“I ain’t lived forever but I’ve lived enough. I’ve learned to be gentle and I’ve learned to be tough. I’ve found only two things that last to the end; One is your heroes and the other’s your friends.” ~Heroes and Friends by Randy Travis
These words echoed through my thoughts as I watched my best friend load up her Jeep and drive away. Just as anyone who watches a loved one depart, my heart welled up with bittersweet sadness.
Spending two weeks with my best friend was blissful – we were like two girls back in college as if no time had passed. Although we’ve both grown in so many ways – traveled, picked up new hobbies, made new friends, married the loves of our lives, and bought our first homes – we haven’t grown apart.
Quite the opposite actually. I know now more than ever that my friend will always be by my side, no matter how much time and distance there is between us.
Do you have such a friend?
She’s what Anne of Green Gables would call a “bosom friend — an intimate friend, you know–a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul.”
Like my friend Zeenat recently wrote, soul mates can come in many forms. A friend like that is a rare treasure, and I’m fortunate to say I’ve found one. She’s enriched my life beyond measure, as all such friends do.
Aside from my bosom friend, I feel so fortunate to have many incredible friends in my life.
Some were childhood friends – ones that fill my past full of happy memories – trading our toys, selling lemonade, and riding our bikes all over town. Some were high school friends – ones that were with me through the most transformative years of my life, getting me into sports, getting me into trouble, and seeing me through my first love and loss.
As an adult, friends have flowed in and out of my life, through college, work, and various hobbies. Some will stay in my life and others will slowly fade out, but all will impact my life for the better.
For at our very core, we are social beings, and we need our friends.
Friends are what make coffee talks interesting, work less boring, and life more fulfilling. They are the ones who make us laugh, and are there for us when we cry. They are the ones who believe in us, experience the joys of life with us, and stand by us through the trials of our lives.
Just as we need our friends, we all need our heroes as well – those wonderful and seemingly super-human beings who inspire us to new levels of greatness simply by being who they are and doing what they do.
Like the many friends who come and go, my life has been filled with heroes every step of the way. They’ve come in many forms – cartoon characters, family members, teachers, coaches, historical figures, priests, motivational speakers, mentors, and other amazing people who are out there living passionately and authentically.
While my friend was here visiting, I had the opportunity to hear one of such heroes speak at the annual gathering of the North Country Trail Association. Andrew Skurka was invited to deliver a presentation about his most recent epic backpacking adventure around Alaska and the Yukon.
If you’re a backpacker, odds are you’ve heard of Andrew. He was named “Person of the Year” by Backpacker in 2005 and “Adventurer of the Year” by National Geographic in 2007 and Outside in 2010. Furthermore, he was featured in the March 2011 issue of National Geographic, who flew out to Alaska three times during his 6 month journey to film and photograph his feats.
I first heard Andrew speak at the 2010 Adventure Summit held at Wright State University. He discussed some of this incredible thru-hikes as well as his philosophy on lightweight backpacking. Both times, I left feeling inspired, full of energy, and the urge to be out on the trail right away.
That’s what our heroes do — they move and inspire us through their words and actions.
Listening intently during his recent talk, I was mesmerized as Andrew spoke and flipped through pictures and videos of his Alaska-Yukon adventure.
“People always ask me ‘Why do you do this?’” he relayed to us as he began scrolling through pictures of breathtaking landscapes and indigenous peoples. “I do it to experience the aesthetics, the beauty of nature. I do it to experience different cultures. Ultimately, I do it because life is short and I want to do what makes me happiest.”
During his Alaska-Yukon expedition, Andrew described experiencing higher highs and lower lows than ever before. “I was on an emotional roller coaster.”
At one point during the expedition, he felt like he was reaching a physical and mental breaking point, as though he was always one step away from a tragic mistake. Exasperated, he called one of his mentors, explaining how uncomfortable he was feeling. To which he received, “Skurka, this is big wilderness. You’ll never be comfortable, and frankly, that’s how you should want it.”
I guess even heroes need their heroes sometimes.
As he pressed on, Andrew developed an even deeper sense of respect and humility for the land, and he experienced a fundamental shift in the way he approached the wilderness. “It required a great deal of patience. I had to operate on nature’s terms.”
Expeditions like these force you to act on a very primal level. It became “Move. Eat. Sleep.” And after awhile, he realized “eating and sleeping are just tools. Enablers. It’s all about the movement.”
This point really hit home as he approached a caribou crossing filled with thousands of tracks. He showed us a very moving video clip that showcased the powerful emotions welling up inside him at the moment. “Big wilderness is a place where you come to get humbled…You’re just another animal on this planet…Out here, I feel like I’m experiencing life.”
Why am I telling you all of this?
To put it simply: I was inspired. We all need others to inspire us, and we all have the power to inspire.
“Your heroes will help you find good in yourself. Your friends won’t forsake you for somebody else. They’ll both stand beside you through thick and through thin, and that’s how it goes with heroes and friends.” ~Heroes and Friends by Randy Travis
I would like to encourage you to take some time to think about your own heroes and friends today.
Who are the friends who you can always count on? Who always has your back? Whose back do you have?
Who are your heroes? Who out there inspires you? What is it about them or what they do that inspires you? Who are you or what are you doing that inspires others?
If I haven’t said it to you before, thanks so much for being my friend, and for all the inspiration you give to me!Image credit: Anne of Green Gables Photo Gallery; Andrew Skurka File Photos