I am a worrier. I worry about everything, silly things to serious things to things I cannot control. I came by it honestly; my mom is a worrier as well. But worrying gets in the way of living. Worrying makes my stomach hurt, makes me lose confidence in what I’m doing, or a decision I’ve made. And even after all that worrying, nothing is changed for the energy I put into worrying.
In 2013 a friend of mine lost his life in an avalanche while skiing. We went to middle school and high school together and I always admired his approach to life. He was an original, a friend to all and led, what seemed to me, a worriless life. I don’t know that for a fact, but he seemed to be brave in ways I never would be. He climbed huge mountains, he took his time getting his degree (I rushed through mine, afraid if I took too long, I might not get it done) he surfed, he LIVED.
After high school we lost touch and were on our own paths. In the summer of 2012 I ran into him while I was at work. We were walking down a hallway toward each other and I didn’t even recognize him. He had a full beard and the only thought I had was what an attractive guy he was. As I passed him, he paused and said my name. Oh my God! My face flushed at the thought of thinking how cute he was. We hugged and caught up for a couple minutes. He told me he was just visiting and then he was headed back to Jackson Hole, where he was working. I was envious. I love Jackson Hole. There was that boldness I so admired.
That chance meeting was in June. His accident was seven months later. I hold that run-in close to me. I am so thankful I got to see him, to talk to him, to hug him and tell him how happy I was for his life.
In December, before his passing, I learned my job was ending and I was perseverating on what I was going to do next. I was desperate to know what the next step would be. For weeks I was sick with worry and uncertainty. Then I found out about his passing. I actually didn’t feel like I had a right to mourn him, that somehow, because we weren’t that close, or that we hadn’t hung out a lot, that I somehow shouldn’t put myself in the same category as his close friends and family. But that is just silly. You can love someone, you can admire someone, you can be glad someone is a part of the world even if you aren’t in their inner circle. So why can’t you also mourn them? Here my friend was no longer part of this world and I was worried that people would judge me for mourning him. See, what I mean? Worrying does nothing productive, absolutely nothing. What an absurd thing to worry about. I made a promise in honor of him that I would try to worry less.
I don’t think it’s realistic to expect not to have fear, not to have concerns, not to worry. But the battle is won in acknowledging the fear; giving a respectful nod, and then setting it aside and pressing forward. I was nauseated the first time I shared on Facebook that I wanted to write a book, to finish a story I started 10 years ago. Sometimes when my horse is feeling particularly spicy, I have a twinge of fear as I throw my leg over the saddle. You can bet I have a little whiskey on board when I throw a leg over and head into the ring for competition. But damn it, do it! Push on! To quote a completely ridiculous movie from the 90’s “A life lived in fear is a life half lived.” (10 points for you if you knew that was from Strictly Ballroom, although technically it was a Spanish proverb before it was featured in the movie).
I don’t think I’ll ever stop worrying. But I sure as hell think of my friend often, and I think of the promise I made. I’ll never probably be as bold. But I will spend the rest of my life trying to live to the absolute fullest, to fill my heart with love and experiences and squeeze out worry and self-doubt. Whatever you do, I hope that you do not let fear, anxiety, and worry dictate your life. I encourage you to share your desire with others, to challenge the fear that keeps you from trying something new, to live big. If not now, then when?
Rest in peace in the blue bird morning skies, Nick Gillespie.
Because this post was very emotional to write, because the content is so precious, I shared this writing with Nick’s parents prior to it’s posting in order to obtain their blessing. They were glad for my experience and thankful that their son’s memory lives on so strong.