Findng My Way

Lately, I’ve been visiting trail running with my friends. My poor sense of direction is legendary in my family and my vision isn’t very good, so the thought of being set loose amid twisting and turning paths, with a carpet of leaves, rocks, and roots — well, this is an accident waiting to happen.

Still, my dauntless friend Sarah ran almost six miles of this byzantine route and it inspired me such that I knew I had to try to replicate her success.

And so it was, armed with a bottle of water, a map, my phone, about 1.5 hours of daylight, and crystal-clear directions from Sarah, that I set out to run the Occoneechee Loop. Most of us would think of a “loop” as a rough circle or oval. Not this one. It had more curly-cues than Shirley Temple’s hair.

After finding my way to the beginning of the trail, I ran through markers 1, 2, 3, and 4. It was then that things went sideways. Oh, I can see now what I did wrong. At the time, though, all I knew what that I couldn’t find #5. All I could find were numbers 10 and 11. To make a long story short, I eventually found all 17 markers, but not in any sensible order.

I reported back to Sarah, hoping for and receiving high-fives for congratulations. I felt like I had been on a two-day Outward Bound adventure. I’m embarrassed to say how great I felt about my triumph.

When I got home, something unexpected happened. While taking a shower, my mind drifted back to a time when I was a young professional, trying with all my might to negotiate my career and be successful. I became teary thinking about how I would come home and my young daughters would be playing, full-of-energy, and excited to see me. Without much analysis at all, I realized that my forest adventure had returned an echo of more than two decades ago. The struggle to find my way in the woods paralleled my struggle to earn a living and find a place in the corporate world. As William Faulkner said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Sometimes we run for fitness. Sometimes for fellowship, peace-of-mind, or challenge. Sometimes the goal is just to find our way. On rare occasions, all of these come together as it did for me yesterday, creating a golden memory in the golden sunset.

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