TALK 11 - Mountain View REI

 
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As I made my way into the warehouse of the Mountain View REI store to set up, I got to know my host for the evening. She used to do marketing too. She used to work for the Yosemite Conservancy. She is a pilot. As we share stories, it's like peeling back an onion, each layer with shared understanding and experiences. This woman, with her piercing blue eyes and vibrant red hair, is probably in her 70s if I had to guess. She's retired but she works at REI because "What do you do when you retire?"

The employee working in the back has hiked the PCT. We talk about trail culture and I ask her if she experienced any of the negativity I've heard other female thru-hikers share stories about. She had. And, she said, it's important to find a good group or be okay being solo, because the toxicity and bro culture found on the PCT can be enough to make some folks quit. People always ask me if I want to do longer distances, and I do. I try not to get ahead of myself though, because I love where I'm at and what I'm doing right now. My long-distance hiking time will come. I tuck these notes away in my brain.

This talk was one of the smaller ones I've done.

If I'm being honest, in a past life I phoned it in. In skydiving, when I didn't have a million people show up for an event, I wanted to call it quits. I wanted to avoid the pain of feeling like a failure, because my only metric was the number of parachutes dotting the skies. Now, I know that smaller groups allow for more intimate conversations. The talk moves at a different pace when there is a smaller audience. My energy is more grounded, I notice, in these smaller settings.

It takes a considerable amount of effort to do this. To tour the country. To coordinate these dates. To promote them. To share this story, over and over. It's the hardest work I've ever done, and by far the most rewarding. And whether I share this with three people or 20 people, every time, there is at least one person who is visibly moved by it. And that one person is the reason I wake up every morning, ready to do this work. Because real, lasting change and growth happens one step at a time, one person at a time.

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