The Path You Know Is There

Autumn is awesome for trail runners. The forest is an amazing palette of apple-reds and sharp golds, bright oranges and fresh baked browns. The air is crisp and delicious. The temperatures are perfect. Everything is perfect.

Except for the fact that the trails disappear.

Every October it happens. I round a bend on my run and — stop. Hmm. The trail is gone, obliterated by a million fallen leaves that fill all the nooks and crannies of the path and smooth the forest floor into a single unbroken blanket of dry foliage.

Luckily I’ve been this way a thousand times. I know the trail, know there’s a hidden dirt path there underneath it all, winding its way toward my destination, and so I push ahead across the crackling landscape until finally the leaves thin, and the path reappears below my feet, and the trail markers congratulate me on my perseverance.

But if I hadn’t run this trail before, it would be so easy to get lost — to stumble out randomly into the woods, or to give up hope that I was heading the right way; I might decide it wiser to turn around and reverse direction until I reached an intersection to another, more obvious trail... although perhaps not the one I really wanted to take.

Life is a lot like that.

It’s easy to lose sight of the trail. We may set out feeling sure and determined — to a better job, or a lifelong dream, or the completion of a personal goal — and then somewhere along the way the path gets buried beneath a hundred other things. Stress at work. Emails to answer, phone calls to return. Money concerns. Self-doubt and fear of failure. Errands, chores, home improvement. Sacrifices for family and friends. Suddenly the trail is obscured. We aren’t sure where we’re going anymore. Maybe this isn’t such a good idea. We back up a few steps…

Wait! Before you retreat, please remember this: The path exists. It’s invisible, but it’s right there, waiting for you below all the clutter and confusion. Don’t turn back. Keep moving forward in the same general direction; stay alert and pick up the signs.

You can’t always take the path you see.

Sometimes you have to take the path you know is there.

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