I have been spending a lot of time hiking trails lately. They are generally quite well marked and often carry signs reminding us to follow the trail and stay on the trail, but what happens when the trail ends? Most of the time we are on trails that are just loops and if we do in fact stay on the trail, we end up where we started. But what if the trail is one of those that lead us out to a point and then expect us to return the way we came. I ran into one of these on my latest hike and the metaphor was worth exploring.
I found myself at the end of the point with this spectacular view. I could take my picture and then turn back, but what if? What if I stepped off the trail and followed the rocky shoreline that lead beyond? It would not be the safe trail I had just left, but where would it lead me if I was willing to put in the effort? What would lie just around the bend? I didn’t follow the urge that day, but I thought about it, and even regretted not having tried. Eventually, I returned to the trail and back tracked my path to the starting point.
I think the trail is a metaphor for life. We are all on a trail. The trail leads us through our decisions, through our careers, through our life. We can trust that the trail we are following is the right one. We can follow it precisely to where it leads. But what if the trail comes to an end? Do we turn back around and go back to where we began? Do we loop endlessly around repeating the same things day after day? Or do we ignore the stay on the trail sign and step off? Do we take the risk and make our own trail? Sometimes our trail, the trail we were following, does come to an end. I contend that only if we are willing to do the later, to make our own trail, can we truly experience life the way it is meant to be.
When we blaze our own trail, we must assume the risk, but without risk, there can be no reward. I am not promoting recklessness, rather I am encouraging resourcefulness. You can never know what was just around the bend unless you find a way to continue the trail. That next step you take may be the most important step you ever take. Where is your trail leading? Will you stay on the trail or make your own?