An Open Letter to the Hiker at the Back

Dear Hiker at the Back, 

I know you're back there, probably sweating a little more than most of us, probably struggling a little bit more.  When we started hiking you probably made some little joke about being the Caboose.  You also probably made the comment that we shouldn't wait for you, or that maybe you should start a few minutes before the rest of the group arrived so you wouldn't hold everyone up.  The group leader more than likely told you not to worry about it.  The group leader told you we would all hike together.  Yet, there you are, a few minutes behind.  

I've been you before.  I've been the person at the back wondering what the hell I've gotten myself into.  Second guessing my abilities.  Wishing I would have just sold my backpack on Craigslist last week like I threatened to.  Knowing that the WHOLE GROUP is just waiting on me.  Knowing I'm holding EVERYONE up from our destination.  Feeling like a failure.  KNOWING I'm a failure.  

Oh, dear hiker at the back, you're so very wrong.  No one in the group thinks you're hindering the experience.  Even though you feel like you're miles behind the group has only been waiting a few minutes.  Truth be told, we all wanted to wait and catch our breath too.  We all hiked up that hill just like you did.  It was hard - we all thought so.  All the complaining you did in your head?  Well, we all did it too, probably even out loud!  When you catch up we cheer because you look like you needed a boost and we're proud of you.  

The truth of the matter is someone is always bringing up the rear - they have to.  Someone always has to be first and someone always has to be last.  Your group leader who seems to be in such amazing shape was probably last once too.  More than likely every single person you're hiking with has been in your shoes.  Our excitement and enthusiasm to see you isn't faked or exaggerated - it's genuine joy that we get to share our experience with you.  The you're out here hiking with us and working every bit as hard as all of the group.  You're accomplishing something right now.  Your experiences aren't worth any less just because of your speed.  

If you stick with it chances are a few years down the road you'll be the one leading others up those hills and into the woods, climbing them with steady feet and a careful gait.  You'll be the one encouraging others with your stories of being the slow one.  You'll give the high fives and the hugs and celebrate the victories - large and small - with everyone you hike with.  I promise, you're doing an amazing job. 


The Hiker in the Front