Man on a Cool Pine Top
(Not By Tennessee Williams)
Most people derive their beliefs from some significant event such as a death of someone close, getting a second chance at life, or working for the good of mankind. I, however, found my belief at the top of a fifty foot pine tree. Alone at the top, the forest intermingled with the Rockies, forming a rolling sea of green waves, crowned by mountainous white-caps. There is only one problem to this story…I never experienced it. I was two thousand miles away in Ohio.
In the early years of my life I was an introverted child, almost wetting myself every time I was put into a situation which was unfamiliar. Complacency ruled my life, and I did not see any reason why I should push to make new friends or try new activities. A move to a new elementary school destroyed my “cocoon”, but within a couple of months a new one took its place. For six more years I unknowingly sat in a prison of my own making, doing the same things day in and day out while talking with only a select group of people with whom I felt comfortable.
My attitude changed to experiences changed the summer of my sophomore year at Philmont Scout Ranch. Our ranger, Adam, told my group about lumber-jack climbing and how he conquered his initial fear of climbing a soaring fifty-foot pine tree. As he ascended, his legs trembling down to his spiked shoes which dug into the fresh pine, he looked around and realized how beautiful and serene the world seemed from up in the canopy. Coming down after such a revelation felt more depressing than relief. He conquered his fear and now offered these words of advice to our greenhorn trek: “Give everything a try; don’t waste the opportunities presented to you”. These words inspired me. I tried my hand at fly-fishing, horseback riding, leading the trek, and even making a double assent of a mountain , all of which I would have felt incapable of doing only a week before.
The world is a huge place filled with endless stories and opportunities, and I have come to realize one lesson: the more I explore different paths in the world, the more I understand about my own self. While limiting my life to those events I felt offered no risk, no growth took place; I was like the student who only develops knowledge in one area — limited. Removing the obstacles blocking my personal growth required incredible effort and diligence. This action, however, allowed the self-built walls of my prison begin to crumble somewhat. I say shrink because I am still not completely out of my comfort zone; I still must fight to keep from reverting to only those things known to me.
The power of breaking down a comfort zone must not, however, infringe on the enjoyment of things I love. This is to say that I must not avoid my established niche… just not suffocate myself in it. Approaching life this way has lead to more opportunities than I ever thought possible. Still I must strive to push my own personal character, testing it against new ideas and people, while retaining that which I find essential, but never being completely satisfied. This I believe most earnestly: thinking, living persons cannot live lives of learning and knowledge without pushing the boundaries of their selves and ideas.
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