Last week I had quite an Upstate New York experience that ended up teaching me more about life than I would have ever known. The plan was to tandem kayak with a sweet friend of mine on the West branch of the Sacandaga river. This was my first true kayak experience as my previous adventure consisted of canoeing on the tiny pond at summer camp so many moons before.

We make the hour and a half trip up winding back roads towards the Adirondacks with an 80 pound tandem kayak on the roof of the Prius…quite the sight to see. Eager I was to expand my adventures in the great upstate.
In life we are eager and full of excitement as we attempt something new in our lives. We load ourselves down with what we think we will need and attempt the journey ahead of us with only the greatest of hopes that could never be let down, because we will succeed.

As we hop in the tandem kayak, I am in the front and Gaby in the back steering the rudder. My eager excitement suddenly turned into nervous uncertainty. I feel as if I am pioneering this adventure and how the heck do I possibly steer this thing with the simple double sided oar in my hands? As we begin our alleged 9 mile trek via kayak, I suddenly feel too close to the water and that I am suddenly vulnerable.
As we step foot into a new adventure of life, uncertainty can invade the spaces that were once ruled by excitement. Confidence has now turned into cautionary steps as we attempt to figure out how to navigate life without tipping over.

As we paddle along, my nervous uncertainty becomes anxiety and paranoia. The water is suddenly clear and the long water grass is eerily flowing like a beast's long hair. What else is lurking in the water which I am unnaturally close to? Will I see a snake? A huge fish 3 times longer than the suddenly tiny kayak? Why is the water so still? Do Alligators live in Upstate New York?
Before my questions can be answered we come upon a huge dam of large trees that are just lying across the river. I am now terrified as my imagination runs wild. As we try to paddle over the tops of these creepy trees, I can only picture myself falling into the water, getting trapped in the branches of the trees and becoming huge fish bait.
Suddenly life is nothing we expected at all. There are road blocks to our plans that make us want to close our eyes and just scream until it's over. After the momentary freakout you realize the only way to get through the tangle of life, is to blaze right through the sticky branches, carefully moving and guarding yourself from the rotting stumps that are just waiting to drag you down.

After we pass over the ominous tree dam, the river suddenly opens up to a much wider branch of the river and the view is absolutely stunning. We slowed our pace, took a snack break and commented how there HAD to be a God for this kind of beauty. My terror ceased and we laughed at how silly I was for being terrified of fallen trees in our path. I apologized for being whiney and just soaked in the view. I felt like I was truly living after what we just made it through. We dreamed aloud of a life that was so simple. One without technology, once secluded in the beauty that was before us.
When things are going well in life, we easily forget about our sufferings, and push them to the back of our minds as if to erase the memories completely. We laugh at the thought of our terror and confidence, sometimes cockiness returns. We just suffered so things should be great the rest of the time, right? Wrong.

We suddenly heard a clap of thunder and the skies opened into a torrential downpour…seriously TORRENTIAL. At this point, all we could do was scream with laughter as the cold rain pelted us, washed the sunscreen, bug spray and confidence all away. As the rain continued, those thoughts returned. What if the boat fills with water and it sinks? What if it never stops raining and we have to travel the next 5 miles this way?
Why ever did we think we were invincible? When things go wrong in our lives, it often feels like it's pouring and you are unable to catch a full breath without sputtering for air. We suddenly ask "Why me?" and those days of sunshine and beauty never existed either. There are times the rain is falling so hard, you are unable to muster the hope of bright skies in the future.

After a grueling 9 miles turned 11, we reach ground and could kiss the Earth which resembled stability and familiarity. Our muscles ached with pain reflected in a hard days work. Our minds are tired as we were catapulted through almost bi-polar emotions. We laugh because we are safe; we are proud because yes, we just did that.

So much of what I experienced last week can easily be an analogy for life. Often changing, full of uncertainty but one that reaps the greatest of rewards.

And just like that, I can check "novice kayaker" off my list of resume of life, because I feel as if I could take on the world. We are taken through these journeys to only come out stronger with more muscle, wiser with more knowledge than we ever thought possible.

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  1. Love what you learned and how you wrote the post to illustrate that.

  2. So beautiful and so true. It's funny how something you never expected to, teaches you a more about life.

  3. What a wonderful post. I am really scared of kayaking. My boyfriend has been on me to try it out. I am glad you got a chance to do it and feel so many emotions. I know mine would go straight for anxiety. The scenery was stunning and I definitely remember that thunderstorm that came through!

  4. I adore the analogy here. Because, well, you know how I feel about them. But, can we please talk about what a badass you are kayaking like that? That would be Jason's dream for us... But I'm just not THAT brave or fun... Slash California's in a MAJOR drought so we'd have to paddle ourselves through the sand of the river bed and, well, not dreamy.

  5. I love this post because it reminds me of so many times I "kayaked" myself. A great reminder to really open up to life, the easy and the challenging