While I really enjoy the hustle and bustle of living in a city, there's no shaking my core upbringing as a country kid. For instance, contrary to the popular belief that we millennials travel everywhere with our phones glued to our hands, I like to spend hours during the weekend spending my time in the great outdoors, tech-free. No social media, no texting, no Netflix - all replaced with activities like kayaking, hiking, rock climbing, or skiing.
That's why I love this time of year - the time period just between Spring and Summer when the temperature outside and the sapphire blue skies ahead are practically calling for everyone to drop what they're doing and just go outside and play like we did when we were kids.
I remember distinctly the first time I ever went rock climbing. I was probably around fifteen, and I remember how my heart pounded both from exhilaration and fear. Up until that point, I had only done the rock walls you typically see at your local gym - the ones where the handles stand out in bright colors. But in the real world, you had to find the right handles with the naked eye and judge that they were secure. Otherwise they may come loose mid-climb and then you'd be in a whole new world of trouble.
Fortunately, I had a great mentor in my good friend Dan who walked me through the steps, guided me on our steep climb, telling me to focus on taking it step by step, and talking casually about everything from sports to whether Dragon Ball Z or Yu-Yu-Hakusho was a better anime show.
Mid-way up the climb, I could feel my arms start to shake in tandem with my pulse, beads of sweat coursing through my chalky hands. Time and again, I kept berating myself for being so damn stupid, what was I thinking climbing a friggin' mountain when I could've just as easily hiked the winding trail upwards and taken in the sights like a normal, sane person. Yet I kept climbing, one hand over the other, always focusing on finding the next handle.
Then, suddenly, it was over. Dan helped pull me up to the top and I collapsed on solid ground like a sack of discarded bricks. We had made it. Nobody died. We were on the top of the world and we were alive. For hours it seemed we just sat there taking in the incredible view as the whole earth stretched out for miles in front of us, covered in a sea of pinewood green with the shadows of other mountains dotting the horizon in the distance. Apart from the wind gusts that occasionally blew across the plateau, I remember this profound silence. It was like ever small worry and care of the world fell away, and all that was left was being present in the moment. Taking it all in, one breath at a time.
Us Millenials are viewed as entitled, emotional, fragile snowflakes who think that participation trophies are waiting around the corner. Yet there's another unspoken expectation of our generation - we're expected to solve all the world's problems yesterday. We're supposed to come up with the next Facebook, GoPro, Netflix, or other fast paced high tech invention. And our rewards are supposed to be instantaneous. That kind of pressure can be daunting, anxiety inducing, and suffocating. If we let it.
But when you let yourself take a moment to be present, to enjoy what life has to offer, even if it is the small things, you realize that you've already won. You're here, you're alive, and you can face whatever mountain looms in front of you with exhilaration. Because success isn't just sitting on the mountaintop taking in the horizon, it's the sweat dripping from your hands with every pull and every step. So stop waiting for Super Man or Wonder Woman to come to your aid. Take a deep breath and start climbing.