There is something quite humbling when you’re sitting on the side of a mountain in the back end of nowhere. With the wind battering the side of your tent, in the darkness.
The rain, lashing down, unrelenting. The stove at your feet with what rations you have bubbling away on top as you change into the dry clothes you have left in a space barely bigger than a coffin. It’s you and the elements, mother nature, the great outdoors.
It is an experience like no other, when you’re not sure if your tent will hold out for the night as it’s practically flattened by the force of the wind. The prospect of sleep isn’t particularly appealing either when the thought that you might wake up with half your tent gone enters your mind, everything sodden and twice as heavy because it’s wet and the nearest civilisation is 10 miles away.
Those nights are quite humbling, a mixture of vulnerability, isolation and ultimate respect for nature. It’s funny how all your problems disappear into nothing. It separates the important from the superficial. Everything you thought mattered oh so much to you, just, doesn’t. They become irrelevant and trivial as the things that really matter to you come into focus, as you stare at the light of the stove flickering in the wind with just yourself for company.
‘Should I have gone for that job?’
‘What if I’d asked that person out?’
‘Should I have struck out on my own?’
‘I can do better than this.’
‘What am I doing with my life?’
And they cycle round in your head, over and over. ‘What am I doing? what am I doing? what am I doing?’ Everything comes to a crescendo of noise and static in your head, the rain hammering the tent, the wind howling through the valley, the violent flickering of light from the stove thrashing around. The busyness of the voices in your head asking all these questions at once, demanding answers. It builds to an impossible proportion as your head feels like it’s being compressed and torn apart all at once. Your attention constantly switching from question to question, flicking here and there, looking desperately for the answer to resolve it all. The confusion builds and your head is swimming.
And then silence.
And then relief.
Everything goes still inside you.
You are still aware of the wind and the rain but they are a million miles away. The sounds are disconnected from the images you are seeing. You see the tent flapping in the wind but there is no noise to it. You hardly notice them; you have shut them out. The flame of the stove is steady. Your mind is totally still. It just doesn’t matter.
It’s like you have been in a bubble all this time and that bubble has been popped. Everything that your world once was has now expanded into endless possibilities. It feels like liberation, knowing, a calm certainty of the direction that you need to take to achieve what you need to achieve. And you might not know what that thing or state of being is that you need to achieve, but you know something has to change.
As quickly as the thoughts came into your head, they leave. Back into the recesses of your mind.
The light of the stove is strong now. Burning bright and steady.