I can stand at this trailhead and ask a multitude of questions that help me prepare for the adventure, or I can let those questions scare me out of proceeding. What animals may I encounter that pose a threat? Are there bears, mountain lions, or rattlesnakes? What if I slip and fall and get hurt? Will the path be as clearly evident deep in the forest as what it is here at the start? Is there a danger I could get lost? Do I have the necessary supplies? Do these questions help prepare me for the journey, or do they simply instill doubt, fear, and a reluctance to proceed?
Due to being diagnosed with cancer at the age of 25, I often ponder what life may have looked like without that experience. My life took a significant turn at that juncture for a variety of reasons. After surviving surgery and months of chemotherapy treatments, it took a long time for my body to regain even a fraction of the strength I had prior to my diagnosis.
As life continued on I noticed two things about myself. On one hand, I was cautious about guarding my physical health. I played both basketball and baseball at the collegiate level just a few years prior to my cancer diagnosis. I knew what it was like to be in good physical shape. As I regained some of my stamina, I did not want to do something stupid and end up regressing in my rehabilitation. I did not take any unnecessary risks. Would I have enjoyed a shot at whitewater rafting? Yes. Was I sure my body could handle the jolts that would be thrown our way in the rapids? No. I opted not to pursue it.
On the other hand, I found myself more willing to take other risks. I figured that I only live once, and I wasn't sure how long that period of time would be. So I thought I should make the most of it. I was willing to change jobs, accept positions above my current abilities to continue to grow and learn, relocate to other states, and ultimately, experience new cultures. My family did not necessarily always share my enthusiasm for these new endeavors, but I will go to my grave knowing that I gave them a chance to experience things beyond our Missouri upbringings. I will never regret the experiences I accumulated as I learned new jobs, met new people, and embraced new cultures.
Growing up on a hog farm in Missouri taught me the value of hard work. Playing sports at the university level taught me the necessity of discipline and the pain of pushing the limits on physical endurance. My education taught me that life is much bigger than my small corner of it. My faith taught me to stay rooted in prayer. My work in law enforcement and corrections taught me the value of having family support, and witnessing what happens when that is lacking. My work in education taught me that providing the right tools to our young people is key for their success. Illness taught me about health. The beauty of creation taught me about hope.
The "Show Me" state was an inspiration for me to "see" as much as I could. I enjoyed time boating on the Cuivre River, the Mississippi River, and a few trips to the Lake of the Ozarks. Branson was an up-and-coming entity when we visited there thirty years ago or more. It is a whole lot more now than just Silver Dollar City. Numerous trips to Hannibal made me envy the travels of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. I wanted to see it all.
The majestic mountains in Colorado and Wyoming have served as home for more than a decade. Yellowstone National Park, The Grand Tetons National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, and a whole lot of areas visible along the highways demonstrate the magnificence of our Creator. There is a wow factor in seeing the mountains. However, I will always cherish the year I had in the "lowcountry" when we lived on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. The heat, the humidity, the bugs, the alligators--yes, it was all worth it to be near the ocean and to enjoy the mild winter weather. The soothing sound of the waves, and the expanse of the ocean, provides another wow factor to the beauty of creation.
A few trips to the Caribbean on vacation have convinced me that I am a warm weather type of person. On the flip side, a couple of trips to Alaska have also shown the beauty that can be experienced even if the environment is cold and harsh.
What's the point of all of this? Simple. Do not miss the adventures of life!