In 48 hours, I will be leaving the United States for my first ever trip to another country, unless you include Canada (which I don’t). Sorry Canada. I will be flying out of the Vancouver airport with a layover in Toronto, and then another in Lima, before settling in Cusco. 20 hours to fly in and 22 hours to fly out. All in all, I will be gone for 17 days. The main part of my stay in Cusco will be as a medical volunteer through IVHQ with free time on the weekends to explore. At the end of my volunteer stay, I will be heading out on a 4 day jungle trek to Machu Picchu.
Ever since I was a child I wanted to ‘do something’ with my life that would ‘make a difference’. I was never able to quantify what that was. These are my initial steps in aligning myself towards that vision to make a difference in whatever small ways I can. Now, I recognize that a couple week trip to another country isn’t going to ‘make a difference’ in any tangible, earth shattering way, but it will likely make a difference to me. To my outlook. To my limited, narrow, unexperienced view of the world.
My life has been dramatically shifting for the last several years. It’s been a whirlwind process of redefining everthing I thought I knew about myself and what I wanted in life.
These pictures are from a recent hike to Mount Baker, last Sunday. This was our first official LEAP hike. LEAP is a group that I organized and created at the end of April and that I’ve been envisioning for almost a year, waiting for enough free time to get it up and running off the ground.
It’s a free social group designed to build community and get more people active and involved in trying and experiencing new things. The group has been in existance for less than 2 months and so far is nearing 90 members. I am excited to see where it will go in the next year.
These great pictures were taken by my friend Pavlina, who joined us, along with KJ Dammel, in the Baker Hike. This is specifically from the Park Butte Trail lookout. I was actually introduced to the Park Butte Trail, two weeks earlier, by Michael Campa. It was incredible what an amazing difference there was in trail conditions in the two week timeframe.
I honestly can’t say that I ever saw myself becoming a hiker. Or a runner. Or someone who would fly helicopters, planes, or jump out of them for that matter. It’s all part of a discovery process that has been incredibly powerful and healing. I was the person who had intangible dreams, lots of ‘maybe someday’ items collecting dust in a bucket that was never going anywhere. I watched life happen, I didn’t live it. The realization that you can redefine and shift your purpose and direction, at any point in life, is probably the most empowering thing I’ve ever learned. This drive to challenge myself in letting go of this thought that I’ll never be ‘this’ or ‘that’ has grown right up alongside my desire to see the world, and become a global volunteer. It will still be awhile until I am an RN and capable of making any real significant volunteer impact but I’m not going to let that stop me in making whatever difference I can make at this stage in life.
Sometimes I get caught up in thinking about what I’ve lost in life. The marriage. The friends. The faith. I see the struggles the kids go through, and the struggles that I face, and the ‘damage’ that has occurred, and inevitably you have to ask yourself, again, and again, whether it was ‘worth it’. It isn’t a pleasant or easy process. At this stage, I can easily say I am better off. I am happier than I have ever been in life and more aligned to who I’ve always wanted to be. I don’t long for some far off distant time when such and such will be possible. It’s harder to answer about the kids. Obviously, what I’d like to believe is that they are also better off. However, they are too young to even understand most of what has happened over the last three years, or to see where things would have been if a course had not been changed. Only they, as adults, will be able to reflect back on everything and make their own personal decisions on what has happened and on how it has impacted them. I hope only to be able to communicate and show them, through my actions, a few things that have become important to me in life.
1. You can walk away from toxic relationships. Family is important. Friendships are important. Working hard to solve problems is important. Not giving up too soon is important. But sometimes, walking away, is more important.
2. You are in control of who you are and where you are going. You always have more choices than you think you have.
3. People are worth knowing, worth helping, and worth being vulnerable for. Human connection supersedes anything else in life. Human connection is life.
4. Sometimes your vulnerability is going to get you hurt. Really, really, hurt. It’s still worth the pain. Walk away. Learn the lesson. Be vulnerable again.
5. No matter how long you have believed something, advocated for it, lived and breathed it… it’s okay to change your mind. Embrace when you’ve been wrong. It makes you a more empathetic and understanding person.
6. Life is incredibly short. There are a lot of things to chase in life. You get to decide what you will chase, but I hope you won’t chase money.
7. I’m fallible. You’re fallible. Everyone is fallible. No one really knows what they’re doing. Forgive easily. Keep boundaries where you need to, and walk away if you must, but let go of the anger. It’s not worth holding.
8. Your thoughts and your beliefs belong to you. What I believe, or what anyone else believes, does not matter. Try on as many beliefs and thoughts as you’d like. Build them on a foundation of love and understanding for others. People worth having in your life will love you despite differences in belief and thought.
9. When you become a parent, it will be easier to see what I got wrong and what I got right. Don’t worry, I’m well aware that I’m doing a lot of things wrong, and I don’t expect you to do things like I did. Don’t let anyone else control how you parent. Build and improve on what I’ve done and know, that despite my flaws, I love you like crazy and that it will be hard to comprehend until you’re doing it yourself.
10. Be weird and silly and different. Life is better that way. Life will have hard moments no matter what you do. What makes the greatest difference in life is your attitude and the people you surround yourself with.