#ChasingSunrise #IntoTheUnknown #MECNation #MakeItCount

Written by: Anna Pearson
Original Source

When I first stumbled upon Chasing Sunrise, all I could think was “these are my people” - a community that understands that with each sunrise, we are given a choice: we can either stay in bed waiting for life to come to us or we can get up and get after it, chasing what we want. The latter is about wanting more out of life. More memories. More adventures. More mind-blowing experiences.

The past five years of my life have focused on coming to terms with my own mental health. It has taken a diagnosis of clinical depression, generalized anxiety disorder and an eating disorder in order for me to slowly understand the importance of compassion and vulnerability. Through it all, I have gained a new appreciation for life. This constant struggle to find happiness in my life allowed me to recognize the simpler things in life. It’s the little things that often become clouded by the hustle and bustle of our society.

When I chose to go public about my mental health, I found myself stepping well beyond my comfort zone. Somehow, I had gone from complete denial to complete acceptance in such a short time. This gave me the courage to continue to push myself beyond my comfort zone - taking on new adventures, meeting new people and exploring the world - because it was my way of showing the monsters that lived inside my head that I was in control of my life and that they would never be able to stop me from pursing my happiness.

Thus, when Chasing Sunrise chose me, one of the 50 individuals to take on the unknown, I didn’t even question it. Immediately, I booked a direct flight from Ottawa to Vancouver - even though I had no idea what I was signing up for, where I was going or who I would meet. It’s safe to say this is one of the most spontaneous things I have ever done.

Chasing Sunrise couldn’t have entered my life at a more essential time. Recently graduating from my undergrad, most of my daily interactions involve people asking me the dreaded question of “what’s next?” The majority of people seemed to focus on diving into my potential career or future educational path - but few actually stopped to question if I am happy or simply asking what makes me happy.

This past weekend, overhearing “what makes you happy?” instead of “what do you do for a living?” was both comforting and inspiring. As I took in my surroundings, I saw that everyone had their own story. For many, we had faced hardships, yet this only seemed to widen our immense passion for adventure and happiness.

And so, 50 strangers with completely different backgrounds, ages and lifestyles found themselves pulling up to Manning Provincial Park to take part in #ChaseCamp. And with zero cell service, we took to the wild and learned how to truly connect with one another.

Photo Credit: Ivan Calderon

Photo Credit: Ivan Calderon

It was as though we had somehow forgotten what it felt like to be a kid.

Every time we laughed, we were reminded of that feeling of genuine fun.  We stopped worrying and began to push away society’s rules on how one should behave. Our sole focus for the next 48 hours was happiness and for the first time in awhile, I felt as though I was fully present.

Living in the moment. Right then and there.

Our 2:45 AM wake up call was about making life count. We began our 16 km hike in total darkness, relying only on our trusty headlamps for guidance. As we trekked towards the top of the mountain, light slowly began to fill the sky. Together, we made it to the top where we were greeted with the sun slowly rising up above the mountains. All 50 of us simultaneously thinking "this is so worth it." 

Photo Credit: Philip Gibney

Photo Credit: Philip Gibney

My short time with Chasing Sunrise has enlightened my perspective of life. “You were born to do more than just pay bills and die” is about finding your inner happiness rather than letting others define you. It has provided me with the courage to stop worrying what others may think, and start focusing on how I can make each day count.