You think you know how things will end, but you don’t
About six months ago, I received an email from the mother of an old friend.
“You are one of the few people I know who are doing what they said they wanted to do, at a young age,” she wrote.
I frowned when I read this.
Was my friend’s mother right? Was I doing what I’d always wanted to do? Was I living the dream?
Sure, I’d always wanted to be a writer and work at a newspaper. But I never imagined that I’d end up in upstate New York. And I never thought I’d stay so long once I got here. When I arrived in late 2001, I’m sure I thought of the Capital Region as just another stop on life’s journey — one of many possible stops. After all, I could have gone some place else. But then I wouldn’t have met all the great people I’ve met here, and done all of the interesting things I’ve done.
Of course, I tend to meet interesting people and do interesting things wherever I go.
The other night I spoke with a friend who recently moved to Charleston, S.C., and by the end of the conversation I was ready to plan a trip there. Charleston sounds fascinating — rich in history, with beautiful architecture, a vibrant arts scene and a pleasant climate. Could I live in Charleston? Absolutely. Will I ever live there? Probably not. Although life is full of possibilities, and you never know.
Perhaps this mentality explains why I recently announced to my editor that I never want to read the sentence “It couldn’t have ended any other way” ever again in my life. This sentence pops up frequently, and I’m convinced it’s never true. Things can always end differently. Plans frequently change. You set out to do one thing, and you wind up doing another.
Last summer I caught up with a friend from high school who always swore he would never have kids. Now he has a toddler. People often change their minds about having children, and whenever someone tells me they’ll never have kids, I tend to be skeptical. But I really believed this particular friend. He is not the warm and cuddly type and has little interest in convention or social niceties.
“I thought you said you were never going to have kids,” I remarked.
“Yeah,” he said. “But things change.”
I’m in favor of change, in theory.
But in my personal life, I tend to be apprehensive about change. When forced to confront new challenges or situations, I get nervous. When plans change unexpectedly, I get really annoyed.
Though not always.
A couple of weeks ago, I set off to hike Rocky Peak Ridge, one of the high peaks in the Adirondacks, with a friend. Because it’s fall, we knew we’d have to get an early start, and prepare for cooler temperatures. We were on trail by 9 a.m., although an 8 a.m. or 7 a.m. start would have been better, our backpacks fi lled with food and winter-weather attire — hats, gloves, long johns, etc.
It was a beautiful day.
Warm, but not too warm. Cloudfree. And quiet: We didn’t see anyone else on the trail, and it felt like we had the forest to ourselves. Most hikers take a different route, first ascending Giant Mountain, one of the most popular hikes in the Adirondacks. But we opted to take the trail less traveled, which starts in the east, from New Russia. Hiking over Giant and then to Rocky sounded hard. We thought it would be easier to hike over two smaller mountains, Blueberry Cobbles and Bald Peak, to get to the summit.
Rocky Peak is my kind of hike: Much of it takes place on bare, open rock, which makes for outstanding, occasionally precipitous views, especially on a clear day. There are large, formidable boulders, and glacial valleys and ledges and overlooks that resemble the surface of on. Neither of us liked the look of the clouds, or the thought of hiking after sunset. So we turned around.
Failing to reach summit is the sort of thing that normally fills me with a sense of frustration and defeat.
But I didn’t feel that way on this particular day. Instead, I felt strangely elated.
The hike had been so rewarding — so full of beautiful sights and sounds — that it was impossible to feel disappointed. We’d had a wonderful journey. And isn’t that what really matters?
the moon. At one point we looked down and saw a rainbow forming beneath us — shimmering upon the trees in an impressionistic splash of color.
“I’ve never seen anything like that before,” I said, as we stared in awe at the rainbow.
By the time we arrived at what we thought was the summit, it was starting to get cold. And when I glanced at the guidebook and determined that the summit was over a mile away, we had to make a decision. The wind was picking up. We could see dark, ominous clouds rolling in. And we didn’t have all that much daylight left — if we kept going, it would be dark by the time we got back to the trailhead.
It’s with a mixture of sadness and excitement that I announce that this will be my last Saturday column. Starting next week I am going to be writing a news column that will appear Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in the local section.
This will be a change of pace I’m always reluctant to bail on for me — I’ll be sharing more of a hike, but it seemed foolish to go my opinions about current events, and fewer stories about my family and friends, though I’m sure I’ll still manage to sneak those in from time to time. And I’ll continue to blog about arts and entertainment and my other hobbies and interests on the Gazette website.
Over the years, I’ve really appreciated the warm response to my column from readers. The column has been fun for me, and I’ve delighted in the fact that other people have enjoyed it. But when opportunities present themselves, I try to take advantage of them. Because it’s about the journey, and the experiences we have along the way. I always swore I would never be a news columnist. But, you know, things change.