When I saw the limited run bandana, Stay Golden, one of my favorite lines from a book came to mind. I knew I couldn’t write about this mantra without paying homage to an influential book from my childhood, The Outsiders. I hope you’ve read it (or seen the movie. It’s got Patrick Swayze, a young Rob Lowe AND the adorable Ralph Macchio so yeah, watch it), because it’s an incredible coming of age novel. A group of young boys, all with friendly-sounding gang names, navigate a rough neighborhood in 1960’s America. A loveable character is on his deathbed and he says to the narrator, and main character,
“Stay Gold, Ponyboy.”
The reference is to a Robert Frost poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay. The line hits me so hard in The Outsiders because growing up involves a lot of loss of the gold things: innocence, simplicity, freshness, potential. We all feel that loss, and as we grow up it’s hard to hold onto the things that we know are true within ourselves.
That’s why Stay Golden is so good. It’s a reminder that original, authentic parts of ourselves are good. They shine.
Sometimes, negative events in our world threaten to blackout all the golden, shiny, wonderful parts of life. A few weeks ago I read that an Appalachian Trail hiker was killed during his thru hike. The trail holds a close a special, golden, place in my heart. When I was hiking last year I felt most true to myself, and that I was creating and controlling my reality (as much as I can).
My heart broke when I thought about the hikers this year who may doubt their decision to walk to Maine. Let me pause and say that this is rare, something like that happening on the AT. The trail is a dangerous journey but not because of horrible people. The terrain, the length of the journey, the weather, the physical feat, occasional (but also rare) wildlife — those all make it dangerous. But this year, an unstable, unhealthy human (not hiker) was on the trail and threatened the hiking community.
It’s not always easy to shine. Life is hard, and we struggle to maintain the life we dreamed of as a kid– it’s why Jenni designed this bandana.
A few days ago I decided on a whim to drive two hours and meet my friend who is thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail this season. I asked her, Bubbles (her trail name), about this event and how it was changing her walk. She said she had never felt unsafe on the trail and never expected to feel that way. She said that every hiker this year will carry the weight of the event with them. But what she told me that has stuck with me the most was that the second victim of the attack, a woman who survived, visited the trail days later to encourage other hikers.
My friend was crying when she told me that part of the story. She couldn’t believe that a victim of such an attack could come back and tell her fellow hikers to keep walking.
THAT is staying gold. THAT is creating your own reality. Despite the darkness, the bullshit, the unknown parts of life, continuing your dream.
And even if we succumb to attacks, or the randomness of life that can get you down, being able to tell others to ‘stay golden’ is the best way to shine.