Challenging yourself is a fairly simple concept, but not easy. Take hiking for example, it’s simple enough; you pack your gear, put one foot after another and walk, just like you do everyday at home to get from one place to another. But, hiking is hard.
It’s hard because it hurts. There’s nothing anyone can do to take away the pain. Even the fittest athletes in the world have to endure pain when they are training, competing or just taking part in their sport of choice for a bit of fun. I’m a fit hiker and I’m used to carrying 20kg+ in my pack, but it hurts like a bastard. My muscles ache, especially my legs and I have a weird hard lump that comes up on my right shoulder. Sometimes it goes down, sometimes it stays put for a couple of months at a time. I get blisters, my pack chafes my lower back and hips. If I hike for more than one day my feet really hurt and it feels like every step I take is a step into a bucket of boiling water.
All of it hurts, but that’s the whole point of challenging myself. I don’t love the pain, I’m not a freak, but I do love the fact that I can push through it and get to the end of the trail and basically say, “fuck you, pain, I smashed you down!” That’s when I feel like I own the world.
Photos online of adventures and adventurers mostly show happy people who are having a great ol’ time in nature with their buddies, but what the photos rarely show is how hard adventuring can be: the brand new tent that leaked like a sieve in a sudden downpour, saturating my down sleeping bag; the rat that ate through my previous hiking tent in an attempt to get to my granola, which I shouldn’t have had in the tent in the first place; getting shot at and having to spend the night at a police station in a town thousands of kilometres away from my home; getting covered in leeches and ticks and having to go to the doctor because almost my entire body came up in a disgusting pimply rash; having to cut a shirt up to tie socks to my feet because my boots caused most of my toenails to lift off; getting lost in the bush and wandering around for hours in the dark; on and on it goes. Yeah, these things are hard and some of them bad, but they didn’t kill me and I got through them, just like I get through the real pain of challenging myself.
I don’t get through these things because I’m better, stronger or more physically able than other people. I get through them because of the story I tell myself about who I am. That story is about a person who is one tough mofo. This mofo can smash down enemies and rise above those who seek to bring her down. It’s a story about a bad-ass mofo who is the master at overcoming adversity and coming out the other side of a challenge with her integrity intact. I get through the hard stuff because I tell myself that I’m a person who can get through the hard stuff, after which I literally become a person who can get through the hard stuff.
What I’m saying here is this: It’s pretty much all in your head. If you accept the pain and suffering, the only thing that will prevent you from achieving your goal is the voice in your head; your voice: It’s all up to you.
Smiling on the outside, crying on the inside.
Taken in 2015 right before most of my toenails lifted off and I had to tie socks to my feet to continue the hike. I still had more than 20km to go and one more night at a walker’s camp before pick up.