Hitchhikers Guide to Feeling Alive

“The boy continued to listen to his heart as they crossed the desert. He came to understand its dodges and tricks, and to accept it as it was. He lost his fear, and forgot about his need to go back to the oasis, because, one afternoon, his heart told him that it was happy. “Even though I complain sometimes,” it said, “it’s because I’m the heart of a person, and people’s hearts are that way. “People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because they feel that they don’t deserve them, or that they’ll be unable to achieve them. We, their hearts, become fearful just thinking of loved ones who go away forever, or of moments that could have been good but weren’t, or of treasures that might have been found but were forever hidden in the sands. Because, when these things happen, we suffer terribly.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

I’ve read this book twice now, back to back, finishing the last page and starting the first in again seconds later (I think in an effort to chase away that feeling of loss one tends to get when they realize that they’ve finished all the pages of an extraordinary book) I’ve been re-reading books a lot lately, mostly because I just don’t have access to a lot of books here, but also because a good book always deserves a second read because it’s in the second read that you generally pay attention to the less remarkable, subtly grand quotes that you missed the first time around.

The Alchemist deals a lot with the issue of fear, which I think is why I’ve enjoyed it so much.
I’ve come to the difficult realization that for the past several years I have been letting fear take a leading role in the theater production of my life. Confronting this has been my goal in the past few weeks, and what I have gained from facing my fears head on can’t even be described.

I’ve always been wary of strangers. When walking alone, my nerves are so keyed up that any noise is like an electric paddle to the heart. Anyone who knows me knows I’ll avoid going out if I have to walk alone at night.
There’s a balance between realizing rational fears that keep you from a dangerous situation, and irrational fears that need to be confronted. My fear of people is a little excessive and I suspect, unwarranted.

Today, I hitchhiked for the first time from Canmore to Banf, then Banff to Lake Louise.
Standing alone on the side of the highway in the rain, with my cardboard sign was one of the scariest, most liberating things I have ever done.

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I was picked up twice, one driver getting me to Banff, the other to Lake Louise on his way to Kelowna. Driver one was a local from Banff who gave me lots of insider info on some spectacular hikes in the area and also a few safety tips on traversing down the Cascade mountain, which apparently can be pretty sketchy if you don’t watch your heading.
Driver number two was a middle aged contractor from Calgary who rolled a joint with one hand while driving (which was pretty damn impressive) and talked the entire way about the difference between home grown and outdoor bud.
I left with his business card and an invite to Calgary that I’ll probably never take him up on, but am flattered by nonetheless.

I realize that hitchhiking alone is not the best option, but given the opportunity, I ran with it. I’ll probably do it again with a friend in tow, but regardless, the outcome today was good, and I am so thankful for that.

I’m starting to feel good about people again. Distrust is sometimes a comforting thing to hold on to, because you can never be taken for the fool if you’ve been expecting the joke from the start, but distrust is also a crippling thing. It can keep you from seeing the amazing people that inhabit this earth. The more people that you give your trust to, the more you come to realize that, barring a few idiots and crazies, most people are pretty much the same as you. Sometimes scared, sometimes sad, sometimes angry, sometimes impatient, sometimes happy. People are just people, and the few bad apples don’t have to ruin the lot for you.

I feel pretty alive right now. Life is good.

 

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