As the year draws to a close, we begin to reminisce about our year. What did we do, how did we succeed, how did we fail. What did we learn. 2013 has been a very good year for me. Possibly the best year I’ve ever had. It’s been a learning year for me, as I evolve into the person I’m meant to be and discover new aspects to myself. And I found a lot of that in Scotland.
This previous summer I visited Scotland with my sister for the first time. I was already familiar with the dense forests and craggy cliffs of England, and I felt a deep connection to the place. For so long, England has symbolized to me all that I want from my life, and while I knew I would enjoy Scotland, I did not anticipate a connection. I had returned to the land of my forefathers and found my home on the beaches of Cornwall and the cliffs looking out to sea. The grayness of Bath had spoken to me, and the English rain was cleansing. I did not think I needed Scotland.
The first few days I was there cemented this belief. The cities were beautiful, the weather perfect, the people friendly. But there was no connection for me as I walked the streets of Edinburgh. It was a vacation for me, not a destination.
But when we hit the highlands, everything changed. They crept up on us out of nowhere. One moment we were alone on a long stretch of road, and the next minute the mist parted and the staggering mountains of the highlands lay before us. We got out of the car and stood there in silence for a moment, staring at something we’ve only seen in movies and imaginations. The wind had picked up, and it was far colder here than it had been in Edinburgh. My hair whipped into my face, and my heart picked up. I looked at those mountains and I knew that the beach would never be enough for me. My sister could have the beaches—I would take the mountains.
We spent much of our time in the highlands driving along dirt roads and staring at the majesty of the lochs and glens. On one day in particular, I sat at the base of a mountain, surrounded by miles of pure, clean landscape. Something I have always thought was confirmed for me in that moment—that I am nothing. In comparison to the vastness of this world and nature, I am insignificant. In that glen, my words meant nothing. I could shout and no one would hear. Eloquent words and knowledge would get me no where on that mountain. Only my actions mattered. How high I climbed and how far I walked were the only things that the mountain, who has seen so many humans come and go, who has stood through all of time, would care about. The mountain doesn’t care about poetry.
I love to learn, but I am not an academic. I love to write, but I prefer two words instead of 10. But I love action. I love working. I love goals. I want to stand at the top of the mountain and look down at the base and see how far I have come.
My sister found her home in the winding streets and ancient books of Oxford, where she felt her own challenge. For her, the conquest was knowledge. She would sit in the Eagle and Child and wander the stacks of the Bodleian and feel at peace. But as much as I love books, I will never be content in a library. I cannot feel warm until I have been chilled to the bone by the wind and elements. I cannot rest until I’ve exhausted myself. I measure my life in the steps I have taken and the distances traveled. I want to mark out my stretch of land and know it completely.
When my family is tired and aching, they pilgrimage to the sea. They find their rejuvenation in the warm sun and sand. But I have never felt the healing powers of the beach. I hate the feeling of sand and I dislike being warm. The sea holds no solace for me, unless it is freezing and violent and thrashing upon cliffs.
I found myself in the barren landscapes and the fierce, quiet people. I’m a simple person, but I am fierce. I want a simple life, and I will fight for it. I want the mountains behind me and the wind burning my face. I want the unbound expanses of land before me, to behold the gray and the isolation and the uninhabited. I want to look down from the mountain that is my life, and see how far I’ve come.
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