Beyond the AT: To the Moon
I heard somewhere, the other day, that the average person dies at the age of 25 but is not buried until the age of 75: because when your dreams die…you die along with them. How often do you think about how fortunate you are to be alive? Do you ever think about how even though you have challenges ahead of you and roadblocks on the horizon–that you are still capable of fighting and hoping and dreaming for the best possible outcome!? It’s easy to get caught up in those pesky ruts, it’s easy to put your head down and forget where you were going, it’s easy to lose sight, it’s easy to let someone else just tell you what to do and how to live, but I encourage you to do the difficult thing, I encourage you to keep your head up and keep that twinkle of excitement in your eyes. Think about how you got to where you are. Think about, not only the sacrifices you made to get this far, but also the sacrifices that others have made. When things get hard, the solution is not the shrinking of your dreams, but rather the adaptation and the expansion of your dreams. Where would we be without crazy ideas and unrealistic expectations? To me, it is one of the greatest insults to be told to “get real” or to have “realistic expectations” or to dream of a top ten finish instead of first place. Honor those who have helped you along the way, the ones who continually tell you to dream bigger. Honor those people by carrying on, by continuing your growth, by putting one foot in front of the other, by fighting for your dreams.
This year has a special day, Leap Day, which serves as a reminder to me…a reminder to be grateful to be alive, and to have had the opportunity to succeed and fail and triumph and grow. Leap Day was the day that my dad died. Leap day was the day that I shouldn’t have lived. Leap Day was the day that I was almost paralyzed from the waist down. Leap Day was the day that I believe my dad made a special deal; a day where he exchanged his life in order to spare the lives and health and prosperity of his children. Leap Day was the day I sat on my dad’s lap for the last time as we drove down a dirt road. Leap Day was the day that I crashed through the windshield and somehow survived. Leap Day was the day that I called for my dad to help me, and he did just that…in his own quiet way. Even in his departure, my father made sure to make things as painless as possible by going out on a day that only comes around every four years. I am grateful to be alive, grateful for that day because it has made me recognize the importance of small moments, the importance of memories. I am so fortunate to be able to go out and climb mountains, and go on adventures, and have my heart broken and restored by magnificent experiences. To understand that time is the only real thing that any of us has, is a blessing.
I think about my dad every day, and even though I was just a little girl when he died…I still have grand memories of him. I replayed them in my head over and over and over again until I knew they were there to stay: the midnight snacks, the snuggles, the way he smoked his cigarettes, his argyle socks, his sunburns, his ties, his crooked smile, and those wrinkles between his eyebrows. He would have never wanted me to be sad, he never would have wanted me to hold back from anything… so I try my best to use those memories and those thoughts as fuel, as courage, as my motivation to take giant LEAPS of faith. I’ve travelled across the western states breaking colts, I’ve climbed mountains, I’ve painted cars, I’ve worked construction, I’ve coached basketball, I’ve played guitar and sang my silly songs in front of people, I’ve asked to join in on other people’s adventures at the last minute, I survived a face to face encounter with three bears, I have met magnificent people, I have made precious memories, I have and will continue to take giant leaps of faith. I will continue to stay grateful for everything!
I really feel weird putting this into writing, I feel like I will never be able to do any of this justice with my written words. But it would be wrong not to try. I wish all you hikers the very best of luck in your endeavors this year! Stay grateful, soak it all in, and share your stories…I’ll surely enjoy reading them! Thank you AT for letting me spill my words onto your page!
“Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.'”
-John Greenleaf Whittier-
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I agree with George Turner. This was beautifully written. I also really liked the video. One of my favorite saying is from that Kennedy speech at Rice: “..we do these things not because they are easy but because they are hard”. Did you put that video together? It’s magnificent. Especially the narration at the end comparing the nothingness to the nothingness of space, yet pointing out that space contains the entire universe. Wow!
Damn you, Alix, you made me cry. It’s just four days from the two-year anniversary of my dad’s passing, and wouldn’t you know it, he worked for Jet Propulsion Lab and I grew up in the space program so to speak. The juxtaposition of your dreams, your memories of your dad, and using the moon landing in your video really touched me. I think my dad would have liked you very much. Also, your dad sounds a lot like mine … “follow your dreams and don’t be sad when I’m gone.”