Sometimes I'm Clueless And I'm Clumsy, But I've Got Friends That Love Me, And They Know Just Where I Stand, It's All A Part Of Me, And That's Who I Am
I was defeated. All I wanted to do was sit right where I was and give up. Granted, I probably wasn't thinking rationally; the misery and the torture had all but replaced every other thought in my brain. I knew it wasn't practical to stop now, given the fact that we were halfway from anywhere and the place I had chosen to rest was exposed to the sun, but I just didn't care. I knew I wasn't comfortable in my own skin and I wanted it to end.
Before I took up hiking as a hobby, I used to have to go on hikes with my Boy Scout troop. It was the one activity I dreaded. Everything about scouting was easy in the beginning. I would get to hang out with my friends after school, going to meetings where we'd goof around and then be provided with tasty baked goods and punch afterwards. Even after we started organizing camping trips, it was still a piece of cake. All camping meant was we'd load up several cars and vans, drive up to where we needed to go, and then proceed to set up tents. After that, it was just basically party the whole weekend which included canoeing; roughshod games of baseball, football, or soccer; and staying up to all hours by drinking six-packs of Jolt and Mountain Dew. I'd been used to that by having gone camping with my extended family every year. To me that's when being in Boy Scouts was fun.
Eventually, though, it stopped being so fun. Soon we started having to hike to our camp spots. At first, it was short jaunts--three miles here, five miles there. Later, it became longer and longer. Not only that, but it stopped being about getting to hang out with my friends but about competing with them. Everybody stopped talking about silly stuff and started getting serious about advancing up the Scouting ladder. Conversations about how close this person was to getting this badge or that achievement began to dominate the meetings and camping trips. It all become old really fast.
Back then, I was never a good hiker to begin with. I hated having to lug around a thirty to forty pound backpack through heat and humidity. I hated having to pretend that this was something I thoroughly enjoyed. I hated the fact that I had volunteered for this torture.
That's how I found myself halfway up to Mt. Whitney, with three or four more hours of arduous trekking to go, quitting on myself and my scout troop. I had had enough. Everything was sore. Everything was dirty. And I literally wanted to go home. When I stopped yet again on our ascent up the trail I was sure I heard groans from more than a few of my fellow scouts. It wasn't the first time I had halted our progress and they probably knew it wouldn't be the last. I was being such a baby, but I didn't know how else to be. As aforementioned in this blog, I am a huge advocate for being in control of one's destiny, one's actions. At the point in time all I wanted to do was stop and rest. It didn't occur to me that I had entered into a social contract with my peers, whereby I had agreed to maintain pace with them in exchange for being accepted as one of the group. I wanted to do what I wanted to do and damn the rest of the group.
I didn't mind the scoffing from the younger members. Their teasing always fell on deaf ears because I always thought of myself as naturally more mature than they were. What bothered me the most was that I was derided by my friends who were in my class. We had all entered scouting together and the idea that I was lagging behind them, that I wasn't as mentally or physically tough as they were came as quite a blow to me. What were they doing right that I just couldn't?
It was then that one of them came over to me and tried some words of encouragement. He told me that everyone was hurting and everyone was tired, that it wasn't just me. I explained to him my excuse that I didn't think I was cut out to do this, that maybe this whole trip was an endeavor that was far outside of my capabilities. I hadn't read the book at the time, but my thoughts on the matter pretty much echoed the sentiments in The Tao of Pooh. Self-improvement isn't supposed to be made in great leaps and bounds, pushing yourself harder than you've ever pushed yourself before. Change is supposed to be made by building on your natural ability and slowly developing the skills necessary to accomplish whatever task you wanted to accomplish. At that point in time I thought it was a futile exercise for me to complete that hike because I knew my limits and I'd passed them quite awhile back on that trail.
It was probably only a minute or two that we talked, but they saw that I wasn't going to budge. I knew what was going to happen next if progress wasn't made. They would send one of the adult chaperones to have a little chat with me and I'd basically be forced to continue. It wasn't a fate I was looking forward to.
But then something unexpected happened. Another one of my friends came over and told me he had come up with a solution to my dilemma. Part of the reason I was feeling tired was because I thought the pace was too fast, that I was being pushed too far too quickly. The solution? He told me we should put me at the front of the pack so I could set the pace. Sure, I'd be compelled to move faster than I'd like because I didn't want to look like an ass in front of everybody again. But that way, also, I could go a little bit slower at a pace I was more comfortable with.
What got to me was that none of them had to do that for me. I mean--I have particular ideas about the way I wanted to do things and I know I tend to voice or show my displeasure if my ways are not accomadated. However, I usually meet resistance until either people get sick of me or I get sick of being in the situation time and time again. To understand that, even though I had pretty much giving up trying to be part of the group, they still wanted me to be there when we all reached camp was kind of refreshing. Yes, it's true that they weren't about to leave me behind. But they very well could have been less tactless in their approach. They could have marched on without me until I was forced to catch up with them, which would have been the usual manner in which one handles babies who were acting spoiled like I was. They could have heckled me into submission. They could have done a thousand things to get what they wanted out of me. Instead, after their initial disbelief and annoyance, they chose to welcome me back into the fold.
Even after we got to camp safely, albeit forty-five minutes later than it should have taken us, I made sure to thank those two friends who hadn't given up on me. I don't know why I am like that. I always seem to chose the more selfish path and then, days, weeks, months, or years later, I always end up regretting my actions. Even more than how glad I was to finally make it to a point where I could rest and relax for the next couple of days before having to hike down the mountain again, I was glad that I had friends who understood I was a prissy, self-absorbed whiner and still accepted me anyway. I had my strengths back then, but fortitude and perseverance took me a couple of years to develop.
I was and who I was, and even though I've gotten a bit better in trying to be more accomadating to people and trying hard to do something that would make someone else happy rather than only me, I'm still very set in my ways. It's a true sign of my friends' abilities to see the diamond in the rough that they can put up with my way and still believe in me like those two friends did. I guess that's how anyone knows who their true friends are, if they've seen you at your worst and still are able to find the best in you.
And the hike down? They sent me ahead in a group with some of the faster hikers and I was so determined to show everyone I wasn't a crybaby all the time, I sped up the pace to the point where we actually outpaced the other group by almost an hour. They left a half hour after my group and arrived almost an hour and a half after us.
See? I wasn't always a bad person.