Last Saturday afternoon, I was about to nod off in the passenger seat of my friend Mitsu’s car while we drove across Portland. I was exhausted, the kind of tired that comes from a week of consecutive nights of not enough sleep and too much to do. But Mitsu wanted to ski Mt. Adams with our friend Kendall, and I had weeks ago agreed to join. I was so tired when we were packing Mitsu’s Subaru that afternoon that I tossed my laptop in the back of the car just in case I decided to bail before we got started the next morning, and could at least get some work done. The stoke level, you could say, was almost imperceptible.
We went to bed at 11 p.m. I unzipped my sleeping bag at 3:20 a.m., wishing I had known what happened to the breakfast burrito I had bought the day before, for just this moment. Then I left my glacier glasses on the dashboard of the car as we started hiking at 4:05 a.m., skis and ski boots strapped to our packs. I walked at the back of our group of five, trying to keep words like “nap,” “bail,” “tired,” and “donuts” out of my mind as the sun slowly rose in the east and the ghost-white silhouette of Mt. Adams filled up the sky to the north.
I’ve been trying this trick lately, when I am semi-dreading something that I know will be hard, or that the lazy person inside me doesn’t really want to do: I talk myself into just starting it. When I tell myself I’m going to run four laps around the park near my house, I want to quit after one lap. So I just make myself start Lap No. 2. Then No. 3. Then No. 4. Pretty soon, at about the 45-minute mark, I start hating running less and actually having fun. And it’s the same thing with a trail run, a climb, or whatever: I know I like these things, but I have buried that thing that makes you go, that 100 percent knows that whatever it is will be fun.
I’m trying to be one of those people you might know, the people a lot of my friends are, who default to motion, who aren’t happy unless they’ve moved in some way every day. But I default to eating emotionally, trying to check things off my to-do list, and being sedentary—all things that are satisfying sometimes, but usually less rewarding than the hike, or the climb, or the camping trip that you keep putting off and then suddenly it’s October.
You just have to go sometimes. Ignore all the little voices in your head that can list a million things a minute that you need to do or would be more comfortable doing, and put on your damn running shoes, or pack your backpack, or get your gear out of the garage and throw it in the car. Maybe it’s not perfectly planned, or you won’t be able to get as far as you would like, but three miles is probably better than no miles, isn’t it?
The person you want to be would go, and the person you want to take care of would take a nap or just keep clicking around the internet and scrolling through feeds, hoping something halfway interesting might pop up. If you choose to not go often enough, eventually you’ll wonder where all the time went, and what you did with all those hours—because you won’t have any photos or memories.
Almost eight hours after we started hiking up the trail to Mt. Adams, with a stop to put skis and skins on, another stop to take them off and bootpack, a stop to put skis back on, and four breaks to eat breakfasts Nos. 2 through 5, we popped onto the summit of Mt. Adams, 6,700 feet above the car, and with a bluebird-sky view of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Rainier. I clicked into my skis and began the ski run of my life, down 4,000 vertical feet of soft spring snow in Adams’ Southwest Chutes. And once again, I couldn’t believe how hard it had been to talk myself into coming. That guy I was yesterday, who was “exhausted” and thought maybe he’d be better just taking a day off? What a fool.
More stories like this in my new book, Bears Don’t Care About Your Problems, out now.