3. I killed a man over $7 and a pastrami sandwich.
Oh come on, that’s not true. Just had to see if you were paying attention.
3. I got heat stroke on a mountain top (read the whole story here).
As the rescue worker swabbed a second location on my body for an emergency IV, my lip began to tremble against my will and a very unwanted tear rolled out. I didn’t remember much from the three hours before, and the heaviness of my actions were hitting me as delicately and powerfully as was the fluid running into my body.
In a few minutes, a helicopter would hover above me, hook me to a cable, and fly me to safety.
Rescuer after rescuer came and went from my view as I lay there immobilized and in shock. I would find out later that more than two dozen of them had left their families, their dinners, their Sunday services, their children, their spouses, and their entire lives to come and save this person that they didn’t know from Adam.
It was stupidity that got me there. I had taken a wrong turn, led my friends in a completely wrong and dangerous direction, run out of liquid, and gotten in way over my head for my preparation, skill level, and ability. And now, here I was, putting dozens of people in danger at the top of a treacherous mountain because of what I had done. Helicopters and ambulances were being dispatched for me. Thousands, and probably tens of thousands, of dollars would be spent fixing my blunder.
Those who saw me throughout would have thought I was depleted and worn down. I was shaken, and sunken, and could barely lift my own head. But the truth was, it wasn’t because the mountain had taken it out of me. The fluids they had put into me had already fixed that. No, it was because the weight of my mistakes were weighing so heavily on me that I couldn’t look much of anyone in the eye.
It’s such a surreal feeling, knowing that you’ve made a decision so quickly and so wrong that so many people could be more or less immediately affected. As they first draped me in coats and blankets, and as they then harnessed me for the helicopter ride, and as the paramedics looked me over, and as a team of rescuers strapped me to a gurney and carried me the final distance, I could look at no one. Not for long. Not when they were there because of me and my bad decisions.
What would have happened had I been more responsible and learned the area beforehand or carried a map with me? What would all these people be doing? What parts of their lives did they miss? How was everyone there actually affected by this?
I didn’t know. I still don’t know.
What I do know is that that one big mistake changed my life forever. And only some of it has been for the better.
I have been so much more responsible and humble when it comes to that part of my life ever since. Had I never made such a huge mistake that affected so many people, I can only guess where my ill-prepared view of the outdoors might have taken me. I can only guess where this blog would be today. And I can only guess how much not having the perspective I now have would have changed the way I look at life and how important the life and times of others really is.
In the aftermath of it all, I blogged about it and made some publicity mistakes. This caused the biggest controversy and blogging debate I’ve been through since starting this blog. It was two months of hell and far too much negative energy and attention for my life. Had I never made the mistakes on the mountain that day, I never would have made the others.
Certainly I would have continued to feel unconquerable had this never happened. I would have continued to take more daring risks without regard for how those risks could so easily turn sour and affect others.
I also would have kept hiking as much as I was, continued being in such great shape because of it, and continued seeing so much of the world that only an outdoorsman, unafraid of adventure, will ever get to see.
That was the path I was on.
Instead, I have moved forward in my life and have been both freed and made captive by the consequences of my mistakes that day.
I have feared the mountain ever since. This is both good and bad. It is good because the mountain should be respected. It is bad because I have been too scared to truly return to my love of hiking and outdoor adventure ever since.
I’m now scared to die. I’m now scared to live. At least when it comes to that.
This is the path I am on.
It’s a different path. A better path. A worse path. A path that will lead where it leads.
And, it’s because I made a very big mistake. One which I will always regret. One for which I’ll always be thankful.
My three mistakes.
My three biggest mistakes.
All three of them affected me so deeply and so powerfully that I have changed my life drastically in their aftermath. The fear of repeating any of them has altered the very way I live and breathe each day.
The first two mistakes pushed me to find missing parts of me, overcome that which pushed me into the mistakes, and to live better. The third mistake pushed me to suppress such an important part of me and to subdue so much of my passion. It has caused me to avoid that which pushed me into the mistake, and to live less than I was before.
And perhaps that is my life’s fourth greatest mistake.
I made a big mistake, and I didn’t use it to make my life better. I used it to be okay with a life less lived. I used it to be okay with mediocrity and the mundane. And I didn’t make myself any better because of it.
And that’s not okay with me.
Right now I’m realizing that it’s really not.
Our greatest mistakes, if we look at them, and digest them, and interact with them, and learn from them… they can be the greatest moments of our lives.
They should be the greatest moments of our lives.
So if you’ll excuse me, I have a mountain that needs climbing. And a life that needs living. I have a mistake whose lessons need to actually be learned.
And so do you. I’m betting. The question is, will you do anything about it? And will I?
Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing