A Hiker’s View of Uncertainty

I can’t stand it.

Stand what?

All this uncertainty.  All this complication.

Ah.  This again.

I mean, here I am filling out these applications, gathering writing samples, letters of recommendation, statements of purpose, GRE score reports, transcripts… all these bits of paper that are supposed to say I’m worth something.  You and I both know I’m worth something no matter what the bits of paper say, but they don’t know that.  I’m begging, that’s what I’m doing, and I hate the feel of it.

Mmm-hmm.

Begging for the future.  Because if they let me in I’ll have one future, and if a different place lets me in I’ll have a different future, and if none of them let me in I’ll have a third future.  I don’t know where I’ll end up going.

You feel the responsibility is on you to make sure you get into the best future?

All right, no.  Not when you put it like that.  But the responsibility IS on me to do well.  For example: the letters of recommendation.  I didn’t start asking professors about them in November, I waited until December.  That’s all on me.

*sigh*  Things are so much simpler when it’s just me, a pack on my back, and a trail to follow.

*laughter*

What?

You really think there’s that much difference between hiking and what you’re going through now?

Well?  Isn’t there?  For one thing hikers don’t have to fill out so many stinkin’ forms.

All right, let’s talk this out.  Do you ever run into trouble while hiking?

Well, yeah, all the time.

Like when?

All right, there was this time when we forgot our ground tarps.  We could hear the approaching thunder of a distant Adirondack storm, and knew we were going to get drenched.  I sent my junior counselor and one of the kids back to camp to get the ground tarps while I battened down the hatches.  Turned out that was breaking two or three New York State camping regulations–my J.C. was under eighteen and shouldn’t have been doing trails without a senior counselor around.  But in any case, we got the tarps, just as the storm really came blowing in.

Any other times?

Okay, there was this other time when I was with a youth group camping trip, mostly inexperienced hikers.  And we made a wrong turn or something.  In any case the campsite which was supposed to be three miles away turned out to be ten miles away or more, and it was starting to get dark.

What happened?

Well, I remember Pastor Greg moved all the tents and campsite equipment to the fastest hikers and sent them on ahead, so that they could get there before the light was gone and get the tends up.  I wasn’t one of the fastest but I wasn’t far behind, either–and in the end we all got there before the sunset had fully left the sky.

Any other times?

Well, there was that time in England when my dad and I lost the trail.  The trail had been going over stiles and through the back pastures of all these Devon farmsteads, but somehow we just lost it.  We ended up in a cow feild and the cows were chasing us because they wanted to be fed or something.  So we went through a gate to get away from the cows and found ourselves in a wheat feild with no trails at all.  Ended up climbing over a barbed-wire fence, striking out along random roads that seemed to be going in the right direction, and eventually picking up the trail again.

Were you stressed when these things happened?  Freaked out at all?

A little worried, sure, but not freaked.  Mostly I just hunkered down and made do.  As long as there’s light in the sky you can do something, work toward what needs to be done.  And when there’s no light left, you can just lay down where you are, roll up in a sleeping bag along the side of the trail, and wait for morning.

Were any of these problems your fault?

Oh yeah, sure.  Reading the map wrong, forgetting the tarps, those were mine.

You don’t seem that ashamed about it.

Well it happens, you know?  Happens to the best of us.  I’m sure even Aragorn got on the wrong trail sometimes.  It’s not something to be ashamed of.  You just turn around and try to make up the lost time.  Besides, we’ve found some beautiful places we wouldn’t have found if we hadn’t gotten lost.

We’re not just talking about hiking, are we?

Ah, he’s catching on.

So you’re saying that even if I screw things up with these applications, it’s no more serious or cause for worry than problems on the trail?

Mmm-hmm.  Keep going.

And that I don’t need to stress about this stuff but just hunker down and do what I can?

*smile*

Are you using the tired old life-as-a-journey metaphor on me again?

Maybe.

You know, you could have just said, “Don’t stress out.”

Sure I could have.  But I like making my point through stories.

I’ve noticed.

“By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed to go out unto a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.  By faith he became a sojourner in the land of promise, as in a land not his own, dwelling in tents, with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise.”  (Hebrews 11:8-9)

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