Lost in the fog

2008-12-16 16.57.01Four of us on the top of one of the peaks in the English Lake District in thick fog and rain. Four 17 year old girls with inadequate hiking equipment mid way through a 100 mile youth hostelling trek.

We had a map of course, even a compass. But triangulation opportunities are somewhat limited in 10 metres visibility.

I was sure I knew which way we should go. Anne was equally sure – and thought the opposite direction. The other two were unsure and reluctant to voice an opinion.

Moments like this are an interesting point of tension. Of course the nice thing to do would be to yield to someone else’s opinion. Insisting on my own would definitely be a bit aggressive and Anne was a foreign exchange student from France, not part of our gang except temporarily. That made it both harder and easier to overrule her point of view.

And I wasn’t 100% sure myself. I was just fairly convinced that the path to our right would take us into the right valley. The price of getting it wrong was an extra 5 miles, probably in the dark, at the end of a tough day if we had to get back across from where I thought Anne’s route would take us to where that night’s youth hostel was.

I didn’t have the skills to show true leadership and win them over so instead I just set off with determination in the direction I believed was the right one. This caused some confusion among the other three. One of them followed me. Anne stood firm. The fourth member of our party looked uncertainly from one splinter group to the other and then followed the larger one. Furious, Anne realised she couldn’t go by herself the other way and stomped after us.

None of us spoke for quite a while. I was anxiously scanning for clues, any clues, that we were on track. Probably Anne was looking for confirmation of the opposite. We were all soaking wet, tired, hungry and worried. I now realize I never thought – why am I doing this? I never questioned the expedition itself.

You know how this ends. We were on the right track and we did make it. That’s the easy conclusion.

But for most of the time we don’t KNOW if we are on the right track or not. It is (hopefully) our best hunch, our best option given the information we have. Sometimes we discover new things en route which may confirm, or cause us to question, the path we have chosen. The only way to avoid this uncertainty is to stay at home or only follow well trodden paths. If , like me, that is not the life you yearn for then we have to find ways to live with the uncertainty, the doubt, the fear of failure, the actuality of failure. It’s part of the deal and with a following wind, hopefully we survive it and learn from it.

Keep on walking!

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