frustration, less happiness, or I could alter course and use my judgment and newfound experiences to lead me in a better direction.

It wasn’t going to be easy and it wasn’t going to be quick but for me to get back on level ground I had to keep chopping away in small increments. I had to choose that new path every day. In order to tackle newer challenges that were important to me then I had to make the sacrifices in the short term to help me out in the long run. Eight years later, I was completely debt-free, over 50k paid off, and I felt back on track to conquer new adventures.

And so that’s the moral here, as I told my son, the trail is the fun part and not the destination. Oh, you’ll certainly get somewhere someday but what stories are you going to be able to tell when you get there and what level of pride will you have that you navigated tough terrain and not only achieved your goals but worn the path just a little bit more to help people that are coming behind you.

That’s what I wanted him to learn and I hope it’s a great lesson for you reading this today.

  • Enjoy the peaks and valleys because they are inevitable.
  • Stop and smell the roses and don’t be in such a hurry to get somewhere.
  • Help others by being a guide and marking the trail with your experiences.
  • Don’t let fear guide you on your path but the belief in yourself that ultimately you know the direction if you just trust your own judgment.

Good luck as you navigate your own trail and hope to run into you at some point on the journey!

Thanks for reading!

Carpe Diem,

Brian

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