How the Mighty Fall

Wednesday. Community day. A day for fun and friendship. And it was.

For a time.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let us start at the beginning, and build towards the end. This is a story of speed and hubris. Of grit and stupidity. Of adrenaline and poor choices…

It was a beautiful January day in Squamish. The sun was shinning, the air was fresh. It was a good day for community day. Community day is a day where Quest students and faculty take a small break from class, and instead focus on the community. The theme for this community day was “Into the Wild”, and we were supposed to see it as a chance to explore our beautiful BC backyard with our fellow Questers. So, in the spirit of things, I signed up to hike the chief, a giant granite monolith, for community day.

We met in the morning to take the bus to the chief. There were about 20 of us, ready to seize the day a la Squamish with a good hike. As the bus made its journey, I could feel the tingling excitement in the air. It was going to be a good hike.

And it was a good hike! The sky was blue, the air was crisp, and the conversation was great. I got to know a few new exchange students on the way up, and got to know some familiar friends even better. The hike was certainly achieving its goal of bringing us together as a group in the Squamish back country. And when we got to the top of the second peak, it was clear that the hike had been well worth it…

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As we overlooked Squamish and the surrounding land, we felt a sense of awe overcome us. Though many of us had been here before, the chief has a way of leaving you breathless, no matter how many times you might have visited its peaks. Looking down on our home from above, it was no wonder we felt this awe. We were mighty.

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We documented our moment as any self-respecting early 21st century North American university student would: the selfie.

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Alas, after all too short a time at the top, it was time to descend. We shouldered our backpacks, sheathed our phones in our pockets, and began the journey downwards, for home.

Now, for those of you who don’t know me, it would be prudent at this point in the story for me to tell you a little something about myself. Although I enjoy hiking uphill, it is really the downhill that I enjoy. I tend to run down the path, changing and adjusting my course on the fly, letting gravity lend me the speed I need to feel alive on a hike. Adrenaline high, speed high, fun high. This is my favourite part of hiking – the descent.

Given that I run quickly down hills a lot, I have gotten pretty good at it. I know what to try to run down, and what not to try to run down. I successfully ran down the chief all the way to the bottom, keeping my balance and my speed at key levels. At the bottom, however, things got rough.

I was stupid. Straight up, no hiding it. Heart pumping, full of adrenaline, I stood on the precipice on the final rock face before the bottom of the hike, right near the parking lot. The very bottom. Uncharacteristically, I paused. I remember looking at the almost vertical rock face thinking  that I really ought not to try it. It was steep, slippery, and had no good place to land at the bottom.

I turned my back on good judgement that day, my friends.

I leapt down the rock face, and slid my poor ankle into the ground, twisting it every which way. Immediate pain jolted up through my leg, the nerves carrying the signal of electric injury. My foot felt like rubber on fire, and I sat on a nearby rock, nursing my ankle as I awaited the arrival of the others I had left behind. Pure hubris.

Nowadays, this is what I look like.

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A broken man, unable to walk without the assist of crutches. Unable to carry food without the help of his friends. Unable to run down mountains like he used to. He may look like a tragic figure to you, fallen.

Yet, out of this fall, something new and golden was born.

My friends, concerned with my well being, have helped me during this tough time. And let me just say that their help has been admirable and unprecedented. I think that only in times of trouble do you see how much the people around you love you. Without me asking, my friends made soup for me, brewed tea, opened doors, carried food, and helped with my ankle. It has been incredibly touching to see how much everyone is willing to help me when I need them. I think that we often take our friends for granted; I know that I do. This experience has reminded me just how wonderful they really are, and how much they mean to me.

So, take this as a lessen; be thankful for your friends. When you’re stupid, or unfortunate, or broken, they will be there to help you. It is something truly beautiful.

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