In March of 2001, I trekked to Everest Base Camp with my friends Phil and Sue who were attempting to summit Mt. Everest that year. They had invited a few of their friends to join them on the 30 mile trek in and we’d assembled in Katmandu, Nepal to gather our last few supplies before flying in to the starting point of the trek.
It was on a rickshaw trip around the city, that one of my fellow trekkers that I’d just met, a 59-year-old man told me “Life begins at 40.” Given that I was only 31-years-old at the time, this particular piece of wisdom irked me. Taken literally, it implied that I should just waste the next 9 years.
Over the next few weeks as we were trekking, I found out his back story. He had been married in his early 20’s, had two kids but that marriage had broken down and he was divorced by the time he was in his mid-30’s. It was a contentious divorce and his relationship with his sons suffered.
By the time he was in his 40’s, he’d found success as a business owner, gotten remarried to a woman he adored and shaped his life to look more or less like the balance of freedom and love he’d always wanted. Hence his statement that life begins at 40.
Why is it so hard to pass wisdom from one human to another? We have to pack it up in a suitcase so that it’s portable and then the recipient needs to have some hooks to hang it on when they unpack it.
In this case, I didn’t think much about the wisdom he’d offered me until I was about to turn 40-years-old. It was a tough time in my life – I’d recently been told of my husband’s infidelities and I was struggling with the idea of failing at marriage while trying to hold it all together.
While I believe the age was just a coincidence, when I thought back to my fellow trekker’s story, it held a lot of comfort for me. Because it represented an example that life can rebuild itself even better after it’s all fallen apart. The wisdom, when I distilled it for me, was that we can have multiple chapters in our lives that still add up to a glorious story.
Isn’t that why we share our wisdom and stories? So that someone else can take them, draw strength from them when needed and they repackage them in a way that’s meaningful?
On that trip in 2001 to Everest Base Camp, after we’d been trekking for a few days, I woke up one morning a couple of hours before anyone else was up. I was so excited to be in the Himalayas, I decided to hike around to see if I could see Everest in the first light of the day. After about 40 minutes, I finally found a place to sit and watch the sunrise illuminate one of the most distinctive mountains in the world.
When I’d finally hiked back 40 minutes, everyone else was up. One of our guides said, “Does anyone want to get a first look at Everest?” and I joined the group. About a 5 minute walk from our campsite, in the opposite direction I’d gone, was a magnificent view of Everest.
Packaging up this story, I’d pass along this wisdom. “You will take some wrong turns in life, go down the wrong path and expend a lot of extra energy. But even in that case, enjoy the view, laugh about how you got there. Whether you go the short way or whether you go the long way, always look out for the presence of Wonder.”
What’s a piece of wisdom you share?
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(featured photo from my Everest trek pictures)