My 2017 adventure has come to an end. Not for any one reason, but because of several deciding factors. The first being that I’ve been out of money for at least two months now and I’m unwisely racking up debt. Followed by my desire to not walk in wind and rain. In spite of my best efforts, I’m a fair-weather hiker.
Today I got pelted by sand flying at me at 65 mph (according to the weather report). There’s also that I wanted to surprise my parents for the holidays.
Then a number of small reasons: my feet hurt, I’m tired, my mind is restless, I’m itching to start building toward my next goal and next adventures, I need to exercise my mind for a while because I feel myself going dim.
I have had time to reflect on my life, and on my hike. In the beginning, if you remember, a trail angel said that he did his thru-hike in stages. California was to think about his past, Oregon was to think about his present, and Washington was to think about his future. Mine was in a slightly different order, but it’s the same in essence. What I’ve come up with is this:
My past really doesn’t matter anymore. It happened and much of it sucked (my 20’s). I imagine that memories will grace me from time to time and I’ll scowl in disgust before moving on. The people in my past will remain there and they will never be part of my present or future. It’s not that I can’t forgive, it’s just that forgiveness doesn’t mean I have to make the same mistakes again. Lessons learned.
Shhh…don’t tell anyone that I’m listening to the menacing wind from the comfort of a hotel room, where I’ve been for a few days. I’m going to say that my “present” is everything that has happened on this long journey.
Many of you have been following along, reading about my complaining, frustration, awe, and whatever mood swing I was spiraling through at the time.
This hike has been the single most meaningful journey of my life. I know I am going go struggle to explain its significance because, unless you’ve been there, there’s no way you will really get it (See: “Adventure Types”).
I don’t know that I’m much more confident than when I started, but perhaps more determined to succeed? I don’t know that I’m much more fit, but maybe habituated to move? Not wiser, but proceeding with a clear mind. Not more creative, but more inspired. Not more alive, but maybe I’ve finally woken up.
At one of my weakest moments, my brother wrote encouragement that I’ll never forget. “You never started this adventure to compare how much better someone is than someone else; you started it to be better than yourself when you started.” I may not be anywhere near my goals or anywhere near being the person I want to be, but for the first time in years, I’ve taken a step forward. 3,081,178 steps to be precise.
I am proud of myself. I’ve met amazing people. I’ve seen things that brought me to tears. I’ve been places that many people will never go. I’ve done things that some will never do. I found pieces of myself that I thought were lost forever. I found a reason to have faith in people. I started to dream bigger. I’ve accomplished so much more in this journey than I ever thought I would. Which brings me to…
I’ve gone over dozens upon dozens of life scenarios. I think I’ve found one that fits. (Fingers crossed). I found a lovely program in the Peace Corps, hiking 6 miles every day to a tiny school in Nicaragua, to educate children about the importance of preserving the rainforest.
In my journey this year, my hiking partner and I met a very nice man who worked for the forest service. We were discussing clear-cutting with him. He was happy and adamantly proclaimed “it’s good for the birds.” This man was not evil or vindictive. He was simply not educated on the subject.
I’ve walked through many forests, and you know what I heard? Life. Everywhere. In abundance (with the exception of one creepy spot in Lassen). And you know what I heard in the clear-cut sections? Nothing. Complete silence. …it’s good for the birds.
Now you can imagine when I saw that rainforest program pop up again, how it just felt right. I think this year, I’ll be learning Spanish.
If the Peace Corps works out (I’ll blog about that too, contingent on internet availability), I will follow it with grad school…possibly a doctoral program in psychology. We’ll see.
I also will make art again. That is a certainty. And I will attempt the Pacific Crest Trail again because it was worth every struggle to get there. As far as love, it’s up in the air right now. Who can really know where that will go.
Thank you for coming on my journey with me. For assisting with my sanity. For encouragement. For company. For something to occupy my mind. I hope this inspired you to move from “dreamer” to “adventurer.”