Face your fears, make the commitment
The reality of doing anything different and getting out of your comfort zone requires facing your fears. This is true for everyone and recently I was at that crossroads in my life. All of my life I’ve been facing fears at a snails pace. Dipping my toe in unchartered territories just enough to get a sampling but never committing. This was true when I decided to thru hike the Appalachian Trail with my best friend-I never fully committed. There, I said it outloud! And even though at the time I thought I had, but now looking back I was only physically there. Yes, I read Zach Davis’ Appalachian Trials and more than once his book, along with my desire not to let Fred down kept me going and I temporarily conquered the negative thoughts that were creeping into my head.
From the beginning I was convinced that just stepping on the trail, having the right gear and with the encouragement of my husband Fred-aka 3-mile that I could make it to Maine. I remember once telling Fred that I had reservations about being alone in my head for days on end and how it would affect my mood and desire to be on the trail. I think I jinxed myself by saying it outloud. My lifelong struggles with self doubt were always lurking ready to creep in at a moments notice.
Shortly after entering North Carolina I began to experience sporadic foot pain. After coming down into Fontana, the pain was unbearable, I took as many ibuprofen as I could had a few beers, enjoyed some Colorado chocolate and after a day off, I felt I could tackle the Smokies. I was excited to hike in my favorite part of the country and to say I made it, but it wouldn’t happen. We took a few days off in Gatlinburg, bought me some new shoes and nursed my foot and on March 15th, six miles into the day the pain was unbearable and instead of soldiering on to Peck’s corner and toughing it out I let the negative thoughts take over. I had hiked for over 70 miles with foot pain and I eventually gave in. I did the unspeakable I quit.
As I stood a couple miles shy of our shelter, watching our friends continue on I stood fighting back the tears. At that moment Fred asked if I was ready to come home and I said yes. That question and my answer are forever etched in my brain, in fact it haunts me. I remember vividly standing on the trail in pain and desperately torn between wanting to go on and the desire to go home. Home=heaven. My own bed, a hot shower, real food and lots of love from my grandchildren. I caved and on a spectacular day standing between Charlies Bunion and Pecks Corner my hike ended. I was screaming inside with excitement to be going home, but filled with shame for ending Fred’s dream. Yes, Fred’s dream! Alas, why I could never commit to making it to Maine. This wasn’t my dream and I wasn’t ready to face my fears and shove aside the self doubt of being able to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. At the time I wasn’t sure what my fears were.
After coming home, Fred went back to the trail for another 200 miles, (coming home because his dream was to hike with me). I was happy for him and pissed because I wasn’t out there with him. I’d had a taste of the trail and I LOVED it! What I realized is that while this hike was his dream it had somehow become mine as well, only it was too late. Too late for this year anyways. So now as I prepare once again for a thru hike, I have come to peace with knowing that 2014 wasn’t my time. I wasn’t ready to face my fear of being successful. I wasn’t ready to leave my content life for 6 months of walking day in and day out. I wasn’t ready to be away from my family. And even though I was spending every waking moment with the love of my life, I wasn’t ready for the changes that were sure to come from this journey. Now as I watch our friends days away from summiting Mt. Katahdin, I am angry with my former self for not facing my fears. For being scared of the unknown, for allowing a life of self doubt to take over and for not having the balls to carry on. As my friends Sunshine and Young beard say, “Life’s short, do epic shit! .”
I’m done settling for being content. The pity party is over and the self doubt has been replaced with goals and dreams. My DREAMS. Fred and I are planning our 2015 thru hike and I can’t wait. I’m not the tag-along I was last year. I’m committed and I can’t wait. I hunger for the beauty of the trail, the camaraderie of my fellow hikers. I can’t wait to see how far I can push myself and how the tranquility of the trail and the shared experience with Fred will enrich both our lives. I can’t wait to stand on top of Mt. Katahdin and feel the pride in myself for facing my fears, casting away a lifetime of self doubt and to embrace all my successes and to find genuine happiness with the commitment to put my dreams first.
Face your fears, make the commitment and do whatever it is you desire for yourself.
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