I never signed a waiver agreeing to risks of life. I definitely did not ever sign an agreement to die someday. I was put here involuntarily. My parents did not think that maybe I did not want to be born. There are so many risks in this world and the only physical truth is the one that most of us like to avoid. But I am so glad that my parents did not think that. I am so glad I have been thrown into this life involuntarily. I did not sign a waiver, but because I was given life, I will agree to die someday.
No matter how hard we fight against disease and how much exercise and healthy eating we commit to, the end still comes. No matter if we live life protected by four walls or if we float miles above the earth skydiving, the inevitable still remains the inevitable. I once had a t-shirt that listed possible ways to die on the ski slopes of Vail, Colorado and the last line said how we could fall off the couch and die.
I’m not too worried about that whole end thing. It’s going to happen so why lose the enjoyment of life by worrying about death? Nah, I’ll stick to living. Some adults lose that approach and some kids maybe should at least slightly admit to vincibility.
Much of my life I have lived oblivious to the fact that I can be defeated. Once in mid-winter I rode my bike down and up Snowshoe’s snowy mountain road. I thought it would be a pain threshold test but it turned out to be more. At 55 miles per hour, the speed knocked the already -15 degree wind chill down to -30. When I rolled into the house, I looked my mom in the eyes and referring to my ride, said, “I don’t know what giving birth exactly feels like, but it couldn’t have been that bad”. The action of riding in a severely underdone outfit didn’t even skim the surface of how stupid it was to ride a bike at 55 m.p.h. on a snowy road.
As I am about to embark on a 2000 mile trail alone, at times with no help around for miles, I am constantly questioning if I have the maturity to totally grasp and understand my vincibility.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, in Pelham, Alabama for the Xterra Southeast Championships, I underestimated the heat. While refusing to quit the race and accept medical attention, with early stages of heat stroke, I risked my life. Some ways to go out are pretty epic and respectable but neither of those words describe dying at 17 because of refusing to drop out of a triathlon.
So while I cannot prepare for everything the trail has to throw at me, I have been told being adequately knowledgeable and experienced will keep me from making silly mistakes that could bring about my death. Life is an extremely complex existence that is way beyond any science or religion. No matter how much I learn about how things in the body happen, the question of how molecules come together to bring life will never be answered. It will always amaze me. But at the same time, complexity typically brings fragility. Life is fragile and the end can be brought about any number of ways. If I search all around me for ways that could bring that end, I will be distracted from everything that makes life great.
The night before my tenth birthday I touched an exposed wire that juiced my body like the two sets of baseball field lights above. Sure the shock of four-hundred and eighty volts left me frightened, but as I left the hospital the doctor’s warning of black urine took my fear to another whole level.
A senior at Freeman high school student’s lack of brains and excess of guts risked my life when he decided a stop was a stoptional. Sure I cannot live my life in fear of everything that surrounds me, but with a little caution and care I can possibly avoid many traps that would threaten an inattentive person’s life. That is not to say that driving is dangerous so I should not do it. But if I had not been on mental cruise control, thinking about my math exam rather than the world surrounding me, maybe I would have seen him pulling in front of me. Maybe he would have driven away ashamed rather than walk away punished. My totaled car sure would have appreciated it. So would his car insurance bill. Although his lack of attentiveness was given the ticket, maybe more awareness on my part could have prevented it. True, death traps surround me, but after these occurrences I learned that with care I can avoid most of them. I’m four for four on my slightly life threatening incidents being user error.
I would rather not have the reputation as the kid who went out on the A.T. at 19, completely unprepared and inexperienced, and died of hypothermia from not having adequate rain gear. Alternatively, crawling for miles to a road, eventually dying of blood loss after wrestling and killing an adult black bear, that’s not too bad. Neither is ideal of course but the difference is that one I was unprepared and the other I could not have prepared for. Yes of course I could get a desk job and live in the suburbs with the convenience of a knob to adjust the temperature within my walls in even the worst weather. I’ve been doing something like that for nineteen years and that does not really satisfy my urge for adventure.
Like I said, I don’t have a death wish. I just feel that I am going to be surrounded by danger everywhere. No need to take unnecessary risks though. That is why I am doing all my research and meticulously planning the trip down to each calorie and mile hiked each day. To accompany me on my trip is a GPS dubbed “Spot” that has four buttons. One tells my mama I’m warm and okay. One tells her I’m not doing too hot and I want to come home. Another sends my coordinates to 9-1-1 and well, I just hope I don’t have to use that button. And lastly the On/Off button will come in handy.
I do have my nightmares and I do have occasional anxiety about the trip. I have considered not commiting to the expedition. But as much as my mom wishes it did, my mind just cannot seem to win over my heart. The trail has its hold on me and its not letting go until I find out what its all about. I was given life, I will agree to die someday, but for now I get to live and I don’t mind taking advantage of that.