Brian Smith

Find a purpose
Friday, June 22
Life has changed. You can either retreat and withdraw from the world, or you can find a passion and jump into it. The 13 of us going on this trek have all decided to stare change in the face and, at least for me, rekindle a passion for helping people I thought I had lost. 
With any difficult physical activity, it is a good idea to make sure you are training to get an idea of what you will encounter. We chose to train in North Carolina on the Shortoff Mountain Trail. I was excited about this training hike for a couple of reasons. Number one it would give us all a chance to meet in person before Iceland. But second, it would give me a chance to see another part of this beautiful country that I’d never been to before. I can assure you, I was not disappointed. Even though the majority of our hike consisted of a heavy fog and the threat of rain, there were glimpses of the immense beauty of the hills and river flowing through the canyons some 500 feet below us.
We encountered some really interesting things on this hike, but the oddest was that there was a wedding up there on the edge of the cliff. Although we didn’t see the bride or the groom, we saw plenty of people hiking up the narrow rock trail that had turned into a water slide from days of rain. We were all marveling at the dedication and passion for the outdoors this couple had to choose this place as a spot to begin their lives together.
When it comes to friendship and meeting new people I have a tendency to approach things with a bit of trepidation. I don’t know why I am this way, but I typically like to observe from a distance, either physically or emotionally before opening up and letting people in. Since my teammate Barb and I were flying in from the west coast, we were the last ones to arrive in Charlotte. By the time we met up with Alex and Tom at the car rental desk, the rest of the team had already left. Being the last one to anything makes my fear a bit worse. No one likes to be the last one in the room. But meeting these three for the first time there in the airport and having the obligatory introductory conversation on the hour ride to our hotel, it was immediately clear that we all were going to have a special bond and any fears I had quickly melted away.
When we met everyone else back at the hotel, any remaining trepidation I had coming into this completely vanished. Hearing people’s stories about how cancer has affected their lives and what they are doing to fight it has been such a powerful motivator. We all get the seriousness of this challenge and what we are trying to do. And having a common goal is one of the first things that will bring a team together. But this experience of meeting these people has proven to me that our bond is more than just a common goal. We spent two days just talking and laughing about life. Both days it was late into the night which I was appreciative of since I wasn’t used to the time difference. I truly have walked away from this training with 13 new people who I can call friends and a new motivation for pushups. 
The emotional support from those on a like-minded journey are beneficial to adding happiness and reducing stress. 
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