When I was young, music was everything to me. I played piano at church from the time that I was 9 years old. I sang – poorly – at age 6, and better by the time I was 16, performing before audiences of up to 4,000 by the time I was 18. I was in a national hand bell choir and played grand piano for an opera society. Music was my heart and soul: it got me through puberty and my first heartbreak and tough moves to new places; it gave me my first job and extra income at weekend gigs well into my 30s.
Then I entered law school and every spare minute was wrapped up in studying when I wasn’t spending time with my husband and three toddlers. It became more difficult to find time to enjoy music without waking up a little one from a nap or when I wasn’t trying to catch a quick nap myself! Those were exhausting years. I gave up weekend performances. I also started running, mostly for a little “me” time and some stress release.
Running is a sport of addiction, and it dug its greedy talons into me, eventually filling up every spare moment. I bought a jogging stroller and crammed the girls into it. I signed up for short races, bringing home a participation medal for me and a shirt for Todd. By the time I started Edmonton Trail Runners, I was well into ultra addiction. My music passion faded into the background.
Five years later, I was run-injured and trying to figure out what to do now. I started hiking the trails I used to run, usually with my daughters along for company. Soon, I reconnected with my passion for backpacking, something my parents had done with me since I was barely able to walk. I returned to my childhood days of canoe trips and mountain hikes, eventually taking my 15-year-old daughter on the West Coast Trail.
This fall, I was cycling in Amsterdam and hiking the Alps while cheering for Todd, by now an accomplished ultra runner who had only taken up the sport six years earlier. He was doing my bucket list race that I couldn’t do: 8 days, 280 kilometres, four countries, in the Alps. While he ran each day, I chased him around, hiking to mountain top aid stations, learning German, trying out all the local foods, and letting Europe steal my heart.
Soon, we were back in Canada and facing a new, harsh reality: no vehicle. A faulty recalled part in our new van had set the engine ablaze, starting on fire while we were in it. Our family narrowly escaped. We are currently still without a vehicle and also paying a large loan for a big hunk of melted steel. But, our time in Europe left an impression, inspiring us to re-shape our reality. The girls already had bus passes for school. So, we winterized everyone’s bikes and challenged our family to our own “Amsterdam Adventure”. One of our daughters even opts to bike some days to school instead of taking the bus. It’s winter in Edmonton . She is undeterred. I wonder with admiration how this adventure is shaping our girls’ perspectives, allowing them to see setbacks as opportunities. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be nice to have our van back, or at least the money we paid for the van. But, we’ve taken a harsh event and controlled what we could: how we react to it.
Now, I get to bike every day and everywhere, and I’m also running again, so I get to do that too. And I go on lots of walks in the trails with my senior dog who can’t run as much as she used to. I get to enjoy beautiful trails with her while she’s still around. Occasionally, I remember my long-time friend, the piano I’ve owned since I was 10. I sit down and play some tunes and sing my lungs out until the girls beg for mercy. Then, I get up and return to other passions that consume my life now: my family, a job that I love, my trail running community, biking, camping, hiking…
I add the dots because they represent all the things I haven’t yet fallen in love with. I’ve learned that our passions aren’t static. What consumes our time and interests changes if we let it. Imagine if the things we started out doing were the only things we ever did. Life is full of twists and turns. All the good things and all the bad things are the real adventures. Had I focused only on music as the one thing I could love that much, or wallowed in pity when life sidelined my passions, or let unfair circumstances consume me, I’d have never discovered the incredible experiences that have enriched my life beyond measure.
So, when life throws you a curve ball, follow where it leads. Explore opportunities. Embrace new things. You only have one life: might as well fill it up.