Listening to the Silence

Elizabeth - Appleton, Wisconsin
Entered on October 16, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
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Last summer, on a hike in the mountains of Colorado, I heard something in the silence. After a day filled with laughter and string cheese, I allowed myself to connect with my emotions and remove the influence of those around me.

My friend Chelsea and I began the trek back down from our 10,000 foot summit to the gravel parking lot below. As we gained momentum, our lungs burned for oxygen and our legs ached for rest.

Wandering off the trail, we found a warm, smooth rock jutting over a cliff. Below us was a quiet, serene pond speckled with yellow lily pads and green foliage, the water clear enough to see trout swimming within. The pond filled a small valley at the base of two large, steep mountains. With the horizon cut by endless mountain peaks stretching in every direction, and the breeze carrying only the sound of distant birds singing, we were isolated from our normal lives.

Without any evidence of human existence, no other hikers in sight, that rock offered a seat to a show not available in the crowded hallways of high school. Secluded by the surrounding mountains, we were in a world ruled by giant pines and strong currents, not critical adolescents and gossip circles.

Sitting in silence, I was dependent only on myself to answer the questions constantly scrolling through my brain. “Where should I go to college? Do I want to play college soccer?” I allowed these questions to penetrate the pure mountain air as I took a deep breath.

I couldn’t rely on others to give me direction. On the mountain, I was forced to find my internal compass; I was forced to find the answers from within my own heart.

It is easy to accept the advice of parents, friends, and coaches: “You should go to UW-Madison for college; it’s the best!” “I don’t think you’ll succeed at college soccer why don’t you just give up your dream now.” In this overwhelming world we live in, full of expectations and opinions, we must be careful not to miss what our hearts are telling us.

Sometimes in my everyday life, I can almost hear my thoughts screaming to be heard over the thoughts of others. But there on that rock, with my heart beating fast and adrenaline pulsing through my veins, the slightest whisper was audible. I was able to hear the answers from the only source that reflected who I was.

My thoughts flowed freely out of my heart, and the mountains, the pond, and the pines echoed back with waves of encouragement: “You will find the perfect college, one better than Madison. Soccer is your passion- choose your own future.”

I believe that intimate moments of self-reflection keep us following our own dreams. Only in listening to the silence are you able to hear the whispers of your soul.