When I was a college freshman, I went on a trip called a Wilderness Adventure. If you knew me, you would be laughing out loud right now. I was smart and creative, but I was not really a Wilderness Adventurer. My older brother, on the other hand, was smart and creative AND a Wilderness Adventurer. He was such a Wilderness Adventurer that he was already a Wilderness Adventure student leader the very next year after being a freshman participant. I on the other hand was doing it to get my PE credit out of the way for the whole year in ten horrible days. Let me tell you one of the many lessons I learned out in the woods.
My brother and I were not particularly close at the time. We weren’t upset with each other, just really busy. We kind of passed each other in the hall sometimes on the way to our classes or extracurricular activities. We usually didn’t have time to say hi. The Wilderness Adventure involved hiking and camping for ten days carrying everything we needed on our backs, climbing up and belaying down sheer rock cliffs, doing a high-elements ropes course designed especially to make college kids think they were going to plunge to their deaths, and would culminate in a solo where each student was separated, led into the woods, given three matches and a bag of gorp and left overnight to fend for themselves. The leaders wanted us students to prove to ourselves we could do this, so we were told what to do then given very little advice as to how to do it.
So it was surprising when, one day during our first-thing-in-the-morning mile-long jog, my brother circled back to me to tell me something. He had to circle way back, because he was one of the first people completing their mile and I was dead last. I saw him coming and knew something was up.
“Tara,” he said in a low voice. “No matter what happens, don’t stop running.”
“Why? What’s going to happen?” I of course said.
“Just don’t stop running, no matter what happens.”
And what happened when I finally got to that finish line that usually meant we could go make our fires and our breakfast? The Wilderness Adventure leader yelled out, “Now another mile! Go!”
And my brother was right: my initial gut reaction would have been to stop, bent over with my hands on my knees, panting, and cry “I can’t! Why? Please! I can’t do it!”
But my brother, who it turns out had been paying attention and did really know me, prepared me, in one quick sentence. I didn’t stop and freak out. I didn’t even pause. I kept running. And I ran another whole mile.
So that moment was changed from one of shock and giving up and arguing and probably being disciplined to one of being seen and being encouraged.
Sometimes even today, many years later, I’m tired and I can’t believe all that life asks of me. But I learned my lesson: No matter what happens, don’t stop running. So next time you’re exhausted and you don’t know what to do next, maybe you don’t have to exactly know. Just don’t stop running.
- Tara Greenway