Why?: A short story
It's a simple question... yet in the world of outdoor adventure, we ask it all the time. Why?
We often find ourselves at a crossroads where one step is uncomfortable and the other leaves us feeling much safer. Yet, as we stare down the roaring class V rapids, the next pitch of an epic climb, the roads less traveled, we find the temptation of taking on something bigger than ourselves. Why?
What is it about these moments that brings someone to the precipice of mortality only to stare peril directly in the eyes and still think, "I've got this"? Any time I've experienced one of these moments, where you stand with nervous grins trying to decide if what you're doing is worth it, the same question is always on the tip of our tongues. Why?
Close your eyes. Breathe in a deep breath. Think about what led you to this moment. You're not here unprepared. No, instead you're a well-oiled machine. You've made this move, this stroke, this decision before. It's been in your mind, a focused visualization of what you'd do in this exact moment. You're not new to this because you've done it in your mind already. You see where you need to be and know what you need to do to get there. Your confidence starts to build back upon itself, but still, you ask yourself... why?
When you open your eyes, nothing on the outside has changed. The rapid is as mean as it was before. The crux is still looming. The wolf wastes no time wearing sheep's clothing. There is no hiding what makes this challenge ahead one that can kill you, yet still... here you are. Standing amongst the torrent of life and wondering what brought you here in the first place. Why?
Is it for the glory? Is it to prove something to yourself or to someone else? Is it to experience the indescribable rush that is only found in decisive victory? To know the feeling of your hard work and practice paying off?
Or is it to feel? To challenge a colossal that requires the ultimate concentration and preparation to successfully complete? To know that what you're doing, day in and day out, is worth it? To validate the hours... no days... of study, practice, and evaluation spent perfecting your craft?
Or is it to escape? To escape the daily trappings of the mundane? To escape a social media black hole that leads you to believe that everyone but you is experiencing the perfect life? To escape the latest "presidential" tweet that makes you feel hopeless? Are you seeking these few seconds of unfettered concentration to forget about everything else that's been weighing on your mind?
No matter what your motivation is, you still have to make the decision. A conscious yes or no. Am I going to stay comfortable and walk around this or am I going to strap in and trust that I am capable to do what I came here to do? If you're brave enough, you'll find yourself floating down the river towards the jaws of the beast. At this point, it is too late to turn around and all you have next is completing what you came here to do. Those who weren't able to take the leap will watch you from the sidelines but pay no attention to them now. You'll still see them at the end of this and besides, you have bigger fish to fry right now. For them, it's a question that will have to wait to be answered. For you, you're about to find your answer right now. Why?...
Now at the top of your challenge, with everything finally laid out in front of you, you make your moves. It's almost like someone has flipped a switch. Doubt fades away and you're treated with the calm but hyper-focused attention created by courage, practice, and the tenacity to take on what is next: the flow state. Your mind and body are one as you take each paddle stroke, each handhold, each powdery turn, each step forward.
And before you know it... you're through. It's over and here you stand on the other side. It's here that you have your answer. It's here that you realize WHY. It's the unexplainable answer that can only be felt at the end of the crux, but it couldn't be more clear in those moments why you took the leap, paddled the river, climbed the mountain, or just simply did something that made you uncomfortable. These "why" moments are what creates the narrative of your life. Every time you feel yourself asking "why", LEAN IN! There, be it a wild adventure or a choice to live a better and more fulfilled life, you'll find your answer. And it will always be just as good as you thought.