Fear as a Motivator
As hard as I try to clearly define my personal why, my reasons for thru-hiking continue to be ill defined and somewhat vaporous.
I listen to others provide clear reasons why they are thru-hiking, and I’m afraid…
I’m afraid I won’t have a strong enough reason to continue when I reach my breaking point.
I’m afraid my motivation will crumble under the weight of the bone crushing adversity I know will occasionally arise.
I’m afraid of letting down my loving wife, my hiking partner and best friend.
I’m afraid my knee and ankle issues will bring me down.
I’m afraid of turning to anger instead of acceptance.
So why am I doing this, risking so much for a reward which I may not be open minded enough to even see when it comes?
Well, for lack of a more eloquent way of expressing my motivation…
I have wanted this since I was a teenager, many long years ago. In fact, the desire started long enough ago that I’ve forgotten what it was that originally motivated me to begin with. My reasons have changed many times over the years. But, reasons have always surfaced to replace those which preseeded them, and I have always remained steadfastly determined to one day experience the entire trail.
It’s not because I want to stand on Katahdin atop the sign, I can stand on a sign down the street. It’s not because I specifically want to backpack the AT, I backpack regularly and love it no matter where I go. It’s not because I feel a need to test myself against something so immense I know I’ll be challenged, life has already taken care of that for me more than once. It’s not because I want to be hardened by the experience, in fact it’s just the opposite.
It’s because I want to become soft…
I know you cannot “overcome” 2,190 miles of trail in all kinds of weather and other adversity. I cannot beat the Appalachian Trail, and if I try to do so, even if I finish on Katahdin, I still lose. I’m praying the trail will soften me and allow me to truly accept the many gifts it has to offer. I want to become more comfortable among groups of people. I want to accept opposing viewpoints without being judgemental. I want to absorb the lessons taught by bad weather, rough trail, and days of Cliff bars…rather than just enduring the experience. And, I want to share these transformative experiences with my best friend, lover, wife, and partner….Caboose. After all of the years she has put up with me, she deserves a better version.
I don’t want to leave my mark on the trail. In fact, it’s just the opposite. I
want NEED the trail to leave it’s mark on me.
Why am I thru-hiking the AT? To move further down my personal trail toward being the best me I can become. Because I’m afraid of dying without having made the effort.
…and I hear there is great micro-brew along the way!
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