This is the fifth #notetoself letter, originally sent on March 5, 2012.
Henry David Thoreau said, “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” He lived in the first half of the 19th century and yet those words still contain truth today. It’s sad. Quiet desperation kills the spirit.
Before this trip, I realized how discontent I’d become with my life. My work didn’t matter to me. I wasn’t even sure what I was doing with my “work”. I never knew how answer the “what do you do?” question. I don’t know. Live. That was the response I wanted to give.
I’m a great starter. My starting energy is fresh, empathic and certain. Then, slowly but surely, it’d wane and I’d quit. I’m also a great quitter. My attention usually shifts gears to something else equally engaging.
That’s a pattern I’m really sick of.
A few nights ago, I happened upon an Alicia Keys’ song called “How It Feels to Fly” that’s feeding my soul. With such ambiguous lyrics, I don’t know exactly what she’s talking about in the song, but for me, it makes me think about reaching for my dreams.
“I am riding high, don’t wanna come down.
Hope my wings don’t fail me now.
If I can touch the sky, I’d risk the fall
Just to know it feels to fly.”
How many of our goals are our own? Whose definition of success drives our actions? I can criticize corporate America all I want, but I was a part of the rat race, even if I didn’t have a 9-5. The discontent I feel is the result of not doing things I wanted to do, for whatever reason. There’s so much I want to do, and have wanted to do but have neglected to. This trip is the perfect example of a dream deferred. I’ve always wanted to travel and stay somewhere for a longer period of time. That’s just now happening for me. On the other hand, I appreciate it just the same because I can receive so much of this experience differently than I might have in the past.
Being here has awakened me to my desire to do things I’ve neglected to do, things I let sit in the recesses of my mind and my heart. They were there, alive, but unattended. Living a life with meaning, passion and fulfillment are of incredible importance to me.
Earlier last week, one of the people I’ve been blessed to meet on this trip asked me if I wanted to hike one of the two volcanoes on the island. Of course he wanted to do the larger volcano, Volcan Concepcion, the one we look at everyday. Without hesitation, I said yes. Sure. Why not?
I excitedly embarked upon this journey, too excited to sleep, getting less than six hours of sleep, but giddy. Concepcion is a 8-10 hour hike. It’s also an active volcano. These are things I knew before going up this mountain. It’s also 5,280 feet. And I’ve never hiked before.
Minor details, right?
After about an hour or so into the journey, I started lagging behind. My balance seemed to have stayed behind for this trip and I found myself basically crawling up this mountain. Climbing. We’re supposed to be hiking. Everyone else is upright, except me. My breathing got heavy. At one point, despite inhaling, my lungs were not being filled with oxygen. One of the people I was hiking with advised me to sit down and drink some water. Immediately, I felt better, but it kept happening. I was getting light-headed and felt like I might fall down, which wasn’t an option when climbing a steep mountain with nothing but rocks to “break” the fall.
“I should just stop and head back down,” I thought.
“Leandra, please finish. I want to finish something,” immediately followed.
I was wowed. I want to finish something.
At that point, quitting wasn’t an option. So I kept going. Even though I really didn’t want to anymore. Why was I doing this? Because I set out to was the only reason and the only thing that mattered.
I wound up pretty much hiking by myself since I was always 3-5 minutes behind everyone else, who would intermittently stop and wait for me to catch up. I found a hiking stick that assisted me on my way. It was there for my finding right at a point where I was thinking about quitting, which I spent a lot of time thinking about.
But I didn’t quit; I reached the top. When I got to the crater, I didn’t feel much beyond relief. Not excitement. It was pretty anticlimactic, especially as I considered the fact that I had to now go down.
It took about seven and half hours and a guide holding my hand the entire way down, but I finished. I finished!
Now I look at that beastly mountain that was close to taking my life a handful of times and I feel a little accomplished. I did it.
The only goals that matter are the ones we set for ourselves. The vision of our lives that matters most is the one we hold for ourselves.
What’s your vision? How fully is it realized right now? What are you doing to make it manifest?
I can assure you I’m all about creating a life that matters to me. A life that’s fulfilling because there’s some fulfillment in my initiatives. I want to know how it feels to touch the sky, but my wings will never have a chance to fail me if I don’t try to fly.
I say the same to you. Take the leap. If you have to crawl before you can run, crawl. Go at your pace. Take a breather if you need to.
This is your journey.