I’ll see you in six months, and that’s okay
We were leaving a favorite breakfast spot when I turned, looked at Ben and said, “Hey, do you want to get coffee?” Since we had just finished drinking at least three or four cups apiece, I wasn’t surprised when my question was met with a confused look. But to give Ben credit, he just said, “Sure,” so we headed to a small coffee shop across the street—our favorite, because it was where we first met three years ago.
Inside, I sat across from Ben at our favorite table, fiddling with the coffee sleeve surrounding my cup, breathing deeply while I worked up the nerve to say what I knew I had to say. Finally, I blurted it out:
There was a short silence, and then because Ben knew this hike was a dream of mine, I heard the simple words, “Okay. Why do you feel like now is the right time?”
I answered his question with a smattering of phrases I had rehearsed in my mind, and I simultaneously drained my cup and my heart. I told him about my restlessness with my career—you know, the feelings that occur when you’re not exactly sure if you’re in the right place—and the other, larger issue: my struggles with societal norms and expectations, which seemed to stare me in the face more and more as I neared my 30th birthday. It was becoming difficult to go through a day without putting some sort of expectation on myself, and I felt that I was slowly becoming someone I didn’t recognize. It was making me feel like I wanted all these things, material and otherwise, just to check them off this invisible list of “You Made It in the World If…”
Why was I putting so much pressure on myself, on my relationship, and on others? It wasn’t exactly making me happy. In fact, the stress was eating away at me, and it was feeding into other aspects of my life, from work to home.
“I think this hike will make me a better person. Or maybe I’ll just realize I’ll have to hike the Pacific Crest Trail next,” I said with a smile, trying to conclude my ramblings on a lighthearted note.
When we left the coffee shop, my mind was reeling. This hike might happen, I thought. The fear was paramount, but so was the excitement. To me, the A.T. was an obsession, and while I knew I would attempt a thru-hike one day, I hadn’t realized it would be so soon.
But I was tired of seeing white blazes in my dreams. It was time to make them my reality.
It has been more than three months since I told Ben I wanted to hike the A.T. During our conversation, I claimed my time on the Trail would make me “better.” I don’t really know if that will be the case. I am not so naïve as to believe that when I am done hiking, I will have everything figured out. But I can tell you what my hope is: that mile by mile, I will gain not only physical strength, but fortitude; I will remember existence is a blessing, not a burden; and I will come to understand just as it is okay to hike your own hike, it is fine to live your own life. These are things I need to learn, and I am choosing to let the Trail teach me.
As my start date approaches, each day is filled with a smorgasbord of emotions. Not all of them are easy to digest. When I hear the question, “How does Ben feel about you leaving for six months?” I cringe a bit on the inside, and I start feeling guilty. Then I remember my dream and the “why” behind my thru-hike. I’m not leaving; I’m pursuing, and I am incredibly lucky to have someone so supportive by my side—even when I’m miles away.
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