Every year for the past six years, I have gone hiking with my life-long friend, Gloria. Before I moved back to Minnesota, she would travel to my home in Texas for a week of hiking in parks throughout the state. During my last year in Texas, we decided to venture further from home and hike the McKitrick Range in Guadalupe National Park. The weather was gorgeous, a mild 50-60 degrees. A footnote: neither one of us are what I would call ultra hikers in terms of physical fitness, but we enjoy the adventure of a good 3-4 mile hike. After hiking for a couple of hours, we came to a fork in the road. One way led downhill to the grotto; the other upward to the mountain ridge. We chose the ridge hoping for greater views and because I generally have this inner need for uphill battles. After climbing steeply for about a mile, we took a 10-minute break. I was sensing that Gloria was ready to turn around and hike back out; however, knowing me as well as she does, she let me make the decision. I decided we should continue the upward climb in spite of our dwindling water supply, slightly sunburned arms, and overly-stimulated muscles.
Ever since I can remember, I have always been driven to reach for the top. Most people would say that’s a good goal to live by. And most of the time I would agree. But sometimes, we need to take a second look at the standards that we set for ourselves. They may be too low, and then again, they may be unrelenting. After hiking for 5 miles–mostly uphill–I knew that we should turn around, but for my entire life, I have pushed myself to never settle for anything but the top. Standing on the edge of the mountain, tired and thirsty, I looked out at the marvelous view, the expanse of hills, trees and rock. A moment of clarity occurred — the reward was in this present moment and the journey thus far. It wasn’t necessary to reach the top to experience the joy of a day spent with my best friend. My current vantage point provided all that I needed.
I realize now that perfection isn’t necessary. I am loved in spite of my imperfections. And I love others in spite of theirs.