My life revolves around numbers…
Days until I quit my job: 43
Days until we leave for Georgia: 46
Days until we start our thru-hike: 49
For the past few months, my days have started by looking at these numbers. Everything that happens to me is seen through the lens of “time left”. I have this many more days of work. I have this many more weekends. My life that exists between now and the trail has become nothing more than a waiting room where I just sit until it’s time for something to happen.
It’s not a new feeling. In fact it’s one of the biggest reasons I’ve decided to thru-hike. My entire life has been spent looking toward the horizon. In high school, I looked ahead to college. In college, I looked ahead to a career, however vague that idea may have been. Now I have a job, a great one by any reasonable standards, but one that has leaves me unfulfilled nonetheless. I’ve reached a point where there is no next step to look forward too. I’ve never had any sort of roadmap for my life except the default one of what society expects. By always focusing on a future that was laid out for me, I never had to learn to appreciate what’s in front of me. I never discovered and cultivated the things that made me happy because I was too focused on what things were GOING to make me happy. I’ve always lacked that quality that has become such a buzzword in the self-help world: mindfulness.
Intellectually, I know the importance of mindfulness. It helps you enjoy the little things in life, you don’t overanalyze, and your mind doesn’t run wild with anxiety because you only focus on what’s currently in front of you. I know the principles but so far I’ve done a poor job of living by them. And that’s where the trail comes in.
On the trail you have no choice but to be mindful. You only carry a few days worth of food at a time so you can’t plan too far ahead. You have to get rid of your desire for new and shiny material things because you’re limited to what you can carry on your back. You can’t worry about the weather because you know you’ll be out walking in it whether it rains or not. You can’t think about the mountain you have to climb tomorrow because you’re busy climbing one today. If you don’t focus on the step you’re taking right now you risk tripping and injuring yourself.
I know the trail has so much to teach me, but that doesn’t mean my time between now and then has to be some sort of limbo. There is plenty I can accomplish and enjoy between now and then. I’m going to do my best to be present for every moment of it.
You can plan for the future, but you can’t live there. I’ve planned enough. I’m ready to start living.
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