Following the Call
Tomorrow, I'll be flying to Tanzania to scale Kilimanjaro. It'll be the most epic and physically challenging feat that I've ever attempted.
When I decided to do this trip a few weeks ago, I didn't know why I was doing it.
I've never found the deserty photos of Kilimanjaro particularly beautiful — especially not compared to the lushness and majesty of Patagonia or Inca Trail or Norwegian fjords or any number of other hikes I've done.
I still don't fully know why I'm flying 20 hours on a plane to spend 9 days ascending 19,341 feet on the tallest peak in Africa. As I near the summit, I'll be grappling with potential altitude sickness, oxygen levels that are half of what they are at sea level, and freezing cold weather.
But sometimes, the heart, body, and soul feel called to do things that the mind can't yet comprehend — and I can feel that this is one of those times.
And so I'm choosing to trust that feeling. I’m choosing to follow the call.
At some point in our lives, we're all faced with some variation of the same question:
What is my purpose in life? What is it that I'm meant to be doing?
Many people first encounter the questions during the dreaded mid-life crisis. It's a point in life at which, they've hit the goals they thought they've always wanted — the dream job, dream home, dream family.
And yet, something essential seemed missing. They wonder if that's all there is to life. And they sense a subtle but powerful stirring from deep within them, a longing for something more.
In his book Soulcraft, wilderness guide and psychologist Bill Plotkin talks about this longing:
There is a great longing within each of us. We long to discover the secrets and mysteries of our individual lives, to find our unique way of belonging to this world, to recover the never-before-seen treasure we were born to bring to our communities.
We each have what Plotkin calls a "yearning for individual personal meaning and a way to contribute to life, a yearning that pulls us toward the heart of the world."
If and when we heed that yearning, that call for adventure, we embark on a lifelong quest toward discovering and refining what is genuinely ours to offer the world, to find our unique sense of belonging.
It's been about five years since I started heeding that call, and this quest has led me to leave my marriage and 17-year-long relationship, leave my engineering career, and leave millions of dollars on the table.
And it's also brought me more joy, love, fulfillment, aliveness, and peace than I could ever have imagined.
So what does climbing Kilimanjaro have to do with questing for my life's purpose?
I don't know for sure — following the call often involves uncertainty. But I have guesses.
This year, I'm committing to diving deeper into my life’s work. I'll be teaching people how to intentionally create intimacy and deep human connection in moments not in years — so that we can experience what's truly possible in our most important relationships.
And there's a budding sense that my African expedition will be a warrior initiation — a journey into embodying the one in me who's strong, fierce, and determined in follow his calling in the world.
That seems like an apt start to a year where I'll be re-orienting toward purposeful work.
I also know that the preparation itself is part of that journey. How I show up in preparing for this trip is how I want to show up preparing for all the things I want to do in life.
And in general, I'm feeling grounded, present, and at ease so far.
All while dancing through the high level of complexity required to plan a last-minute trip to a sub-Saharan country, during a pandemic, while being nomadic, preparing gear for highly variable weather conditions (ranging from warm and sunny at the base, to freezing and snowy at the summit).
I don't know what this journey will bring, but there's an inner knowing that my three weeks on the trek and on safari will leave me deeply changed, in a way that I can't even predict right now.
Perhaps it'll be a journey of understanding what brotherhood with fellow trekkers in the wilderness means to me.
Perhaps it'll be a journey of trusting what my body is capable of.
Perhaps it'll be a journey of making the world feel just a bit smaller, more accessible, and more my home.
I'll find out soon enough.
Thanks to Henry Kimsey-House, Candace Sauve, and Katrina Uychaco for reading early drafts of this post.
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