Looks are deceiving.

The team was riding from Dinosaur National Monument, where we had camped for the night, to Vernal, Utah. The previous day we had had to ride 12 miles into the park just to get to the campsite, and so the following day we rode the same 12 miles back out. Luckily it was not in the same heat, but a long gradual mountain followed that challenged our morning muscles. Soon afterward we approached a long flat stretch of road which ended in what looked like a significantly steep hill.

This wasn’t something we hadn’t seen before. We had climbed through the Appalachians, survived the driftless area of Iowa, and climbed to over 10,000 feet in the Rockies. We had ridden plenty of hills and mountains, but for many of us there is always a slight dread when we see yet another hill in the distance, especially when we’ve already packed on some miles.

But, as the hill came ever closer, I reminded myself that usually, it really isn’t as bad as it looks. As our wheels rolled towards the base of the hill, its shape shifted, and gradually that land that had looked like a ninety degree wall blocking our path was flattening out and we realized that it was a shallow slope that was no match for our seasoned legs.

As I slowly but surely climbed that hill, I thought of how this theme has been common over this summer and how it really applies to many aspects of life. Looks are deceiving; often we jump to make predictions or conclusions based on them which can hugely affect our mentality.

In the case of climbing hills, predicting that a hill is steep or long or impossibly difficult negatively affects my mental preparedness. As soon as I see it and make those assumptions, my mental capacity plummets and my belief that I can surpass the challenge disappears. My body feels heavier, my muscles feel tired, and motivational thoughts stop forming. It’s all “This is going to be horrible” and “Maybe I’ll have to walk up this one.” But when it turns out that it only looked bad, I feel much more confident and ready to push myself. It is much better when I can start out with that positive mentality to begin with.

The fact that looks aren’t everything could apply to so many things in life, but I’ll highlight two relevant ones.

First, we are a bunch of college kids riding bikes we’ve (mostly) never ridden before across the United States. If you saw our first team picture from way back in the fall at our first team meeting, you probably wouldn’t imagine that sort of feat out of a random grouping of young students. You might not even think that we’d want to volunteer our time for that sort of thing, or maybe you’d expect us to give up in the first week. But again, looks are deceiving, and I have learned time and time again over the course of this trip that we are indeed capable of such an insane trip. And though I didn’t even know it myself when I started, I have learned that a few people really can make a huge impact just by putting themselves (literally) out there and by taking a minute to listen and observe and experience. Even I had my own predictions, but they were soon shattered.

Second, I again want to reflect on why we do the ride, though I may repeat myself. Cancer is so prominent that everyone probably at least walks by someone every day who has been touched by cancer. In general, every day people walk past others who are suffering or worrying or hurting from something. Yet we get angry at the slow driver in front of us or we get annoyed by the restaurant service or we walk through the park without smiling at anyone we pass. Looks are deceiving. That waitress might be smiling but she just lost a relative. That person relaxing at the park is actually wondering how he’s going to pay the bills. The man we did a portrait with today was kind and talkative and friendly, but when the portrait began he immediately teared up when sharing the story of his deceased father.

If we hadn’t taken a moment to just stop and listen, we wouldn’t have known this story which defined part of his life and touched him so deeply. If we jump to conclusions about other people in the world, we could be missing out on relationships and we could miss so many opportunities to learn and grow.

If I let myself believe I can’t do it just because of the way that hill looks, it will only make conquering it that much harder. If I remember that looks are deceiving, especially when it comes to hills, then I will only find reward.

Comments (1)
  • dan thuente says:

    You have learned a lesson many people never learn, others only when they are much older. As a cashier at a grocery store, I see all kinds of people every day. I am lucky in that most come into my store with a smile. However, some don’t & I also learned a long time ago, I have no idea what their story is, & it really isn’t for me to decide. I try to treat everyone the same, maybe an extra smile for the people not smiling. Life is too short to worry about things out of our control. Just enjoy every moment & be proud of what you are doing for yourself & everyone you touch. Keep up the good work!!

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