One afternoon after lunch in Bhutan, I hiked through rice fields with my tour group (six of us) on our way to the fertility temple. When Namgay, our guide, reached the normal hike access point he noticed that the formerly dirt road was being prepared for paving (Bhutan is changing rapidly – go soon!). Below you can see how they pave the roads – they line the road with rocks and then literally smash the rocks by hand before pouring a mix on top of the rock to create a paved road.
As a result of the new road our route was diverted through the back yard of a local farmer. Namgay lead the group through the farmer’s fields that were arranged in steps, with a bit of an incline between the various field levels. I, always the eager hiker, was right on Namgay’s heels.
Then suddenly, I wasn’t. I had stepped on what looked like dried mud but ended up being a hole. I fell down the hole which then gave way to the side of the hill and I went tumbling down the hillside. It all happened in slow motion. I remember thinking after the first roll that given the pitch, I was not going to come to a stop, so I told myself to try and find something to hold onto growing on the side of the hill. I reached with one hand and grabbed onto a plant full of thorns and it ripped through my hands. With my other hand I was tucking my Nikon SLR into my stomach like a game-winning football.
I knew there was a switchback of some width somewhere below me and I would most likely come to a stop there, but I wasn’t quite sure when it would be. I was also hoping the switchback was wide enough to capture my fall without sending me down the next portion of the hill.
Sure enough, I ended up on my butt on the switchback. I instantly sprung to my feet clutching my camera. As I was falling, I could hear the group shouting in dismay.
When my fall was broken I heard, “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, I’m fine!” I said and started hiking back up the switchback.
I could not stop and indulge their cries of concern. I wanted everyone to continue as if nothing had happened. Namgay saw my hands and arms were bleeding and offered to clean them but I wouldn’t let him. I just needed to keep walking. Our other guide, Matt, wanted to see the damage, but I pushed him off, too.
Growing up, I played a lot of sports and one of the first things you learn is to “shake it off.” Meaning, tough it out and get on with the game; don’t show weakness. I guess now it’s a conditioned response.
So the group kept walking. I put my sunglasses on and walked with more distance between myself and Namgay. We were all walking along narrow byways in the rice fields single-file, and thinking no one could see them, tears started streaming down my face.
I swiped at my tears and started to cry in earnest. I was definitely in shock from the fall, but really my ego was bruised. And not just from the fall. I was on this trip because I had just sold my company – an experience I feel I bumbled my way through. I literally closed the deal and then got on a plane to Bhutan. Selling the company was the right thing but it hurt and like every other injury in a game, I had just tried to shake it off. Bhutan, Buddha wasn’t going to let me off so easily.
My sniffling eventually gave me away and a woman I was hiking with, Kim, touched my shoulder and said, “I’ve been there.”
She instinctively knew that I was crying about more than the fall. In fact, I was crying about all the falls I’ve made in the past few years, in the course of starting, growing and selling a business. The truly wonderful thing was that expressing my emotions and having someone acknowledge them was of instant comfort – way better than an ice-pack.
My tears drying, I looked across the magnificent valley and took in the incredibly hard-working farmers and the rice fields they were getting ready to prepare for the next planting – a process that begins with them ripping out old seed. I realized that this was my new beginning – that after every harvest comes a new season. And when all else fails, keep walking.