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pioneer spirit and the finish line

Updated: May 13, 2020

"There is no right or wrong way to get where you are going. Life is an individual trip and an experiment at best, with some acquired wisdom to guide you."

I have long envisioned myself as a descendant of pioneer people. I’m not sure the actual method my by which my ancestors delivered themselves to the prairies, but on our family farm there were traces of a time long since passed, when wagons would circle. In my early years roaming our land, both for amusement and to ward off boredom, I would speculate how, or why they came here.

I recon, because one should say recon when referencing the past, these hearty folks had a number of traits they passed down to us as prairie dwellers. We are independent, brave and resourceful. Somewhere deep inside us, we just know how to survive difficult situations, to find solutions to challenges, and to dig deep for optimism and hope.

I also speculate we are programmed with wanderlust. We seize the day and all its opportunities. We go into uncharted territory and want to see what is out in the world. We venture into the unknown to blaze a trail, scale a summit, or for the gift of seeing a simple sunset. Yes, I romanticize just about everything.

This pioneering spirit has surged me forward in many aspects of life. I want to know what I’m made of. I want to learn and understand, so I continue my education. I want to push my mind to explore new concepts, ideas and ideologies. I want to flex my brain and let it grow in knowledge.

I want to push my body and see what it is capable of. This has led a girl who was told she was useless in grade-school gym class to reach multiple marathon and Ironman finish lines. It also led me to the realization there is more than one way to get there.

A triathlon coach told me once that during a race I’d be overtaken by many people of all ages and physical descriptions. He said no matter how tempting it was to surge after them, to stick to my own race plan. He said I’d pass some of them on the run, when the day became long, spirits were weary and energy supplies were low. But even then, the other person would not matter, because it was still just my race. It was my journey. It was my effort that would propel me to the end. It was my will and heart and sweat that would allow me to take that last step so I could hear my name and the words, “you are an Ironman.” The lesson was: there are a lot of people in the race and every single one of them will get to the end a different way–in their own way.

There is no right or wrong way to get where you are going. Life is an individual trip and an experiment at best, with some acquired wisdom to guide you. Nobody can tell you what is best for you. You need to drive your own wagon down the dusty trail and explore your own horizons your own way. The thing I learned when I was training is that the finish line was just one moment and it wasn’t even the most important thing. It was all of the other moments and effort and experiences that led up to it that made it amazing.

In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “It’s not the destination, it's the journey.”

This situation we are all experiencing might be imposed on us, but it will forever be part of our collective and individual stories. It will imprint on us and will factor into many things going forward. I feel there is an opportunity in the pause to make a game plan for our future. Then, when we are released back out into the world and are free, we will be primed and ready at the starting line of a brand new race. One with infinite possibilities, new limits to test, and a road in front of us just waiting to be explored.

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