Who Am I Hiking For?
The answer should be obvious…
You do something like the AT for yourself. Duh. That’s just what you do. If you are going to choose to endure months of physical and mental strain, it had better be for some kind of self-improvement or personal experience. Achieving something like hiking the AT makes you feel confident, exuberant, and satisfied. It’s a personal journey that one does for oneself. That just makes the most sense. And it is very true for me, as well. But, at the same time, as it has been getting closer to my departure date, I can’t help but think about others that I may be doing this for. You see, I’m not really important enough in my own mind’s eye to do this solely for myself. On the bad days, I won’t think, “Keep hiking, you’ll love yourself for it in the end!” or, “You’re going to have awesome confidence in yourself after finishing!” That simply won’t be enough motivation. I know myself well enough to recognize that I would tell myself, “Listen here, I’ll love myself more for stopping now. My confidence level is just fine. And besides, who cares what I think of myself?” However, if I were to tell myself, “Keep hiking! Think of how proud (insert name) will be!” I’ll most likely have a little more motivation. Maybe that’s wrong, maybe I should get a higher opinion of myself, but still, I think I have certain people in my heart that I am hiking for.
- My Papaw: This past February was the two-year mark for how long my Papaw has been gone from this world. I absolutely hate that he isn’t around to talk trail with me; he really would have loved it. Growing up, he was my constant inspiration for exploration in all areas of life, no matter how small. As a picky kid, he used to convince me to try new foods. Even if I hated it, he’d grin and say, “At least you tried it.” That seemed to be his motto for life. Papaw always encouraged me to try new things or do something that nobody else had tried (or at least, nobody that we knew). He also had a great respect and love for the natural world. I can’t tell you how often he would call my sister and I in his house from our playing to watch some documentary on the dung beetle that was just so fascinating to him. He was a pretty ardent camper and enjoyed spending time in the Smokey Mountains whenever he could. If he were around to hear my plans, he would be intrigued, excited, and extremely happy for me. Yes, I hike for him because I know how proud he would be and how interesting it would all be to him.
- My supporters: I really would love, more than anything, to keep my friends and family’s well wishes from being in vain. I’ve been blessed to know some of the most incredible people in the world. Since my announcement to hike the AT, they have been more than supportive. It’s incredible and extremely humbling to see how much faith they truly do have in me. Never once have I heard a word of doubt come from their lips (it’s all just as soon as I leave the room most likely). They are truly the backbone of my hike (and I haven’t even officially started yet)! To give up mid-hike would be, in my mind, to deny all of the support they have shown me thus far. Yes, I hike for them all because they have loved and supported me despite some of the inner-doubts I have had for myself.
- My students: This is a big one. Perhaps it is silly of me, but I take my job as an educator very seriously in the sense of how my students see me. I don’t think I am any more special than anyone else in this world, but I do like to think of myself as a role model for my students. I have a lot of eyes on me in a very literal sense. After telling my students about my plans, they’ve been totally engrossed in the idea of someone as boring as a teacher going on a grand adventure. And shoot, if someone as boorish as myself can do something like this, what’s to stop them from doing the same thing? I think all teachers should live a life that is representative of the opportunities they want their students to take advantage of. Yes, I hike for my students to know that they can take chances, explore this world, and love every second of it.
- Kanati: While I hike for my students, I also must admit that I hike for my teachers. And what better teacher to strive to make proud than my own personal Obi-Wan of the AT? Kanati has motivated me in many ways, answered my various questions, and never expressed anything other than excitement for my venture (except for the occasional bout of jealousy, which we can hardly blame him for). I am so grateful for his help and encouragement throughout this entire process. Shoot, he even talked to my mother about some of her pressing concerns, that is no easy task folks. Yes, I hike for Kanati to thank him for all of the support he has shown me during these critical moments of preparation.
- Barkley: Folks, graduating from college is a scary thing! I didn’t realize it until it was there in front of me. Society tells you that you should go to high school, then college, and from that moment on, there are no further instructions. I’ll be forever grateful to Barkley that we were able to forge a partnership of sorts and the sense of confidence and peace that it gave me in this transitional period of my life. I’ll always appreciate Barkley for having the same heart and sense of adventure as me concerning the trail and taking on this major adventure with me. To give up on the trail at any time would be an absolute betrayal of that partnership. We agreed to do this thing together, stick together through it all, and doggone it, we’ll be standing on Mt. Katahdin together. Yes, I hike for Barkley because without her, I wouldn’t be brave enough to go out on my own.
So yes, I do hike the Appalachian Trail for myself, this much I know. I do have my own personal reasons and motivations behind it all. However, it would be foolish and a little selfish to think that I am the only source of motivation for myself and any future success I plan on having. In reality, I will be hiking for so many people I love and keeping them on my heart as I venture onward…..
…in less than 10 days. *gulp*
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