6 Days Out: Pre-Trail Jitters

When I was in High School I took a college level government and politics course, the end of which we had to take this “AP Exam” that we spent the last two months of school studying for. I distinctly remember my teacher starting out every class saying “I’m gettin’ nervous guys. I’m gettin nervous! Two months till the exam!” But instead of studying we’d pop in a barely relevant movie like Dave (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_%28film%29) and spend two classes watching that.

Sometimes, you have to trust that everything will work out in the end.

That’s the same sort of place that I’m in right now, with 6 days remaining until I hit the trail. Every morning I wake up and think to myself “6 days, I’m gettin’ nervous. Gettin’ nervous!” and I subsequently proceed to do an hour of productive work, two hours of video games, work a six hour shift, and come home to eat pizza and watch a full length movie like Castaway or The Departed or something. After that I go to sleep and the cycle begins anew.

This is the issue with trying to get everything done in time for a big life-changing event. It’s a textbook case of Parkinson’s Law, which is a sociological “law” (not really a law, more of a theory) that dictates that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

There’s definitely some truth to that theory.

Seriously – I don’t even know where all of these extra tasks to accomplish are coming from. One minute I’ll think I’m fine – I’ve got all my gear (to everyone saying my gear was heavy before – everything weighed in, with food minus water, at 26 pounds 7 ounces), my mail drops are constructed (at least the first couple), and all of my plans for getting down to Springer Mountain are set in stone. The next minute things go crazy – I remember I have to transfer over my car, make a few different calls for financial aid in the fall, prepare for an interview for another law school, see off as many family members as possible before I leave, and a bajillion other things.

There are times in life where it’s appropriate to focus on completing everything you you need to do. This is not one of those times. I’m learning that it’s really a matter of managing to keep afloat.

If there was one thing that I sometimes wish I could change about my upcoming Thru-Hike, it would be attaining a “total-immersion” experience, even though that’s rarely how the real world works. When I was younger I dreamed about dropping everything and heading down south with a couple hundred bucks (I was a kid, I had no idea how money worked) and a pack on my back, ready to hit the trail. It was going to be me and me alone out there – no loans to pay, no emails to keep up with, no phone calls to make. I was inspired by the early stories, the legends like Earl Shaffer who accomplished this feat with seemingly rudimentary equipment by today’s standards. I used to think it would be a time away from everything.

An evolving vision of the Thru-Hike

For a while now I’ve known that this is NOT how it was going to be, and I’m ok with that. There is still part of me that wants cut all my ties and wander north, keeping true to the original vision I had for this thru-hike. It’s a nice thought, and perhaps I’ll keep the spirit of that vision alive, but truthfully I’ll carry a lot more than my pack with me when I’m out there in two weeks. I think that’s what is stressing me out the most at this point. In terms of the trail itself, I’m about as prepared as I can be. Gear has been purchased, initial maildrops have been plotted, finances (and financial support) are stable – even my trip down to Georgia has been plotted out and booked. Everything else is just that “other stuff” that I was talking about before. It’s not essential, or even relevant to the trail, but unfortunately it is essential to the rest of life that won’t be pressing pause while I’m out hiking (“The world does not start and stop at your convenience, Donny!”). Here’s a breakdown of what I have left to do, which I’m probably writing more for my sake than anything else:

  • Finalize departure dates for my current job
  • Final law school interviews
  • Packing up all of my belongings for the post-trail move back to Boston
  • Finding an apartment in Boston (going to be something I’ll figure out while I’m on the trail)
  • Attempt to buy some supplies for school and the new apartment
  • Transfer my car to another family member
  • Finish Taxes
  • Finish the FAFSA
  • etc.

Thankfully there’s some fun things in there too

  • Travel New England on the good old relative visiting travel circuit
  • Spend a long weekend up in Vermont (outside of Okemo) with a bunch of my High School/College friends
  • Drive up to Maine and spend a couple relaxing days with Amanda before the long drive down south to Springer Mountain

Even this post is something I’ve been putting off. The title has changed from 21 Days Out” to “16 Days Out” before finally landing at what you see above. I’ve never come close to wanting to back out of the hike, but it’s got me so anxious that I stopped thinking about it for a while and spent time doing other things that I needed to be doing instead. Yet here we are – six days out from the biggest adventure of my life. It’s about time to start looking forward and be prepared to roll with whatever lies ahead. Essential preparation is finished, and anything else is something that I’ll be ok figuring out along the trail (they do call it a learning curve after all).

Six Days to Georgia. I wish most of you could understand what it feels like to finally be able to say that.


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