Letters to Little One

Whitney.

Dear Little One,

These days it seems like lazy and lethargic behavior is somewhat trendy. A lot of jokes are made about never wanted to get off the couch or exercise or go outdoors and watching Netflix for hours on end has become a popular past time to brag about and discuss.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a lazy afternoon. There are some days when I feel like doing absolutely nothing. Days when I just want to lay in my bed, watch movies and eat cereal and ice cream. Sometimes, those days are okay. Sometimes we have to give our bodies time to just veg and shrink into the crevasses of our mattress. It’s relaxing, cathartic even. But it does not replace our bodies’ need to thrive.

We as humans were made with bodies, minds, and hearts capable of doing great things should they be given the opportunity to do so. I think that this generation, to some degree, is wasting those abilities. Yes, being lazy feels good. It takes the pressure off your mind and lets you escape the responsibilities of the now for a little while. But being lazy, similar to overeating or other self-detrimental behavior, only feels good for a little while.

Picture a big bowl of ice cream. (I’m already drooling) It’s the biggest bowl of ice cream you’ve ever seen and all you can think about is eating every last bite. The first few bites are incredible. The next few bites are incredible. But after a while, the ice cream just starts to taste boring. The novelty wears off and you start to feel like you’re eating it just to eat it. Then after you’ve eaten way too much, your whole body feels heavy and unhappy and regretful. You start asking yourself why you didn’t stop when you first started to feel full.

For me, this is what laziness feels like. After I’ve been unproductive for an extended period of time, my body reaches a point of lethargy that I find it hard to bounce back from. I start telling myself that trying to be productive is pointless, that I’ve already wasted enough of the day so I might as well waste the rest. But the remnant laziness doesn’t feel as good as the initial bouts of it.

At the beginning of this year I dreamed about the possibilities of the New Year. I wanted to be different, do better, but as I sat and watched the ball drop from the couch, I wasn’t sure where to start. My best friend was leaving in a month to pursue a new career, my sister would be going into her senior year of college, my brother was coming off of a successful Cross Country season, and I was in the exact same place I sat the January before.

A few weeks into January I got an email from my dad asking whether or not I was interested in climbing Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the lower 48 states. I said no, knowing there was no way in hell I could ever do that. He however, ignored my negative response and submitted my name, along with his, my brother and sister’s and a few of our friends, to request permits to climb the mountain that August.

In April we found out we got them. I looked at my calendar and counted 4 months until I would be stepping onto that trail. I laughed to myself, assuming that at some point over the next few months, someone would realize how ridiculous that sounded. Me, climbing a mountain. I couldn’t even stick to weekly fitness regime, let alone carry a giant backpack up the side of a mountain.

For a while, the task was a joke to me, I shook it off, ignoring its magnitude, hoping that everyone would eventually forget about it. But as the months started to pass and the date stayed on the calendar, something inside of me changed. What if I could do it?

June marked the official beginning of our training. My friends and I made a schedule for June & July, writing down all of the hikes that we could think of to get ourselves ready. Then, my dad’s friend Tom, who first climbed Whitney in 1976 and has climbed many times since then, gave us his list of training hikes. I was overwhelmed.

Remember the bowl of ice cream? How it was big and delicious, but only for a little while? The training for Whitney was the exact opposite. Hiking, like most exercise, and unlike most bowls of ice cream, didn’t feel good at first. I had to train my body to keep going and breathe through the struggles.  Then, right when the bowl of ice cream would start to get boring, hiking started to make me feel strong and alive and untouchable.

When you find something that is good for your body and your mind, the initial rush of goodness doesn’t go away after the first few bites. Hiking became a way for me to escape the responsibilities of the now. It became a way to treat myself and make myself feel better. Hiking made me want to be different, be better.  And when I reached the summit of Mt. Whitney and looked out at the world below me, I knew that there was nothing in this world that I couldn’t do if I put my whole heart into it.

Don’t let passing pleasures control your behavior. Find things that make you feel good now and later. Find things that bring goodness to your body and your mind, and never let fear or doubt discourage you from following your passion. You can do anything, absolutely anything.

See you soon.

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