Backstory: In 2005 I decided to thru hike the AT after graduating, well, grad school. In 2006 I met my husband (again) … (that needs clarification- “again” because we met in 8th grade and were fast friends through about the first year of college) now in our late 20s. A job switch was needed to go back to school and between jobs I decided to hike the AT for a week. I invited Brandon. He went. We got engaged. We got married. We got married a month later I might add. That’s its own story (maybe its own blog haha! also, see obligatory wedding pic below lol!). I finished school in Dec. and said to B “If I don’t have a job by February I’m thru hiking the AT.” B- “Okay.” I had a job by February (pt). G- “If I don’t have another part time job soon I’m going to plan to hike the trail.” I got another pt job in March. G- “If I don’t have a full time job by the end of the year I’m going to quit in the spring and thru hike.” B- “Good for you!” G- “I just got a full time job.” It happened right at the end of that year that I said I’d be moving on to fulfilling this goal. As you can see, the workforce did me well.
I temporarily forgot the madness that was ATFever Spring 2005-Dec. 2009.
Then in 2011 a friend said she was thru hiking the AT. Perhaps in a moment of humor she threw out that I should quit my job and hike with her. I had told B about her plans but not about my resurfacing desire. He suggested on his own that I quit my job and thru hike the trail….. now fast forward a bit.
Is it okay to want to section hike the AT? Am I giving up something? Or gaining? Or either?
When confronted with the idea of joining Brooke on her hike I was assaulted with dread and worry and anxiety. What if I didn’t have a job when I came back? What if I couldn’t find one even months later? What if I couldn’t find an affordable car to get to the job? What if the house sold and I wasn’t there to help move? What would happen to my feral cat? What would happen to me? Who would do my blog. Who would take care of the dog?
I had a laundry list of why nots but not many why tos. Was I creating a cloud of why I shouldn’t, to save me from failure, or from the fear of the unknown? Was I wussing out and taking the easy way out?
My husband assured me he’d take care of the dog and that both he and I would have lost a great deal of weight from walking, though me on the trail and him with the wagging tail. He assured me I’d get a job, find a cheap car to get me there (we’d have to sell my truck to raise money for the hike. Lots of people do this and it is very common. He said from the sale of the house we’d be able to get me a decent to and from work car…), and that all would be well. He warned me this was probably my last chance to do the trail all at once (for a very very long time) if I had intentions to have children in the near future. He said he thought it would actually be harder for me to complete the trail in pieces throughout the next few decades, and far more expensive in the long run than just having a go at it all at once. I heard these same sentiments and more from friends and family. I felt crushed and caved in by the expectations of others that I must do these things. Especially since I had vocally said over and over again that I wanted to thru hike the AT. I heard sentiments that I was ruining my life if I chickened out. Everyone seemed to know what was best for me and all of it pointed to the trail.
I fell into a deep depression, confused by all of the soul searching about my dreams and if they were still my dreams.
Everyone thought they were doing the best thing for me, pushing me towards my dreams. But in the tears of indecisiveness I had to ask, what if we grow out of our dreams? What if they become an old skin, too small or too big with our growth into ourselves, or with the loss of baggage that no longer fills us to the point of heavy bursting? This was a moment in which I had to decide if this dream still defined me and created a part of me.
I began to see lifelong dreams as snake skins that we shed from ourselves from time to time. A necessary changing part of the seasons, of life. We are still ourselves. We still have our skins. We can still be hurt by this process yet we still come out whole. In my soul searching I found truth in this idea. It comforted me. I was not “giving up” my dream. I had metamorphosed into something that didn’t need that old skin (dream) any more. It was keeping me from moving through life to the best of my ability. It was time to let it go. It is okay to let go of your dreams sometimes. They served us well when they traveled with us. We need to let go of the strings and admire them from afar sometimes. Are they weighing you down? Or lifting you up? My dream of thru hiking with its long term commitment and major life changes was weighing me down. Heavily constricting my ability to breathe. With tears and not a little ripping I moved on.
So now I’m officially embracing the idea of section hiking. I cannot thank all the people who have played a role by listening (Brooke, Brandon, and April certainly paid their dues), by sending me quotes, Bible versus, words of wisdom, stories from their lives and more.. (you all know who you are and though I haven’t thanked you each one by one, I will thank you every day I read your words printed out on 5 fabulous pieces of paper on the trail. You are all my heroes), and by believing in me and being encouraging you have helped me more than words can say. Thank you to all of my new friends on WhiteBlaze who helped me plan, gave words of encouragement and gear help (Lindsey, Mike, and the Counselor!) and to all the people in all the gear stores (and who went with me to gear stores) who patiently waited for me to be befuddled and slow about all the new gear options.
I take a piece of each of you with me on the trail. Each time I do the trail. A dream in pieces. I am not ashamed of changing my dreams…
And now to leave you with a happy pic of the whole reason for this blog: Whiskey.