Last summer my friend Shreya introduced me to the book This I Believe, which is a collection of personal philosophies based on an NPR show from the 1950s. I loved the book so much that I gave a copy to my friend Ashley for her birthday and the book is currently sitting on my coffee table. And consequently, since summer, I have been thinking about what I believe. I wanted to write my own piece after reading the book last summer, but I had no idea where to begin. Over the past nine months, I have lived in Atlanta, moved back to Denver, and started to figure out who I am and what I want out of life. Life is a constant evolution and journey, and by no means do I think that I have all the answers. However, I have truly grown a lot over the past year and I now have an inkling of an idea of what I believe.
The scenic route
I believe in the scenic route.
The spring of my first year of graduate school nothing in my life seemed to go my way. Of the 20 summer internships I had applied for, I was a finalist for three, but ultimately selected for none. In May, I suddenly found myself with no immediate plans for the next three months. At the last minute, one of my classmates, who had of course secured a summer internship for herself, referred me to her employer and I was able to find a job.
Even as I had found a job, however, I had to wait several weeks before I could start the position due to a pending background check. Those weeks could have been completely wasted weeks of my life, spent wallowing in my apartment, sleeping in and watching television. Instead, during those weeks of waiting, I truly began to live for perhaps the first time in my short 22 years of existence. I found myself regularly waking up at 4:30 a.m. to go on 14 mile hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, whitewater rafting, visiting museums and trail running.
My friends all had day jobs and I mostly headed out for these adventures solo. On hikes I would often hear people incredulously ask me if I was hiking alone. I would smile and nod while equally thinking to myself how incredulous it is that other people depend so heavily on others for their happiness. To me it seemed silly to wait to schedule a hike when one of my friends could go when I had free time. I began to realize that the course of my life depended entirely on my own actions. I could actively pursue happiness for myself or I could wait for the world to drop it in my lap. Needless to say, I chose to make happiness for myself. After all, the belief in the scenic route is an approach to life that allows one to enjoy exactly where one is in life.
Was I sad that I had not received an internship in Washington, D.C. as I ate lunches of peanut butter and honey sandwiches at the shores of majestic mountain lakes? Not in the least. Moreover, I began to see obstacles and challenges as points along the journey. For those who have ever ridden in my car, it probably comes as no surprise that I got lost about every other time that I went hiking or trail running. Regardless, I was never mad about spending an extra hour scrambling down a boulder field because of a wrong turn or getting caught in a torrential downpour six miles away from the trailhead. None of these events changed the fact that I was in the midst of amazing scenery. Since I had long decided to believe in the scenic route, I appreciated these types of experiences just as much as the perfect days for the richness they brought to my life.
Eventually, I started working that summer, but I never lost sight of the scenic route. The scenic route was not a temporary period but rather a permanent facet in my life. I actively pursued ways to continue enjoying the journey. I kept running clothes in my trunk, peeling out from work in the afternoons for trail runs. I spent my weekends hiking in the mountains. More importantly, I still secured my first choice internship for the fall. And when I got to Atlanta for my internship, I continued living the scenic route, experiencing a beautiful Georgia fall. The end result was the same, yet by simply embracing the scenic route I just may have found happiness and myself along the way. No big deal.
Special thanks to Jenn Ben for giving me the “scenic route”.
Along the scenic route – Colorado
Along the scenic route – Georgia