Trail Failing

I sent an email to a friend of mine today explaining why I’m embarking on this 11 state, 7 park running/camping trip. She’s become rather important in my life recently, and I find myself sharing not only the events of life but also the reasons behind those events.

That’s not easy to do. It’s hard to summarize the subtleties of why this is important  because it requires understanding bits and pieces of the minutia of my life across 39 years. Let’s be honest: nobody is that interested. Added to my own inability to condense the importance of this trip is the reality that she and I have different frames of reference. There are no easy outs. Finding the right words to explain this to her takes patience and time (which, I’ll say, has finally helped me understand the “patience and time” lyrics to the George Harrison song, “I Got My Mind Set On You”).

As it turns out, taking the time and finding the patience is the easiest part of the whole endeavor because we enjoy the conversations. That’s a rather new-found part of sobriety: the ability to be still and calm. I’m not always great with it, but she’s helping me find the joy in it.

Through these conversations – many of which take place through email – I’ve boiled down much of what this trip, and this year, seems to be about for me. It’s about Failure. This is what I told her:

I’ve always been a believer that we learn best through failure, but it’s hard to remember that as you get older. We settle in to very simple, easy routines in life. My biggest fear is becoming the old guy who people regard as the one coasting into his grave. Part of the reason I’m going back to graduate school — and why I’m taking this trip — is because I need to be back in a place where the concept of failure is very real.

It doesn’t do me any good to wander in places I’m good at.

I’ve become far too complacent with my station in life. I’m very good at what I do, and I’m surrounded by people who tell me that. It’s time to get out there and really face failure. Nature doesn’t care that I know how to use technology.

I’m heading to a place completely outside of my comfort zone. My pal and I scouted my last run in Palo Duro Canyon and what we found scared the crap out me: 102 degree temperatures in the canyon. I have a 16-mile and 10-mile run scheduled there.

I don’t see how I can finish those runs. I am legitimately concerned that something bad may befall me.

And yet I cannot wait to tackle this adventure. The unknown is invigorating. Right now, it’s about the energy of anticipation. The potential energy of it all. Soon the kinetic energy will rev up and I’ll be staring at runs that 16 months ago I wouldn’t have even conceptualized as possible.

Even if I bonk – and I understand the bonk is possible – I’m okay with that. I’ve reached a point in my life, and my sobriety, where failure doesn’t mean forever. It just means I haven’t yet.

I told my parents this evening that I think this trip – and these failures – will make me better: a better teacher, a better thinker, and a better person. Failure keeps you humble. It keeps you hungry. It keeps you in tune with the people around you.

Those who only succeed, who never venture into areas where they fail, ultimately have trouble relating with others because they have to monitor their world constantly. You cannot exist without failure unless you control everything about you.

I’ve found myself drifting there again recently, and that’s a dark place for me.

Where I am going: that is all about failure.

That’s where I belong.