Unexpected Lessons On The Mountain

by: Katherine Lomax

Call me crazy, but I had always thought that professors were supposed to help students prepare for their futures, rather than try to end their lives prematurely. For future reference, make sure your funeral arrangements have been made before taking even a trusted professor’s suggestion to go run the trails of a neighboring mountain. Never having run in the woods, I found myself barreling downhill at the trail head, sliding on leaves and trying to not roll head first down the slope. Convinced that I was going to smack into a tree, fall into a creek bed and die, I tried desperately to remember if I had said goodbye to my friends and family.

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Eventually I was able to gain control over my stride as the trail leveled out. But my adrenaline-fueled imagination was running faster than I was and I had visions of tripping on a tree root and becoming hopelessly entangled in anthropomorphic plant matter, much like Devil’s Snare in the Harry Potter universe. I began watching my feet intently, wary of my face meeting a mud puddle, and tried to make sure that every footfall was strategically placed in order to avoid catastrophe. This technique worked for a brief stretch, up until I narrowly missed head-butting a tree. If I wanted to remain conscious, I was going to have to change tactics.

In order to avoid oncoming obstacles, but also keep a sure footing, I realized that I needed to focus on the middle distance–about four feet in front of me. This compromising approach gave me the ability to prepare for what was coming and therefore react accordingly. Instead of splashing through unexpected mud puddles, I could sidestep messes and avoid soaked feet that might have dampened my run. I couldn’t help but notice how this strategy was a perfect illustration of how to handle obstacles in life. I think that cultivating an appreciation for living in the moment is important, as well as focusing on what’s directly in front of us in life. But if we focus too much on the present, we can get blindsided by problems or struggles that we weren’t prepared to handle. However, looking too far into the future could mean devaluing the people and and places that should take precedent in our lives. There needs to be a compromise so that our vision is no skewed too far in one direction.

So when we evaluate our lives, my proposal is that we strive to find that middle ground while still remembering to glance at our feet for grounding and the path ahead to give us hope. I can’t say that I’ve perfected this skill, either on the trails or in life, because good habits take time and effort to commit to muscle memory. But each day is a new chance to get better and grow stronger in the pursuit of a balanced vision.  

Currently, Katherine (@skywardphoto) is a student at Liberty University studying English and also working part time as a barista. After school, she wants to serve God by using her natural discernment in an editing career and her love for people by eventually owning a coffee shop centered on missions. If you can't find her at the local coffee shops, try checking the local salsa dancing scene in Lynchburg, VA.