Forrest Gump’s mom had it all wrong. Life isn’t like a box of chocolates, although it’s true that you never know what you’re going to get. Chocolate is sweet, so even if you don’t like that coconut creme, your senses have not been assaulted by vinegar or spice. Life is not all sugar. There’s plenty of sour and bitter to go around. And chocolates just sit there, provided by someone else for your enjoyment. Forrest’s mom was an optimist, which is a good thing in a mom. Personally, I’d rather go searching for life.
For me, life is more like a hike to the top of a mountain. From the bottom, you can’t possibly know what lies at the top. It could be shrouded in fog or could even be snowing. It may be obscured by those trees you can’t see the forest for. You may have a field guide for the wildflowers that lie ahead, but until you see their color against the backdrop of a clear mountain sky, take in their aroma, and see the life that surrounds them, they are only pictures on a page.
At the bottom of the mountain are many paths. You are led along one for a while until you are adept enough to choose your own. You climb. Once you reach a certain point on the path, you have a vantage point from which to look back and see where you’ve been. You may have veered off the trail and come back. You may have taken a different trail entirely. You may have even scaled a sheer cliff! But all roads lead to the top. From the vantage point you can look back and see where the trail led, though you couldn’t see it at the time. You might second guess your choice. Should I have taken the longer, looping trail? In my rush to get up the mountain, have I opted for the steep switchbacks over the longer, softer, more scenic route? Who have I lost along the way?
Toward the top of the mountain the views back become wider and more expansive. The old path becomes less clear, but also less important. The air is thinner up here. You get tired. Elevation is slowing you down, but boy, what a view! And those flowers you enjoy in the guidebook are so vivid in person. Now it’s time to sit and look back at the journey in awe.
Here are some tips to help you on your way. Pack your bag, grab the binoculars, and enjoy the journey.
- Let love be your GPS. It may steer you wrong occasionally, and the road it chooses might not be a standard one, but it will get you safely to the end of your journey.
- Buy the best boots you can, but every once in a while, walk in someone else’s.
- Consult your trail map, hopefully a combination of a spiritual guide, history, good literature, and scientific research. It’s good to know where you’re going and where you’ve been.
- Talk to fellow travelers. Each one of us is on a different point on the path, and understanding that helps us understand one another. We all see different things along the way.
- Pack light. Relieve yourself of burdens that you don’t need to carry with you. Forgive. To hold grudges is akin to loading your pack with rocks, and only serves to slow you down.
- Have a tent that’s big enough for comfort, but not so huge it becomes a burden.
- Repellent clothing is important to ward off the chilling rain of others’ sometimes hurtful words.
- Budget your resources. The idea works for trail mix and money. Feasting at the beginning of your journey only leads to hunger down the road.
- Stop to take pictures. The scenery changes with each step you take. Savor the moment and embrace the different scenery.
- Prepare to ford some rivers. Bridges work best.
- Make sure your first aid kit has plenty of healing salve. You never know when you might come across someone in need of help.
- Know the toxic and steer clear. The burning rash takes a long time to heal, and if you don’t recognize it, you are liable walk into patch after patch of it.
- Keep a repair kit handy. Life gets shabby, but shouldn’t fall apart. The duct tape of friendship fixes just about anything.
- Know your SPF and use it. Life can get pretty intense, and if you don’t take precautions, you can end up badly burned.
- Always use your spork. With your spork you can partake of the meaty part of life, but the broth won’t slip through the tines.
- Remember the toilet paper. Every once in a while you just need to deal with crap.
What would you put on your list?