- Mon, 05/21/2012 - 04:00
- 45 Comments about It's the journey that counts
Running up and down The Mountain Lion Trail, gasping for breath, engulfed by aspen groves and ponderosa pine, my feet leapt from rock to root. My dog Butter and I sped in solitude, grinning, panting, uncontrollably joyful.
We dodged low hanging branches, turned sharp corners, splashed across streams fast but in control, alone and in tune with the mountains.
That is until I raised my head and saw a cluster of relatively attractive hippies lounging about, greeting fellow-hikers with a mellow, stoned enthusiasm. I lifted my gaze from the trail to assess this bunch of well-branded nature lovers and to say, “Hi.”
I’m pathologically friendly for an introvert. Probably because I care too much about what people think of me; I obsess over their opinions.
Perhaps they saw me as a beautiful, solitary soul, alone with his dog, escaping the hubbub of Denver. Or maybe my sweaty head and fast pace indicated I was some sort of fad dieter ignoring nature to burn calories. Or maybe they thought I was hot—a sex symbol—mysterious and alone, introspective and unfathomably deep.
If they really knew me, they’d soon find out I was a wandering, narcissistic neurotic. I couldn’t stop myself from staring, looking at them like a mirror, a reflection of my true nature. Surely, their perceptions defined me.
And I fell…hard…on my face. My confidence shattered. My knees scraped into rocks and buckled backwards as I caught myself before nearly splitting my face open. Butter ran on, ignoring my pain.
The hippies walked toward me, concerned zombies every one.
“Uh, are you okay?”
After a day of dancing down the trail like a gazelle, upon seeing benevolent granolas, I had mutated into a klutz, drunk on narcissism, literally collapsing under the weight of my own self-obsession.
I jumped to my feet, ignoring the pain in my knee, before sharing any trace of vulnerability with the concerned. Revealing the embarrassed, bullied fat kid inside, I laughed off my fall, made a joke to deflect their concern and tried to get away.
But the trail forked where the hippies were snacking on gorp.
“So…uh…are you going to climb the summit?” The hippies asked.
I hate summits, I thought, irritated by the assumption that I was hiking to conquer something. I’m not Burt Reynolds and this isn’t Deliverance. I just want to get away from you hippies and resume my graceful trek.
“I don’t know. I’m following the Mountain Lion Trail. The paw prints.”
“Uh…that goes this way…” They pointed downhill, away from the summit.
“Where are you going,” I asked.
The shifty hippies mumbled a non-answer.
“Have a good day.” I sped-walked down the trail, ignoring the pain in my knees.
A quarter-mile later, I examined my minor cuts, drank a sip of water, looked around and caught my breath.
And then I heard them—the hippies—loudly banging and gossiping their way down the trail. “Must escape,” I thought.
I shoved awareness of my scraped knees and wounded pride as far into my throat as possible and mutated once again into a gazelle. Butter and I sped off putting as much distance as possible between the band of hippies and ourselves. We ran until woodpeckers, robins and northern shrike, towering cliffs, dried moss and aspen were our only companions. We were once again free from people.
As a politically inclined, project-oriented introvert with little spiritual guidance other than cliché trail metaphors, I came to a realization: When I’m on a journey and have a destination, keep walking. If I see a cluster of hippies, or anyone else potentially judging me, keep one eye on the rocks and roots beneath me.
Don’t worry too much about what other people think. Am I hot? Spiritually enlightened? A fad dieter? Who cares?
I am nothing more than the steps I take. Other people’s unspoken opinions really don’t matter. It’s the journey that counts.