“We should probably be doing this with climbing equipment”, I thought as I surveyed the crossing which perched us on a sandstone ledge 300 feet up in the air.
The toe bed in my favorite orange Asolo hiking boots were wedged into the two inches of flat rock that acted as the tiny bridge before sloping down and dropping off the edge of the cliff. This was the only way to cross the dangerous ten foot section of the trail and to get into the ancestral Puebloan ruin known as Penthouse.
My first attempt of crossing foot over foot like on a tight rope proved too dangerous as one wrong step could result in a long fall. Instead, we had to stay on our toes, leaning forward into the rock a few feet in front of us, and grasp for any small hand holds that could help support our weight that balanced on the tiny ledge.
“Just face the rock and feel the gravity of it pull you in and we’ll get through it”, I confidently reassured Jocelyn as my own doubts about our success began to surface. It’s this phrase of “feel the rock pull you towards it” that she hates the most, but it’s always the one that feels relevant to me.Sweat began to accumulate under my shirt as the sun heated up the rock face that was colder in the morning desert shade. The earlier inhabitants definitely picked this south facing site to take advantage of the sun in the winter and the shade in the summer.
I was stuck in the middle of the ledge when Jocelyn paused to contemplate what the hell she was doing with her life. It wasn’t the greatest of times to contemplate, but we both needed to stay calm to get past this obstacle.
Did we really need to get past this obstacle or was the risk presented by the crossing greater than the reward of making it to the other side?
It’s a question we’ve asked numerous times since we’ve adopted the Bears Ears National Monument area in southern Utah as one of our favorite spots in the world. The incredible scenery provides inspiration as you traverse red sandstone canyons with soaring bluffs a thousand feet high, and the added archaeology makes this an outdoor adventurer’s dream.
The question of risk is one we never could’ve asked two years ago when we were knee deep in our careers and didn’t have the time to take a long vacation and discover sites like this. We were crazy to leave such good jobs behind, but it gave us this opportunity.
It’s a question we never could’ve asked if we didn’t buy an old Airstream, fix it up, travel North America and discover which part of it we loved the most. It took courage.
Courage is one of those innate qualities we all possess, but very few of us test it unless required. You hear of the incredible courage with which someone faced an illness, or fought off an attacker or stood up to someone bullying them.
However, these are all forms of reactive courage. People were put in tough situations and forced to act. What if instead of reactive, we tried proactive courage?
Proactive courage starts when you go from being an effect to being the cause. You make the decision to challenge yourself to change or improve. You don’t wait for your boss to give you something better, but instead you go out and find better.
You try to find the life you want to live through little actions and tiny steps. As you start moving in a certain direction, the ship starts slowly moving forward after each courageous decision and you’ll soon find yourself sailing into the great seas of… the unknown!
The unknown is scary, but it is where we discover things about ourselves and about the world. It’s how we discover what want for our lives. It’s not until we proactively place ourselves into the unknown that we start to find some answers.
Each time you make a tough decision and move forward with it, you discover more strength within yourself. Think of a time you acted courageously. Maybe it’s when you left a decent job where you were comfortable for something even better where you made more money. Or when you decided to take on a monstrous challenge like running a marathon or deciding to start a family and having a little human.
You acted courageously by your own choice. You didn’t wait to be effected, but you chose to be the cause.
This wasn’t the first time we’ve been on a ledge in southern Utah as we’ve tackled slickrock hikes before and knew we could get past this one.
As Jocelyn summoned her courage and fought back the tears, she made the difficult next move of continuing little steps across the ledge and aware of the danger and the terminal consequence of any little slip, she moved forward. I found the same courage to unfreeze myself from the middle and stop thinking about the bad things that could happen and instead think about the good things happening.
After making it past the tiny land bridge and into the beautiful sandstone alcove where these brave people lived 800 years ago, our sense of joy was only tempered by the thought that there was only one way to safely exit, back through where we came in.
It never would’ve been possible without proactive courage.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition – they somehow already know what you truly want to become. – Steve Jobs