Dear David: A Letter to Me About Grit, Determination
As I sit here with less than a month to go until I set off on my thru-hike I am filled with all sorts of feelings. Feelings of excitement for this adventure that I have been planning, for what now seems like forever. Feelings of anxiousness, curiosity, and a endless stream of “what if” questions of the unknown that lies ahead on the trail. Feelings of sadness about temporarily leaving my girlfriend, family, friends, and my job.
I know that the journey is not going to be easy. It is going to be an enormous challenge, both mentally and physically. There are going to be days that straight up suck. There are also going to be days that will be incredible and will make all the crap days worth the struggle. At the end, the reward will be unlike anything else I have ever experienced.
One of the things I have wanted to do before setting off on the trail is write an open letter to myself. A letter that I can look back at and read for a pick me up and a pep talk to help get me refocused and back on track when I inevitably hit those tough days on the trail. So here it is.
A Letter to Me
You’re probably reading this because today or the last few days have just plain sucked. The rain has likely been nonstop, you’re sore, your feet and joints ache, maybe you’ve been on the blood sugar roller coaster despite sticking to your plan. Maybe you’re even wondering what you are doing out here. All of that is OK. You expected that there would be days like this.
Remember why you’re out here, why you’re doing this. All of the reasons, remember each one of them and what each one of them means to you. Look at the fire that each of those reasons sets in your soul. You knew that you were going to be setting out on one of the most physically and mentally demanding things you’ve ever set out to do; channel that motivation that got you to want to do this. Use that to get through the tough times. You’ve planned this for the better part of two years and and wanted this for even longer.
Remember what you’ve been through to get this far, the planning, your time so far on the trail, the good days and the bad. Look back at what those days have taught you. Look back at what you have learned about yourself and what you are capable of. Remember that the trail always finds a way to give back. Look forward to the adventure that still lays ahead of you.
You have no control of the obstacles, only how you respond to them.
In the words of RTB, “embrace the suck.” What else would he be telling you right now? Grind through the challenges but make every step count, be calculated and precise and do not react on emotions alone.
Listen to your body; seriously, listen to it. There is no penalty for listening to your body; the penalty for ignoring it is steep. Stretch. Stretch at night, in the morning, and whenever you can. Be grateful that your body has gotten you here. Take care of it. Listen to it, rest when it needs it. Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. Stick to your pace.
You have so much support from an incredible girlfriend. Even though she may not fully understand why you’re doing this, she has never hesitated to jump right in and help support you on this journey, right by your side this whole time. You have an amazing family that has helped you the entire way. You have awesome friends that are cheering you on. You’re not out here alone. Call them when you can, talk to them.
Find peace with what is.
Enjoy the now. You are out hiking for six months. This is something that people (you included) dream of doing and you’re out here doing it. Enjoy it, savor it. This is an experience that you will have with you for the rest of your life. Enjoy the small things. Savor the moments, the experiences, the people, the trail magic, the towns, and whatever else you might stumble across.
Everyone on this adventure is going to suffer at some point while on the trail. Share those feelings and experiences with others, with your trail family, bond together through the misery. Look back and find a way to laugh at how crappy the weather was or how hard a particular section was. Celebrate victories, big or small together.
If all else fails, remember your love for the mountains and the outdoors. Remember what they have given back to you, what they mean to you. The calmness that they bring, the peace they instill, even in shit weather. Take a deep breath, and really remember those feelings, enjoy them.
One foot in front of the other.
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You have so got this! Your preparation is incredible and inspiring. Will there be challenges you haven’t prepared for? Yes, there is always the unpredictable! You are an inspiration! I cannot imagine embarking on this journey with your diabetes !i am incredibly inspired and will follow you on every step you take! BUT I am your aunt and I love you and your mom and dad SOO if for any reason you can’t do this, no harm, no foul, we got this and you and we will ( I speak for all your family) we will be there! I don’t think that will be needed because you are incredible and are so focused, but you are also human (as you will so painfully and happily realize on your journey! Much love , aunt Teresa
Good words dude. There will be some grueling times out there, super humid climbs, multiple days of rain, pain, bugs, pestilence, and disease.
But the wonder of it all will outshine, if you allow it. On my thru some years ago I carried a photo of a friend that had cystic fibrosis, yet climbed most of Kathadin with me some years earlier. An inspiration for me on those days when I thought just having blisters was tough going…Hike On!