“What do you want your tombstone to read?”
This was a question asked on a survey I was taking for a friends graduate class assignment earlier this week. At first I scoffed at the question and passed it up to answer the other nine below it, but as I came back to it, I started to really ponder on it.
What do I want my tombstone to say when I am gone from this earth. When friends, family, and strangers celebrate my life after it is over, what do I want them to remember about me?
“She sure was a funny gal.”
“She kept a clean and neat house.”
“She sure did love her dog.”
“Boy, she could really put away those tacos!”
While all are true, that is not how I want to be remembered when I am just a memory.
For most of my life, fear had a tight and violent grip on me. I was terrified of everything. I lived in a prison of paranoia and chaos that I alone had created. For so long I watched others live, while I hid out.
At the age of 41 I decided enough was enough.
I remember very vividly the conversation I had with my mother when I her I was going for my first solo hike in The Great Smoky Mountains. Once I announced my intentions there was silence, followed by her reply moments later, “I see….” While she was not happy, nothing else was spoken about it, but others, they were not as silent.
“Are you freaking insane”
“That is too dangerous!”
“What if someone rapes you?”
and my absolute favorite…..
“But there are BEARS out there !”
I have never been more terrified as I was that morning when I took my first steps on that trail….. completely alone.
At first every sound I heard alarmed me, and I was scared to speak to anyone I passed, but before long, I was completely comfortable being alone with just my thoughts and the wilderness surrounding me. Once I finished, I have never been more amazed and proud of myself.
As women we are taught we need others. We need them to tell us we are pretty. We need them to save us. We need them to validate us. We need them to make us feel secure and fulfilled.
A Popular question in many hiking forums today is, “Is it safe for women to hike alone?” If you want to see more disagreeing happening than what happens between Democrats and Republicans, join one of these debates. Some make the election between Hillary and Donald look a kindergarten playground fight.
People are passionate about the subject.
A year and a half ago I had my own opinion on the subject…NEVER GONNA DO IT. But now, I have a whole new outlook, and it goes hand with what I want on my tombstone.
In life, I have two choices: I can play safe, doing what will keep me alive but not living, OR, I can go afraid knowing all the risks involved, and live life to the absolute fullest.
I chose the later.
I chose to live.
Going solo is not for everyone. I have some strong women friends who have accomplished some pretty amazing feats in these mountains, but going solo is not the way they like to go. They gave it a shot, and said, “Nope, not for me.” And that is perfectly fine too. They support and encourage me in my pursuits to hike solo and understand sometimes, I would rather hike alone then with a partner.
For some of you though, the desire to go alone is real and undeniable. You long to test and push yourself beyond what others tell you are capable of. You want to prove that you can do amazing and brave things all on your own. You know you were made for something beyond the daily hum drum of life, but you are scared.
Cheryl Strayed said it best in her book, WILD,
“I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.”
Don’t let fear keep you from trying, and PLEASE do not let it keep you from living. For so long I was a prisoner. I allowed fear to hold me back, and precious time was lost and wasted. But now, NOW, I live, despite it. It only has a hold on me if I chose to let it do so.
So, back to my tombstone. All I want is one little sentence engraved on the stone when I am gone. Two small words to remind those I leave behind, that I didn’t let fear hold me in it’s grasp. Despite myself, and what others told me, I chose to do the most amazing thing with my life. In the end, I want my legacy to be this…..