“I am happy. No one shot at me today… I’ve got every reason to be happy. If getting a C in a class is the worst thing that happened to me this year – I’m doing pretty well,” said the cheerful Zack Johnston.
Optimistic about life. Adventurous in personality. Descendant of four generations of Wheaton College students. He’s bound to go far in life. How could he not when his favorite quote said by Canon Andrew White is:
“Take risks, not care.”
This 20-year-old young man aspires to climb Mount Huashan, which “kidnaps” about 100 lives every year. Located in China, with narrow precipices and over four hours of climbing, this mountain is considered by many to be the most dangerous hiking trail in the world. Zack is going to take his favorite quote to the next level by implementing it into his lifestyle when he crosses this one off his bucket list.
Not only does he desire to climb this massive peak, but he has already adventured through some of the United States. He has hiked, kayaked, canoed, camped, climbed, and photographed in Colorado, Tennessee, Missouri, and Wisconsin.
This desire to take risks may stem from his obstinate youth. When Johnston was young, he was sent out to pick a switch for punishment if he was out of line. Reminiscing, he said that he would run out to his backyard and bring back a log instead of a switch. When his father told him to put the log back and choose a real switch, he would wander back out with his first log and trade it in for the biggest thing he could carry. Staggering under the weight, he only made his punishment worse, but it was worth it for the stories it brought later in life. He confessed, “I benefitted from [the discipline].” Obviously, he was a sarcastic child with a witty sense of humor who needed a little discipline to put him in line for his success in the future.
The adventures started early in his life. In 2005, when Zack was ten years old, he began spending time with a friend he wasn’t supposed to be around, “taking part in any number of shenanigans.” Together, the young boys decided that it would be fun to shoot flaming arrows through his backyard (which happened to be wooded). At first, the flaming arrow would fall off the bow and stay behind, falling on the boys’ hands. Unfortunately, they finally figured out how to launch the arrow off the bow and out of sight. After a high five and congratulation at a successful launch, they realized that the direction they shot the arrow in was towards a neighbor’s field – full of hay. They immediately took off running to survey the potential damage done. When they arrived, the arrow had landed 10 feet short of a rolled hay barrel. Thus, adventures from the young, rebellious Zack began early and continue to this day (without the “young, rebellious” part, of course).
As Johnston got older, his passion fell to soccer. He played on the school team and in different leagues, dedicating a large portion of time to the sport he loved. During his senior season, devastation hit when he hurt his ankle and found out that he had a career ending injury. Without soccer, he was forced to change his passion. Luckily, he could still remain active in different ways: He turned to working out and then began to rock climb.
Coming to Wheaton College was a new start for Johnston, allowing for him to be involved on campus with different activities including rock climbing and filmmaking. This filmmaking is a passion of his. He says it is important because “people all over the world deserve to have their stories told and deserved to be loved as I have been. I find joy in doing that and being able to love people well.”
And that’s how he wants to be remembered.
He wants people to think about his love and service when they think of him. He wants people to know that they can go to him if they’re ever in a jam or need help. He wants to freely give and end his life strong knowing that he loved people well, perhaps even going out of his way to do so. While some people would say this is a naive way to live – loving so hard and not knowing what you might get in return, I think his answer would be this:
Take risks, not care.