“Life sucks”, I thought while packing my backpack. It was Saturday morning and I was feeling like there was no air to breathe here in Nebraska, so I needed to get away. I’d decided, at the last minute, to make the trip to Denver.. to get away from the pain that I was feeling.
I hit the road slightly before noon, trying to hurry past the Nebraska Cornhusker fans heading to the first game of the season. The road to Denver is a long and boring one. You pass by lots of horses, hay, and over-priced gas stations. When you’re feeling low, this landscape serves well to make you feel like there’s really nothing to live for, and the long drive is plenty for hours of internal arguments and reflection.
Luckily, after what seemed like an eternity, I started closing in on Denver. Seeing the mountains suddenly appear through the horizon is always as breathtaking as the first time I saw it. Colorado is a magical place, it has the ability to restore my love of the Earth very quickly. My thoughts of sadness and loneliness took a back seat to my wonder as I let myself be taken in by the sights and sounds of nature. Well.. not so much the sounds, my jeep is pretty loud at 75MPH.
Anyway, after a long drive and checking into my hotel, I decided to stretch my legs and go for a walk. I came upon an Irish Grill and Pub called Darcy’s. I stopped in and attempted to drown my sorrows. Unknown to me, Saturday nights they have Trivia Night, where they hand out answer sheets, the DJ asks a series of trivia questions, and the winner gets a cheesy prize. The questions being asked were mostly sports questions, which I know nothing about, so instead of writing down answers, I started to draw.
After a few beers my emotions were in control of my art.. I drew an evil flower, representing how something beautiful can hurt you.. I drew a turtle with a human skull for a head, representing how death comes slowly.. and I drew numerous other things. As I drew, I developed an audience.. people would pass by and stop to see me work, it was quite amusing.. each asking me to explain the art, or if I drew for a living. Eventually it was time for me to go, I asked for my tab but the manager proposed a trade, I give him my art and my tab is on the house. How could I refuse?
The next morning I awoke bright and early, I had plans of sky-diving, 4-wheeling, and whitewater rafting. I called every place I could find on the web.. every place was booked. Eventually I called one place, Arkansas Valley Adventures, and while they were booked for rafting, they suggested I take a kayak.. so I did. After a 2-hour drive I was ready to begin. There were two tour guides, Adam and Omar, along with a couple from Florida and a couple from Colorado who were going rafting. We were driven to the drop-off spot, where Omar piled everyone into a raft and I was given my kayak. Just so you know, I’ve never been in, on, or around a kayak.. I can’t even swim! But, I asked for verbal instructions, pushed fear aside, and away I went.
I’ve never encountered anything as amazing as whitewater kayaking in Colorado. The water is so crisp, the mountains so monumentous, and I’m sure the air is cleaner. For most of the trip I could see the raft in front of me, which was great because I could see where the spots were that I needed to look out for.. but eventually they vanished and I was all alone. Alone, whitewater kayaking in Colorado. Who would have ever thought I’d be doing that?
Once that ended, I drove back to the hotel and got cleaned up, dried up, and warmed up! Finally so fresh and so clean, I walked about 400 miles to the nearest Mexican restaurant.. I may be exaggerating.. but it sure felt like it. Along the walk, some thugs sped by shouting “Break yo’self fool!” and chucked a beer bottle in my direction. Luckily their aim was off.. otherwise I might have yet another scar on my pretty head. I made it to the restaurant, ate some good mexican food, then started the trek back, settling once again at Darcy’s.
The manager recognized me and immediately brought my drink of choice. I made friends with some fellow out-of-towners, we talked about homeless people, college football, and who knows what else. Eventually I was feeling good and decided I needed to call it a night.. once again they tried to cover my tab, but I didn’t let them. Happy, I went to bed.
The next morning I was up bright and early, back on the road home. This time, the long journey was filled with hope, understanding, and self-discovery. This journey helped me realize that fear is a roadblock to the party. Fear stops me from doing many things, but fear is a lie.. the cake is a lie.. things never turn out as bad as my fears think they will. In fact, the worst moments of my life were brought about by my reactions to fear.. on the other hand, the best times of my life were when I shoved fear aside and reached out.
The moral of the story.. Don’t let fear control you. Conquer your fears and give yourself a story to tell.