A few years ago, after a particularly tough night — one of those nights where the weight of the world seems to come crashing down all at once — my mom wrote these words on a Post-it Note for me and left them on my bathroom counter.
“I love you, Em. You don’t always have to be so strong.”
I have that note saved in a box somewhere up in the U.S. And even though that note is not physically with me here in Argentina, my mom’s simple-yet-profound words are with me always.
You don’t always have to be so strong.
I’m realizing more and more that I tend to carry the weight of what can sometimes feel like the world on my shoulders and that no one is putting that pressure on me but me. I think this is human. I think we are all guilty of this to varying degrees.
In the days leading up to my 28th birthday, I wrote a letter from my future self to my current self. I stepped into my shoes at 29 and wrote a letter to myself at 28 — with the idea of capturing what I dreamt, and still dream, my reality will be as I turn 29 next year. (The exercise, which I’ve done for a few years now, is meant to help define my goals and actions for the year ahead.) Nine days after writing that letter, I was reminded that we don’t always get a choice in life.
“Who would’ve thought that when we met five years ago we’d be trekking in Torres del Paine together?” I say to Lindsay as we hike from Refugio Grey to Refugio Paine Grande in one of southern Patagonia’s most famous national parks.
Life, and the crossing of paths, is a seemingly strange and mind-blowing thing. Today, our second of five days in Torres del Paine, my mind traipses through my story with Lindsay.
She and I met in August 2012. I was fresh out of college and looking for marketing work in the social impact space. Lindsay was the national director of Right To Play – USA, an organization I was keen to work with. We initially connected through email, and then, when I was traveling through San Francisco, we met for coffee on a Friday afternoon at La Boulange. Our relationship, a mentorship and now a friendship, has grown from there.
She was never quite ready.
But she was brave.
And the universe listens to brave. – Rebecca Ray
Life is a series of steps. Some big, some small. Some light, some heavy. Some easy, some challenging. Each step certainly carries its own personality. But at the end of the day, steps are steps. Simple as that.
To move forward and make progress, we have to be willing to let our feet leave the ground. We have to choose to pick our feet up, take a step forward and move. Thoughtfully. Intentionally. Purposefully. We have to give up our old footing to find new footing. Finding that new footing isn’t always safe and secure; it’s not always a “sure thing.” But when it comes to moving forward, it’s necessary.
“Looking over the ledge of the wave meant horrible things could happen, like falling on coral or hitting your head or going over the falls. But if you don’t drop in, you never know. You could have the ride of your life — just like pursuing what you want in life takes a risk. You most likely will not fall on the coral reef, but that decision to drop in, it’s always scary.” — Shelby Stanger
Dropping in is scary. Deciding to drop in is scary. At times, terrifying. Both in surfing and in life, I’ve sat on the edge of many waves. I’ve dropped in on plenty; I’ve held back on others.
Five days and four nights of Patagonian trekking and camping in Torres del Paine started a week ago today – and flew by in the blink of an eye, as I knew it would. I’m certainly different now from the girl who stepped into that adventure one week ago, and really, that’s one of many takeaways I love about time in nature. Disconnecting from what has become the hustle and bustle of life allows for infinite genuine connections with ourselves, the people around us and some of the most important parts of this planet we’re so lucky to call home – and Torres del Paine is one special place.
I carried so much on the trail with me throughout those five days. Some anticipated. Some unanticipated. It’s been an emotional adventure, to say the least, and I am grateful in the depths of my soul for every step of the journey. Quite literally. It was amazing to see the expanse of the park on Monday as we drove back to Puerto Natales. The postcard view was something we hadn’t yet seen, and as we drove further from the mountains, we could more or less see all the ground we’d traversed as each mountainous benchmark became visible. Every day. Every kilometer. Every memory. It’s crazy how time flies and, really, how the world can feel so small and ginormous all at once.
Last year, on an early-November night, my mom and I drove down a dark and near-empty U.S. 31 from Traverse City to Frankfort. A few days prior, my grandpa had undergone surgery on his aortic valve. That evening, after a day at the hospital — the surgery was successful and my grandpa was recovering well — my mom, grandma, uncle, aunt and I went out to dinner in Traverse City.
Wanting to spend time with me before I moved south to Argentina in two days, my mom came home for the night instead of staying in Traverse City. With an uninterrupted chunk of time together and country music as our soundtrack, my mom and I talked about a number of things, including my upcoming move to South America.
“I’m really going to miss you, Em,” she said.