A few years’ back, I spent four weeks of my summer working at a small camp in the Santa Cruz mountains, a luxury and heartache we signed up for as Young Life staff. Each week a new crew of campers would arrive, and we’d then spend the week building relationships and talking about Jesus, in the midst of various activities: kayaking at Elkhorn Slough, surfing in the Pacific Ocean, mountain biking in the forest, along with cliff-jumping and hiking and skateboarding, if one pleased.
Now, I spent some time at a campsite or two growing up, and certainly have a fondness for burnt marshmallows and late-night philosophical discussions that happen best while staring at a bed of glowing embers. I’ve even been known to go a day or two […or three – then I had a kid. Shower? Who has time for that?] without a shower – but to seemingly live like this for four weeks?
Total first-world problem.
I want said shower.
And a glass of wine.
And an outfit besides the same two t-shirts I’ve been alternating off and on for the past seven days.
I mean, a girl can dream, right?
But of that time spent at camp, this I loved: even if we weren’t exactly the sportiest of Sporty Spice’s, there was a place for us. There was a place, even for me.
Case in point: mountain biking.
Dear Lord, whoever invented the bicycle obviously didn’t intend for sticks and twigs and branches and mud puddles (for crying out loud) to be part of its intended course. But apparently, at camp, we did.
So I donned my sportiest outfit and running shoes, filled up my water bottle and secured my bicycle helmet. Safety first! Like a sacrificial lamb, I humbly offered to ride last, “…you know just in case some slow campers needed a friend.”
I’m pretty sure the camp director and property manager saw right through me, but nevertheless, they obliged, and week after week, Miss Cara took up the rear.
And week after week, I had to traverse a bike path quite unlike the well-paved sidewalks of my childhood (of which I was a bike-riding expert).
I remember my friend James (not to be confused with the HBH) finally pulling me aside one day, and telling me this: “Don’t look down. Stare straight ahead – because wherever you look, your bike is going to follow.”
And he was right, of course. I stopped staring at the ominous, narrowing three-inch path before me, and instead looked 10, 20, 30 feet down the path. I found myself going a little faster, not slamming on the brakes so much, and soon teaching the back-of-the-line bikers a thing or two about mountain biking professionalism. I also bought a bike after that summer, but never mind that it hasn’t exactly been ridden since, um, 2009 or so.
So, why this story today?
There’s a great fear that lurks within many of us, so deep and so big that we don’t even know it’s there until we hop on the bike and start riding. It’s scary to keep hopping on that bike, and to start at the trail head again, when you know that your heart’s going to pound like a big, bad drum, and you’re supposed to have everything together, along with apparent fearlessness. And my natural tendency is to look down, because that’s all I’ve ever known, but in doing so, I get tripped up.
I loved what Seth Godin had to say yesterday (on entrepreneurship):
“The cost of setting up a lemonade stand (or whatever metaphorical equivalent you dream up) is almost 100% internal. Until you confront the fear and discomfort of being in the world and saying, “here, I made this,” it’s impossible to understand anything at all about what it means to be a entrepreneur. Or an artist.”
For me, it’s scary putting my writing out there, because it’s what I haven’t known. I’ve always loved writing, but it’s never been my job of sorts – and now, it’s real and new and different. It’s the unknown.
It’s scary publishing a post or submitting an article or asking for real, genuine, bonafide feedback from other writers. I wonder if I’ve said too much or too little or the wrong thing entirely, and then feelings of self-doubt creep in when I haven’t heard back after an hour or two. [For the love of instant gratification, enough already!]
I want to be liked and acknowledged and understood, and I flounder between then dismissing the unimportant (like the aforementioned triplet of verbs), and continuing to write, because I need to, even if not a soul says something about it.
It’s like I’m presenting my own little offering before the altar, and I’m hoping that it’s enough.
And you know what? I think it is.0