Around this time last year (Father’s Day to be exact), I was crossing the 1,000 mile mark on the Appalachian Trail. I remember FaceTiming dad as we walked across the stick-shaped ‘1,000’ formed in the dirt. I had just caught up with my fellow trail family and was elated to be back in their company after being separated for a few weeks. The amount of joy I had in sharing that moment with my dad is hard to explain. As he wasn’t physically there with me, he was there in spirit and I could feel it from states away. He’d supported this adventure for many years and gave me the confidence to go after it. His tough love built character and belief in us that anything is possible. Crossing this milestone, so to speak, was more than just a mile marker in the dirt. It was a turning point for the rest of my life. An epiphany. One that helped me realize I’ve grown into a better version of myself, yet stayed true to who I’ve been all along.

Now, the thing about my dad and my family is, we’re born adventurers. I’m not sure it was always this way for my folks, but it sure has been for me and my brother. They instilled this sense of adventure and toughness in us at a young age. Always taking us on new outings and affording us these experiences that taught lifelong lessons. I’m extremely fortunate and blessed to have a family that not only wants to go on adventures together, but is willing and able to.

You see, sports and physical activity is in our genealogy. My mom– a high school basketball star, field hockey, and tennis player. My dad– football, baseball, a Citadel alum and a proud veteran of the Navy. So naturally my brother and I took to sports when we were kids. I was always trying to be as good and strong as my brother, and Mitch, always trying to teach me new things and tricks of the game. Mitch played basketball at a young age (towering over Muggsy Bogues at just age 11!), but graduated to football and lacrosse. He needed a more physical sport to match his height & strength, and man was he good! He taught me how to play lacrosse in the backyard, which eventually awarded me a college scholarship for the sport. And who knew? Soccer had always been my heartthrob as a kid.

As I tackled the amazing feat of thru-hiking last year, all of these factors seemed to come full circle. They were there every day. The physical abilities, the athletic agility, the team/family and the mental toughness of being an athlete. Day in and day out, these things guided me through my trek. Allowed me to race up mountains to catch the sunrise, gave me strength when the terrain or weather got tough, and endurance for those long 20+ mile summer days with little water. However, being an athlete is not a requirement for hiking. Yes, we can all agree that some type of athletic ability certainly helps, but all walks of life can accomplish this or whatever it is they want to accomplish. You just have to believe. And as physical as hiking and backpacking can be, its what’s on “that 5 inch playing field between the ears” that truly matters! My dad taught me to believe.

Believing as a kid that I would some day be a college athlete, and maybe someday be a thru-hiker of the Appalachian Trail is where it all began. Dad pushed me to be my best and my family always supported my crazy dreams. I was subconsciously working towards these goals every day and building on the confidence and mental toughness my dad instilled in us. That’s where the true champions shine. In the dads, moms, and siblings. The ones who mold us into our true selves. The lessons our dads, moms, and loved ones teach us are what shape us into who we are. Being able to understand that now, more than ever before, is a true blessing. And I know that if it wasn’t for them, I never would have been able to accomplish my goals. Or continue to go after new ones!

I’ve embraced my athletic build, my mental and physical strength, and my abilities to endure. I’m an athlete. It’s who I’ve always been. It’s in my genealogy. And I sure am proud of it! My vow to myself is to stay active, eat well, get proper rest, and treat my body with respect. It’s the only one we have! I realize growing up in an active family made me who I am today. And I am forever grateful for that. And them! I hope to someday have an adventurous family of my own, and to instill the same character in them as my family has instilled in me. We only live once, yall, and we are able to choose what we do. I choose family, health, and happiness.

What do you choose?

“You must have dreams and goals if you are ever going to achieve anything in this world.” -Lou Holtz

As we celebrate our dads this weekend, remember to dream big and “chase after those things that ignite your spirit!!”

And as my dad always says: “Be Somebody!”

Much love,

-Ten

Quotes taken from:

  • Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence by Gary Mack & David Casstevens
  • Rumi