Ten thousand feet up, days from civilization, and ready to jump: I was backpacking the Sierra Nevadas after enduring twelve months of profound confusion. Embracing the adventure, I rediscovered my inner-compass — and with it, my passion.
A year ago my girlfriend Megan and I talked about our passions for traveling and nature. We would dream, sharing long elaborate stories of journeys both past and future. Alone, recollecting these conversations, I regarded the vast expanse of mountains before me, knowing I would summit the largest for sunrise. But now, the pond below me was clear and deep — perfect for jumping. I called off the side of the mountain for my friends, stripped down to my underwear, and prepared for flight, intent on conquering this newfound challenge; a few moments later, they were there with me, and together, we jumped. With a rush of adrenaline, the wind tore past my skin, and I met the ice cold water, melted from the snow which still packed the higher peaks
, but thoughts of Megan tempered the otherwise liberating experience.
A happy soul, Megan had always brightened conversation with her optimism and playfulness. However, with my back against the wall of commitment, I lacked the confidence and intensity necessary to maintain such a connection. I was too scared to jump and ended our relationship. We seldom spoke after that.
Summer had come and gone when I heard the news: Megan had taken her own life. Instinctively, I hid all emotion, dumbfounded and scared, how had I misjudged a soul so drastically?
After drying off we settled down for the night, and with the sunsetting we each took our leave. Stone-faced, but apprehensive for the hike the next morning, I was entranced by the fleeting colors of the sun giving way to the stars above and by the knowledge that these stars had guided many adventurers through uncertain times to incredible discovery.
4:15 a.m. and I was already quickly moving up the mountain, leaving the others far behind as I raced the sunrise. In the past, I would never have hiked alone, but since Megan’s death, detachment seemed safe and passion seemed risky. The world had changed, everything was a little ominous, a little more senseless.
Surrounded by mourners, my family and I waited for an hour to get into Megan’s wake, all the while feeling confused and alone. When my mom warned me, “I might cry inside,” I muttered a response, but began thinking of Megan’s warmth when she came to our pond for a skating party. I remembered her convincing me she would be ok if I went and played hockey. Afterward, I watched as she smiled, laughed and added to the mom’s conversation; how could this be over for her?
Walking inside, the heat of the outdoors faded away; I became cold. Her parents had tried to create a warm environment, as Megan would have wanted, but as I neared her all I felt was the wild sensation of an impossibility confirmed: how had such a vivacious person been capable of such a callous action? I shook her parents’ hands, but made no sound as her mom’s eyes and mine connected. I pulled away; cold and confused about where Megan’s adventure had taken her. Lost, I cried.
I reached the summit, breathless, as the sun’s rays just barely shone over the mountains, glimmering off the snow-capped peaks and piercing the black of night more vividly than a lone lantern. As one by one my friends joined me, the sun continued to rise, lighting the entire sky red and violet. A weight was lifted from my shoulders as dawn washed over me and the now golden snow. Standing warm and, for the first time, confident, droplets of pure, holy water cascaded down my cheeks; smiling, I know that for this adventure and those that follow, I am ready to jump again.