Some months ago, I lost sight of what I liked about myself. I was struggling to remember what I strove for, what drove me and made me truly happy. I could recall what had worked in the past, but I’d been so disconnected from it for so long, I wasn’t certain if it still applied. I was too focused on comparing myself to those around me, trying to force myself to grow and change, rather than simply accepting that I was not, and would never be, like all these things that surround me. Some of them, perhaps. But not all of them.
On my recent trip back to Oregon, I took one day out just for me, and got lost for a while, in a very literal fashion. I got in my car around 10 in the morning, found a road I had never taken, and followed it to see where it took me. I wound up into mountain passes, took gambles on new directions when I found dead ends, and generally followed my instincts along a labyrinth of roads both well-traveled and forgotten.
Sometime after lunch I found myself on a highway that kept pace alongside the bends and cascades of a river still clear and cold as it gathered speed through the mountains, while the temperature cruised steadily into the 90s, making the river look more and more alluring. After a few miles of hot wind blowing like a hair drier in my face, I decided jumping in that river was going to have to happen. Pulling off at a promisingly secluded spot, I found a recently-deserted campground with a tidy path leading down to the river, a railing made of fallen branches ending at a pool made of stacked river stones. Beyond that, the river was briefly still as the bottom dropped away into a crystal-clear blue-green hole, bound on the opposite side by a flat, sun-baked rock just made for stretching out on. There was not another soul to be seen; it was my turn to have this little patch of summertime perfection for a while.
Stripping down, I waded into the rock pool and realized the water was still shockingly cold, and swimming would not last long. I dove into the depths of the hole and came up sputtering from the shock to my system, immediately scrambling into the broad, warm rock to escape the cold. I paused, letting the heat of the air and the stone take the chill away, then with a grin I jumped right back in, whooping as I scrambled back out again, my whole body awake.
I spent maybe the next two hours there, jumping in the water, lying in the sun, and reading my book; my only sense of time was the shifting shadows of the trees moving across the banks like a giant sundial, the curves and textures in the basalt as unmarked increments saying only that time was not standing still. In that space of time, I was reminded what it was to be truly happy with who and where I was, and that whatever else I did would not change that.