I think I have found that whenever I get frustrated or down-trodden about something, it is because I am getting caught up in my ego.
Making everything about self-aggrandizement is easy to do. As soon as the most insignificantly positive thing happens in my life, I have an immediate urge to share it on facebook. It is fun to talk about our activities and see the positive reactions of the people around us.
This is especially true of backpacking. There is a sense of heroism surrounding people who hike or run long distances. Many movies and books about this very subject have recently been successful in popular culture (and I am very willing to recommend my favorites!)
But I think anyone who hikes for some kind of glory quickly figures out that fame is not nearly enough motivation. Whenever I have thoughts of bragging about the number of miles I have backpacked, I immediate start wishing the trip was over. Because at that point, it isn’t about actually hiking the miles, it is just about my own ego.
And I struggle with this a lot. Maybe I am failing the struggle right now by writing about it.
I struggle with it in flute playing as well. Classical music is fraught with ideas of fame and glory. It is embedded into our training through chair placements and “solo recitals” and solidified in our professional lives by competitions and auditions. It is incredibly easy to get caught up in being the best and miss the point of making music. In other words, we get so obsessed with the end result, we forget to enjoy the journey.
Sometimes, when I’m recording pre-screening CDs, I try to imagine what a backpacking competition would look like and I can’t quite imagine it. There are people who attempt to set records on the Appalachian Trail and others but I think these people make up less than 1% of hikers. The rest of us have found a way to do something awesome without making it about external motivation. The truth is, there are easier ways to get famous than hiking 2,000 miles very quickly.
Most of the hikers I have met who truly enjoy backpacking are doing it just for the act of it. They have their feet, step by step, planted firmly in the moment.
If we want to truly enjoy what we are doing, we have to do it for the journey.
(Featured image, as proof, is indicative of the top 100 google stock image results of the search “top of mountain”. I expected mostly images of actual mountains but the search returned mostly images of people.)