The Appalachian Metaphor

August 29, 2013

Sometime last fall, it occurred to me that life was a lot like cross country (XC);  each year is like an XC trail. When you look at the trail from a distance, it seems to stretch out forever. But once you get going, and if you keep looking ahead, it no longer seems so long and daunting.  Like a runner focuses on finishing each loop and conquering the next hill, if you take each year a little stretch at a time, before you know it, the year’s over. Each year is a little different, just like all cross country trails; same foundation and purpose, unique execution.

Similarly, I stumbled onto another nature inspired comparison yesterday. My dad and I had decided earlier this summer that we wanted to hike a section of the Appalachian Trail (a 2200-mile long hiking trail that stretches from Georgia to Maine). It was a novel experience for both of us, something we set our minds to a while back and followed through upon recently.

The plaque at the start of the trail on Springer Mountain

After some careful planning, we had a route mapped out and a plan of action in our head. However, as the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray, so it was with the beginning of our journey. In part thanks to spotty cell service, US Forest Service Roads (note to self: All Wheel Drive is a must), a typing error, and a few wrong turns (thanks “Google Siri”), our ETA slipped back two hours. But we remained unfettered and unstressed.

I think this could serve as a great metaphor for my upcoming year. I have a vague idea of what I will be doing in Rennes (studying and more), and I’ll be armed with a “rough” road map drawn for me, but no matter how much planning occurs beforehand, I’m bound to make a few accidental wrong turns. And that’s ok- the important thing is to not let these little curves stress me out. Life’s about the journey and oftentimes, said journey can be bumpy and winding. Nevertheless, it’s an experience, and thanks to this Appalachian test run, I now have a renewed belief that it will all turn out fine.

This coming year in Rennes will be like a year-long hike up my very own “Appalachian Trail”.  And I’ve already started part of my journey.  Last year, I got a taste of SYA through the summer program in China, just like I now have a taste of the Trail after hiking the first 4.3 miles. Also, I’ve experienced France, both through having visited there before and through the slew of memoirs, guidebooks and novels I read this summer. I’ve vicariously experienced France as a young teen (Postcards From France), confused 20-something who finds love (Almost French), passionate professor (French Lessons), and determined parent (Paris to the Moon)…  Now I’m ready to start writing my own story.

(originally posted on Aug. 29 at Explore, Dream, Discover)

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