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Lifelong dreams can be realized

By Johnny Molloy • Dec 31, 2017 at 7:15 AM

I fondly remember when the very first book I wrote came out. It was spring of 1996. “Trial by Trail: Backpacking in the Smoky Mountains” was flung to the public, published by University of Tennessee Press. The book recalled adventures in the Smokies into which Smokies lore and camping tips were woven.

The UT Press publicity machine went into action and next thing I know the Knoxville News Sentinel did a story about the book that landed on the front page. Wow! And then there was my first book signing. It was at a bookstore in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, with none other than the legendary Sam Venable. Well, ol’ Sam had been writing for the Knoxville paper for a long time and had developed quite a following. Attendees at the signing were literally lined up to see Sam, while I sat next to him, with no one waiting in line to see me, feeling embarrassed as fan after fan came up and gushed about Sam’s work.

Sensing my unease, Sam subsequently went to bat for me, sending every person for whom he signed a book my way. I did sign and sell a few books, but the high of being on the front page of the newspaper came crashing down at that Oak Ridge book signing.

Other events followed and soon I got a realistic handle on my place in the pecking order of authors, for now I was an official “author” with a published book (I admit I am not crazy about the word “author” and think of myself as a writer rather than an author).

A book signing in my hometown of Memphis was much better for my shaky ego. My mother had recruited about every friend and fellow church member to come to the signing.

So here were these little old ladies who had never been on a trail in their lives coming to buy a memoir about a place four hundred miles away they would never visit. Other friends of mine and family friends stopped by, too. To my mother I am forever grateful for bringing in all those “ringers,” for it imparted a sense of success.

She taught me a few other things as well. One lesson was from the children’s book, The Little Engine That Could, about the train that kept climbing the hill saying, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” Her positive mental attitude was one of the greatest gifts a son can receive.

Hiking (and writing) is much more of a mental game than the casual observer may know. It seems simple, and it is: put one foot in front of the other, keep going, and you will make the trail’s end. The war is in your head — to take a break or keep moving, to slow down or speed up, to quit or not to quit. And after you’ve had a tough day, to wake up in the morning and hit the trail again.

To believe you can do it, telling yourself, like the Little Engine That Could, “I think I can, I think I can.” Most limitations people have are self-imposed.

What are you dreaming of doing?

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