Sometimes in the dog days of summer training athletes look for a way to escape the grind, both mentally and physically. Sometimes, you don't have enough energy to get out of your bed and retreat to your air conditioned room and binge watch Netflix. Other times, you realize the only time you have left your room is for workouts and are in dire need to get out and see something other than the four feet you have been staring at while traversing endless stretches of pavement and trail. Many of these escapes from the grind require a good friend, someone who won’t talk about heart rates, lactates, or training hours but talk with you about mindless things unrelated to training. Beyond not bringing up grueling past workouts full of missed shots and missed marks, the person has to be able to make you laugh, helping you forget about your first world problems and to enjoy the simple things in life.
This summer, when I was in need of an escape it was a simple recipe; pump up my free air mattress and float down the Namakagon with Jillian. Before this summer, I had never ventured down the Namakagon River but an afternoon floating down a river on a tube sounded like a great break. After doing a little recon, I realized that there there were easy put in and take out points only a couple miles apart right in Seeley, WI. We didn't know what the river was like between those points, but we figured we'd go for it anyway. As we started, we did our best to navigate the small rapids and fallen trees across the river. Soon after we had started our expedition Jillian and I realized that our air mattress had a leak and we were losing air. As we continued to float Jillian asked me if I thought we’d make it and I just responded with a smile on my face, “I hope so!”
As we continued to float down the river on our sinking mattress we laughed all the harder. Even as we continued to avoid tree branches, rocks and spiders, we were never deterred by the fact that maybe this was an adventure that would have it’s challenges, or have a mattress that would make it to the end. After an hour or so of floating, we made it to our take out point with enough air in our mattress to still keep the both of us dry. We both smiled and had the same exact thought, “I’m so lucky to have someone as dumb as you to go on adventures with.”
As we were driving back to the cabin after our little river adventure I had the thought about how many times in life we are on an adventure with a leaking tube. Many times we start something and quickly realize we are on a leaky tube, not sure if we are equipped to make it to our desired destination. What happens when we can’t see a clear path set before us? Do we freak our and quit early, afraid of getting stranded along the way?Or do we press on, trusting God has a plan set out for us no matter what obstacles may come our way?
Even though Jillian and I's little expedition down the mighty Namakagon river may have been trivial compared to some of the storms of life, it showed us so much more. As I continue to navigate my way through this adventure called life, I know that the obstacles in front of me will never end. As these obstacles come my way, I want to be able to meet them head on with my number one adventure partner by my side, knowing that together we are stronger than we would be on our own. We realized that even as we both continue to pursue our own callings, biathlon for me and medical school for Jillian, we know together we can encourage one another to become the person God has called them to be. So in true Jillian and Paul fashion we decided to tie the knot in the city we met and love, Duluth, MN, on August 27th, 2018. As we read each other our vows on the shores of Lake Superior, professing our love for each other in front of our closest loved ones and God, we committed to lifelong journey together as husband and wife. We are committed to encouraging and supporting each other in our own pursuits in life, knowing we have a higher calling in life than settling for complacency. Together, we hope to never try and fit a mold society has made for us, but to walk our own path together looking upwards to greater things in store. To all of our friends and family that have helped us both get to where we are today, we both say thank you. Thank you for always believing and supporting us no matter what the circumstances. And above all, thank you Jesus for not only this amazing gift called life, but also being able to share it with someone as amazing as Jillian.