Let’s Be Honest: Telling Everyone Your Intentions Is Scary
For the past ten months, I have meticulously planned and re-planned almost every aspect of an AT thru hike. Spreadsheets, lists, blogs, and online shopping dominate my time. In spite of my obsession with all things hiking, I have done a good job of keeping my intentions private with the exception of my closest family, best friends, and perfectly random strangers who I would never come across again.
Until recently, I was comfortable with my fairly secretive plan, but then the secret started to eat me. Instead of excitement, I felt a lot of anxiety. I am talking heart palpitations, feelings of dread, visions of worst-case scenarios dancing through my head; signs that it is time to live in the open and get real. My boss and coworkers hadn’t been privy to these dreams. Now that dreams are turning into reality (and quickly, I might add), I had to let the cat out of the bag. Soooo….
I quit my job. Kind of.
I had a little chat with my boss. By little chat, I mean I word-vomited all over the place in a desperate effort to try and explain why I would leave a job I like in order to live out of a tent.
In my mind, calm, cool, and collected Heather has this conversation:
Heather: ‘I am going to go on an extended backpacking adventure with my husband. I will be leaving in February.’
Boss: ‘Wow, that is great! Why?’
Heather: ‘I am living out my dreams of adventure and risk-taking. It is going to be a great soul-searching adventure and I am excited to see what opportunities await me!’ I want to do this!’
In reality, nervous and blubbering Heather had this conversation:
Heather: ‘I am going to hike the Appalachian Trail in March and be a hippy-chick. Or more like voluntarily homeless. I guess I am saying that I quit, but not for a while.’
Boss: ‘ Um, wow! Why?’
Heather: ‘It was Philip’s idea. It is his fault. Haha.’
Yep, that’s right. I threw my husband under the bus. To my boss. Rather than taking responsibility for a big life decision, I distanced myself. My perfectionist self has a hard time embracing an opportunity that might not turn out ‘perfectly.’ Nerves are the worst.
Telling my boss about the trip is the best thing I could have done. Now I am free to shout it from the rooftops (and blog about it from my couch). Can I just make it clear that I am REALLY excited about attempting a thru hike? Bringing my husband’s idea to life has given me purpose and direction. I am learning and growing and it is great…but also very scary.
I don’t brake the rules. I don’t really even bend them. Since I was young, I believed that life should go something like this: excel in school, get the degree, get another degree, get a good stable job,
keep that job forever, retire?, die. It doesn’t sound romantic, and it isn’t. But it is stable, predictable, and ‘the sensible thing to do.’ Call it a quarter-century crisis, but I don’t want predictable anymore. It turns out that somewhere along the way, I found enough guts to add some spontaneity to my life. That means it is time to put my adventure pants on, embrace the unknown, and get comfortable with uncertainty.
My Three Lists
Now that my secret isn’t really a secret anymore, I get to participate in what I believe is an Appalachian Trials blogging right of passage. It is a little bit laughable to pretend that I only have three lists. I make lists of lists. Some of the points on the following lists summarize my thoughts from above, and some of them are just good-natured fun. I fully intend these lists to evolve; it wouldn’t make sense to make a static list of goals for what I intend to be a very dynamic experience.
Why I Am Hiking the Appalachian Trail:
- I couldn’t think of a good reason to say ‘no’ to this opportunity that wasn’t based on unfounded fear.
- I firmly believe that great life adventures do not get easier with age…carpe diem.
- Nature is good.
- Shopping for gear (and scoring fabulous deals) gives me the warm-fuzzies.
- I want to desensitize my sometimes-paralyzing fear of insects, birds, and lizards.
- I want to meet people and share some great fireside conversation.
When I Successfully Complete the Appalachian Trail, I Will:
- Hug my dog, and not ever let go
- Give my cat a good head scratch
- Cherish all the creature comforts that I take for granted on a regular basis
- Binge on documentaries. For a solid week
- Marvel at the extraordinary accomplishments of my body and the resilience of my psyche
- Cry tears of joy and sadness (I get emotional)
- Try and repair my poor mother’s frayed nerves with frequent texts and phone calls
If I give up on the Appalachian Trail, I will:
- Try my best to be kind to myself. I don’t have time or energy for shame in my life.
- Reflect on my values. Why didn’t this work? What do I need to do differently to increase my odds of completing other challenges that I will face in life?
- Encourage others to take a stab at their wildest dreams. Failure isn’t the worst outcome. Sitting on the sideline while watching others try is worse.
Thanks for hanging in there until the end, guys and gals! 🙂
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I wish you and Philip the best of success on this trip. I look forward to tracking your journey…from the comfort of my lazy chair… and know this will be a positive, life changing experience for you two. When you feel like you can’t go any further remember this quote and say it out loud for inspiration (and to annoy Philip, but mostly for inspiration).
‘Pain doesn’t tell you when you ought to stop. Pain is the little voice in your head that tries to hold you back because it knows if you continue you will change. Don’t let it stop you from being who you can be’ – The Black Mamba, Kobe Bryant
Thank you so much for your support! If I am correct, Philip has told me about your admiration of Kobe 🙂 I will be sure to remind him about how awesome Kobe is on your behalf!
Heather, I perfectly fit in your shoes!!!
My husband and I are going thru the same experience (I haven’t talk to my boss yet), and will be starting our NOBO thru hike in March too. Reading your post is like “the story of my life” ?
Good luck and hope to meet you there!
Good luck to you when you do decide to tell your boss. I am glad that you resonated with my post! It sounds like we might see each other out there at some point!
My husband and I are ALSO starting in March (3/7 hitting the approach trail).
We are older – we have told our bosses (although our jobs at our age are more post retirement jobs and strictly get as much extra cash as we can before we go).
The closer we get (I think we’re at 96 days as of this post) the more nervous I get. But I’m also so excited and so ready.
Love your lists! 🙂
See you and the others from class of 2017 soon.
Less than 100 days already? Holy smokes, time flies! We will be just a few days ahead of you as long as all goes to plan! Thanks know you for reading my blog…happy hiking!