That infamous quote, (often, but probably mistakenly attributed to Thomas Paine) popped frequently in to my head while out hiking recently. I was at Torrey Pines State Reserve, one of the most scenic areas in San Diego. Sand covered trails wind through cliffs that sit high above the Pacific Ocean offering stunning views of the Southern California coastline. A bonus siting of dolphins frolicking is not uncommon and if you’re real lucky, you might spot a whale!
What you’ll also see, especially if you’re there on a Saturday, are scads of people. Families, sightseers, joggers, old, young, fit, not so fit; you’ll spot all types, which in my opinion is good. Being surrounded by such beauty and fresh air while exercising strengthens the body and soul and certainly the more people doing this the better.
There are multiple trail choices but essentially they all lead to the same place. Sure you can wind around the top exploring little nooks, or take a side hike to a breathtaking overpass but eventually you’ll find yourself either going down the canyon to the beach or back up to the top. As people swarm these trails like ants on a discarded Twinkie, bottlenecks of passage become common.
Some are slow and waddle about with no comprehension of the inconvenience they cause those behind them itching to get by, while others are fast and reckless, jogging with abandon and frequently jostling you as they pass. Then there are those who utterly fail at trail etiquette and the common rule of “walk right, pass left”. The onus always is on you with these types to steer clear or be smashed in to.
Life is similar in that we all journey along in different directions yet share the same roads. Some people inevitably block our path and slow us down with toxic personalities or constant neediness. Others though just need a friend with a receptive ear and it’s important to know the difference.
Of course there will always be those for who the rules don’t apply and who are oblivious to the mayhem they cause ramming through life, usually in the wrong direction. And sometimes, probably many times, it’s ourselves who are the obstacles and not realizing how much our broken areas are affecting others and perhaps holding them back.
This constantly shifts I think as we move between seasons of strength and weakness in our lives. Sometimes you’re the trail blazer leading others out of the wilderness, while other times you’re the one in need of direction and it’s time to ask for help, or maybe just take a pause on the side of the road. Regardless of your role, it’s important to know you have one and what’s expected. Unawareness causes so much unnecessary havoc; on hiking trails, highways and of course within our lives and those we interact with.
So yes, either lead, follow or get the heck out of the way.