Paddle On, My Friend

It felt like they were laughing at me…

I was trying so hard, paddling with all my might. I hardly had anything to show for it. I could see my dad about 25 feet ahead of me, slowly but surely making his way against the current. I knew I could meet him at our goal, but I needed to block out my fear of being judged.

Let’s back this up just a little bit, so you can see how a morning out on the kayaks with my dad this past weekend turned into some great (if rather cliche) lessons.

I live in Washington, and no, not the rainy side. It usually takes me a bit to convince people there is in fact a dry part of the state, but I’m hoping you’ll just take my word for it. Picture a LOT of tumbleweeds.

One of the recreational activities we have available is the use of the Columbia River. When the weather is nice, and our schedules line up, my dad and I like to take the kayaks out for a bit of exercise. I am still relatively new to kayaking, but I absolutely love any chance to get outside.

We usually launch just south east of Bateman Island, and head upstream, around the island and up the Yakima River to the train trestle. My dad asked if I wanted to try a different route this time, staying on the Columbia and making it to the two bridges at the top of the picture.

I was game!

It seemed so easy, the bridges didn’t look that far away, and I was sure I could do it. I didn’t account for the fact that the Yakima was running high, and it was really hard to cross. We actually had to reroute because neither of us could cut straight across.

Luckily, my dad has a bit more experience out on the river than I do. He suggested we turn into the mouth of the Yakima, it would be a little bit longer, but it should provide less resistance.

He was right!

We made it past the Yakima, but we still had a ways to go. My dad told me that our best bet was to stay close to the shoreline, that there would be less current. Phew, that brings us back to where we started this story.

The bridges were SO CLOSE. The thought that we wouldn’t make it seemed absurd. I was following my dad’s lead, staying just a few feet off the shore. Well, there were also some fisherman enjoying the beautiful day.

I started to struggle, having to dig the paddle in deep, and move it fast. I felt ridiculous. The fishermen were just standing there, at this point their lines out of the water because I was completely in their way. This time there was no alternate path to take. The only option would have been turning toward the center of the Columbia, which has a faster current.

There is something very motivating about your dad being ahead of you, closer to the goal. I didn’t want him to see me fail. We finally made it to our goal, turned toward the center of the river, and let the water help us on our journey back.

That beautiful morning on the kayak reminded me of several important life lessons:

  1. Surround yourself with people who will inspire you to be your best. Do a little audit on the people you spend time with, in person and on social media. If they are bringing you down, unfollow them and stop letting them dim your light. I tried harder that day because my dad was pushing himself, too.
  2. People are not nearly as worried about whatever you’re doing as you think they are. Those people on the shore were not laughing at me. The amount of time I actually spent in there way was MUCH less than it felt like at the time.
  3. Some resistance is to be expected along the way to your goals, but when you aren’t making progress look for another path. It may be hard to see at first, but there will always be a way if you are willing to look for it.
  4. Sometimes your goal is actually farther away than it appears, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get there. Those bridges are huge, so it didn’t seem like they were that far off. It can be discouraging when you realize there is more to do than you thought, but you will never get there if you give up.
  5. Rarely will you ever be a true pioneer. It is almost guaranteed someone has accomplished before what you are trying to do now. Seek them out, and learn from them. Even if they didn’t make it to the goal, learn from their attempt. It took my dad several tries out on his kayak before he made it to the bridges. When we went together, he already knew the better routes to take.

No matter what your goal is, you can achieve it!

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