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Twenty Five Years of Thanks

Somewhere along the way... twenty five years have passed by. Time and age has been foremost on my mind lately, first beginning last month when I turned thirty-nine, and more recently, when one of my favorite bands from my teenage years, REM, released their 25th anniversary remaster of Automatic for the People. The latter not being just another work of musical nostalgia, but Automatic was the very first compact disc I purchased for myself when I was fourteen years old. Fourteen... when my mom still had to drop me off at the mall so I could go to the record store. But something else happened the same year REM originally released Automatic for the People... It was the same year I first discovered the local trails near the home I grew up in.

These nameless trails were a sanctuary for me, first on the mountain bike and then later when I was in college, when I first began trail running. In grad school, I ran these trails every single day. When I first moved away, the trails became my priority destination every time I visited home. It may seem silly, but running these trails has always brought clarity and resolve to me no matter what I was working through. Breakups, school, jobs, finances... In this place of arterial singletrack and endurance community, peace has always been an inescapable byproduct of spending time here. But as the years have passed, I've had less and less opportunity to return.

Today, on Thanksgiving day, I made it a priority to return to the trails - twenty five years after I first explored the area. And while the world has changed in virtually every imaginable way over the past two and a half decades, the trails have not. Within only a few hundred yards of running, my feet naturally found their flow over the same rocks and roots that have always been there. Their placement, completely unchanged after all this time. All throughout, the chapters of my life blurred into one another, each threaded together by only a single common element that is this special place.

I've always been thankful for the trails, and for my ability to run them... to move with the wind and to press against the elements when everything else feels like it's pushing back on us. Today I wondered what I would tell my fourteen-year-old self if I could somehow cross paths with him on the trails. I suppose I would tell him to keep working and to keep striving... to never let anyone tell him he isn't capable of doing something. After all, that's always been the spirit by which I've lived. But then, as my run was coming to an end on this Thanksgiving day, I thought: what would my fourteen-year-old self tell me if he were somehow able to cross paths with me on the trails?

I know what he would tell me... He would tell me to stop worrying about everything. Stop taking it all so seriously. He'd say fuck the noise and just run harder. And most importantly, he'd remind me to be thankful for every waking moment we have on this earth. In this place. On these trails. Of course, he'd be right too. Because he was always wiser than his older self.

I will try not to worry you
I have seen things that you will never see
Leave it to memory me
I shudder to breathe
— REM

Footnotes: All images captured with my iPhone 7, steadied against my racing heart with my wind-chilled fingertips on Thanksgiving morning, 2017.