If You Never Try, You’ll Never Know

We may have an idea of how something feels, such as rock climbing or skydiving. Maybe we saw it in a movie once or a friend painted the perfect picture for us: an experience so vivid we felt like we were present the entire time. But the truth is that you will never know how something feels until you actually try it.

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I’ve adopted the “say yes to everything” mantra, and it’s changed my life in ways I had never imagined. I’ve climbed to the top of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. I’ve returned to earth by headlamp after rappelling fifteen pitches of pure granite (and on a separate occasion, I’ve done this in the pouring rain, too.)

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I’ve hitchhiked from the Northeast down to the Southeast in search of new rock climbing destinations. I’ve shoved my body into cracks and shuffled my way to victory. I’ve eaten cold ravioli out of cans because I was too tired to heat my dinner. I’ve slept under stars that set the sky on fire on the clearest of nights. I’ve listened to the sound of coyotes howling yip yap songs across the valley, and then I’ve fallen asleep to the sound a crackling fire in an untamed desert. And then I’ve also fallen asleep to the sound of pure silence in my sleeping bag, my dog sweetly curled up next to my legs and tucked in at the bottom.

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I can’t expect to discover answers to the questions I ask myself if I’m not willing to know the answers. And to know the answers, I have to be willing to suffer through some experience. They say that experience builds character; I say it builds whole chapters of your life.

The view from the top.

Security can be an interesting thing. Security is a great thing; I love the idea of a steady paycheck and health insurance and a place to rest my head at night. I also have come to find a different kind of security in uncertainty — embracing it means doing so one hundred percent; there is no halfway point. Maybe there is a balance between security and uncertainty. I haven’t found it yet, but that doesn’t mean I won’t stop trying.

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I can’t rely on other people’s stories. I’ve weighed the risk versus reward over and over again only to come to the same conclusion: my choices create chances, and chances will create change. These are the things that move me, shake me, and inform me — it tells me that I’m still chasing that spark. That’s my forever challenge.

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Whatever your forever challenge is, know that you have the power to face it. It might be waiting for you at the base of your climb or the start of a trailhead, but saying yes to the challenge is the first step. No matter the outcome, you’ll always be glad that you took it. And in a decade or so, you can be the one sitting around the campfire narrating the perfect adventure you were brave enough to just say “yes” to.

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