Rewind nine days and I was Green Monkey thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. Fast forward and I’m Jen, sitting in my new apartment, typing this on my laptop from the comforts of my bed. I’m not laying restless in a broken tent with rain soaking through the seams. I’m not counting the miles till I get to a shelter that may or may not have room inside. I’m not worried about the rain and constantly thinking about how it will affect me. Shivering and sore and with aches in the bottoms of my feet that seemingly stabbed like fire with each step downhill. Uphill. Basically anywhere that wasn’t flat, my feet screamed. Now I’m back to civilization, and absolutely everything has changed.
Before I set out to hike the 2,185 miles to Katahdin in Maine, I yearned for direction. The trail lead north so I figured following it would lead me where I needed to go. And, it did. It just didn’t take me the 14 states of steps. You see, before I left Texas for Georgia I was unemployed and floundering. I couldn’t find purpose because I felt I had none. I felt all used up in my chosen career path of studying monkeys that I felt I had nothing left to give or offer or receive. So I decided to walk. And from April 6th to April 15th, I did.
For those nine days I hiked alone. I made friends with several fellow hikers and instantly bonded with a great girl named Lauren. But, during the day, I hiked by myself. Hours and hours of time for self contemplation in an atmosphere where I was actively setting and achieving small goals. And it hit me. I found my direction, called a shuttle, and, on my phone while riding to Atlanta, found a job that looked promising in Austin. The position was for an office assistant—something I’d never tried before. Though I ‘ve studied monkeys in at least four different countries, worked very random jobs in various animal industries, held customer service jobs at a places so dissimilar as a food delivery store and a specialized wood shop—I’d never held the typical 9 to 5 office job that most people end up in.
More motivated than ever, I applied first thing when I got to a computer at my hotel. Then I made a follow up call in the Dallas airport, waiting for my connecting flight to San Antonio. Then I called the day after I got back to San Antonio. They told me they thought the job was too boring for me. So, I drove to Austin that Sunday aimed at personally handing them my resume Monday morning. My car broke down on the way so I got it towed, called a taxi, and had them drive me to the office. I was given an interview for the following day. Showed up, and hoped for the best.
Earlier that same day, I signed a lease on a nearby apartment that happened to also be right next door to two of my best friends. I sent a follow up email to the job a couple days later, and headed to Austin with a uhaul of all my things. I checked my email while I was getting gas, and there it was. From a pool of over 300 applicants, I had the job if I wanted it. I arrived in Austin an hour later, was helped move my belongings into my new apartment, and here I am now. Typing from a girl who’s definitely found her direction. I miss the trail and the mountains and the people, but I know I will see them again as I slowly section hike my way to Katahdin. It just won’t be in one go. And I’m perfectly fine with that.
Happy trails, y’all! I hope everyone finds themselves walking in the direction that’s right for them.
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