Am I Insane?
With only three more days before I begin my thru-hike, I have found myself asking this question much more than I have in the months and days leading up to this moment. I find myself questioning every piece of gear that I have purchased and questioning why would I want to leave the comfortable life that I am living now for a completely different and uncomfortable lifestyle. But most of all, I find myself asking two questions about my future.
Click here for my complete gear list.
Why leave the community I have?
After graduating in May of 2015 I was determined to maintain some of the community that I had during my time at Valparaiso (Valpo) and to find new community that I could invest in. Ten months later, I am proud to say I have both maintained relationships with my three best friends and found new community at my place of work and at a local church’s post-college small group. So why on earth leave these amazing people for loneliness and solidarity?
But first, will I actually be lonely? According to the Appalachian Trail Conservatory, there will be at least 20 people who will start the same day I will and nearly 700 more who will start over the course of the month of March (these numbers are based upon voluntary registration through the ATC). Needless to say, there will not be a shortage of people on the trail and assuming that we bond over common experience, I will bond quickly with the people I meet, but I still have my selfish doubts. Will I feel close to anyone? Will all of my trail friendships remain as ‘surface level friendships’? How will I avoid being surrounded by people, yet feeling completely alone?
These questions will be answered on trail. The fear of the unknown is surely what is driving me to ask them and that for that reason, I find peace. Now to the question on hand – why leave the communities that I have invested in so heavily? A friend once told me that we have mountain top experiences so that we can bring others up to the mountain to experience the same things. Another cliche phrase says that we are blessed to be a blessing to others. Both pick up on the necessity of community, but also on the need to go out and to expand the community and to continue to grow and to serve others. This is my hope in withdrawing and leaving – that God would take the ways that I have been shaped by the communities that have surrounded me and take them to new highs and new lows (quite literally).
What happens if I fail?
I am not normally one to seriously give any weight to a ‘what if’ question, but I believe this one warrants a response. Failure. Shame. Regret. Embarrassment. Humiliation. Defeat. All negative emotions and feelings that one has when they ‘fail’ at something, big or small. I fear the same feelings if I am not able to complete my thru-hike, but if we gave fear the run of the house, then why get out of bed in the morning? You might die or something bad might happen to you.
Instead, I know the odds are against me (something like 70% of people who start their thru-hike will not finish it), but that doesn’t mean I won’t try and give it everything that I have. If I fail, I will feel many of the emotions that I listed before, but I will also feel, with some time, a sense of gratitude and privilege that I was able to take months of my life to live in the wilderness, meet new people, experience the world in a different light, and enjoy moments of solitude like I will never have again. So if I fail? Well – I’m not going to of course, but even if I do, I will not let it define my experience.
For a fantastic article on why telling people about your thru-hike is important and why you should not keep it a secret out of fear click here.
Here We Go
In three days I will begin what is sure to be an emotional, physical, and spiritual battle. There will be countless moments of happiness, laughter, anger, frustration, and suffering, but if I do not experience one, how will I know the other exists? If you’re a praying person, pray. If you aren’t, I thank you for your thoughts. One foot in front of the other they say, let’s see where that takes me. I reckon that it will be one heck of an adventure.
See you on the trail.
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