How Losing My Watch Helped Me Begin to Find Myself
Ditch The Clock
Hello. My name is Katherine. I misplaced my watch while packing up my house for my upcoming move north.
This week I finished my commitment in the Marine Corps and in less than a month I will set foot on the beginning of my southbound thru-hike attempt with my pup Arry. Needless to say, things are hectic and there is always something additional that needs to be done that I haven’t thought of just quite yet. Losing my watch, if only for a couple days was an emotional experience. Not that I was never able to figure out what time it was; there are literally clocks everywhere: my car, computer, microwave, oven, phone, et cetera. It was emotional because I have become accustomed to looking at that wristwatch every moment of every day; its little face keeping track of every passing second and making me feel anxious about every minute of non-productivity.
Time is a unit that can measure pretty much anything for me. How far is the drive to the beach? 15 minutes. How far did I run? 50 minutes. I constantly compare what time it is, to what I have accomplished, or have yet to accomplish, for the day. I can physically feel the seconds ticking away as I wait on my boyfriend to get ready to run errands. Even sitting outside watching a campfire – I constantly check the time, you know to make sure I don’t forget to go to bed or something like that. The ironic part is that knowing what time it is down to the second doesn’t make me appreciate those seconds any more. Instead, the clock becomes a barrier to immersing myself in where I am. My focus is never truly on the here and now, but what I need to have complete by 1pm to be “on schedule” or when I need to leave to be on time for dinner. Losing my watch changed that.
I went for a run along a new route – down and back. I have no idea how far, fast or how long I ran. And I don’t care. I went to the beach and just sat watching the waves. I have no idea how many, as my only sense of duration was that my shoulders ended up sun burnt. Since misplacing my watch I have begun leaving it at home more frequently and I have found that while perhaps my productivity has decreased, my sense of appreciation has increased.
Growing up my family would always rent cottages and spend a week at the lake. My grandma always laughs as she tells how every year on the first night I would write down all the things I wanted to do and places I wanted to visit that week. I would plan how to best achieve maximum accomplishment and create a jam-packed itinerary that we would inevitably fall behind schedule that first morning. As I grew older I learned to appreciate the quiet morning coffee with my grandma and the birds or fishing with my sister as we watched the sun rise over the lake. These are the memories I hold dearest to me.
Closing One Chapter…
It is hard to say what emotions I feel right now. This week marks the end of one journey and the beginning of another. I recently finished my service in the Marine Corps and as I drove home that final time I noticed just how blue the sky was for the first time in many years. There are some moments that stick with you forever- I vividly remember driving into North Carolina three years ago and having the same thought: “The sky is such a vibrant blue, and the grass is an intense green.” Perhaps it is because in upstate New York, for ten months out of the year, the sky merely projects different shades of grey; my physics teacher, in an effort to help us think about a real life example of light scatter, once asked the class if the sky on the horizon was darker or lighter blue than the sky directly above you – to which he received blank stares and the answer, “uhh, it’s all grey”. Perhaps there is something wildly spectacular about the way certain wavelengths of light bounce off the fauna and scatters in the sky in North Carolina. Or perhaps the awe I felt on the conclusion of my Marine Corps career had to do with scatter of a much different kind, that of my mindset and focus.
Through my experiences in the Marine Corps I have grown as a leader and learned to challenge the physical and mental limits of both myself and teammates. One of the hardest lessons I have learned, and am still le
arning, is to stand steadfast in my beliefs and speak up for myself and those who feel they have no voice. I have felt like I had no voice at times when I was too intimidated to challenge the status quo. A few years ago my first reaction to what I just wrote would have been, “I wouldn’t have subjected myself to letting others control me like that.” But my break-through moment came when I read “The Loudest Duck” by Laura Liswood. She talked about how, although well-intentioned and capable, many of her colleagues didn’t think views competing with their own had merit, simply because it was something they had not experienced; she used an example of a member of Congress who believed racism didn’t exist anymore in America because he hadn’t seen it in his travels. At first I sympathized with this member of Congress – people tend to exaggerate this problem, I thought. I too hadn’t experienced it, or perhaps I had been unable to recognize the unfair treatment. It wasn’t until later in the book when she discusses barriers to women receiving mentorship from men that it clicked; I have been experiencing this dilemma for years while struggling to convince my coworkers there is even a problem. It is at this moment I realized my own near-sightedness in recognizing the systemic struggles of other afflicted persons and that you can’t discredit someone’s experiences just because their experiences differ from your own.
I have changed throughout my service. I now begin difficult conversa
tions –conversations I once talked myself out of. Previously, my focus was on constant progress, always focused on the future and worried how what I do today will affect my tomorrow. But on that final drive home, under such vibrant hues of blue, I was focused on the here and now, reflecting on just how far I have come.
Why Am I Thru-Hiking the AT? That’s a great question with a multi-faceted answer.
I have always been an avid hiker but my passion for traveling, appreciating nature and exploring cultures has only been fueled by my experiences in the service. I’m not ready to sit behind a desk all day, and I hope sharing these experiences will inspire others to take a chance and find their voice.
I am one of the first two women to enter combat arms in the Marine Corps. I spent four years proving that women belong and that we can hold our own despite the odds being stacked against our favor. I didn’t do it for myself. I did it to pave the way for a better Marine Corps, to act as a stepping stone for future women and to inspire others to take a chance and find their voice. I am off to the wilderness to strengthen my voice – to sharpen my resolve, and discover a sense of presence without wearing a watch as I discover my personal priorities. Here I will share my experiences and hope to exhibit, especially to young women, that people can be successful at whatever they set their mind to, even if it shatters stereotypes.
Arry is a strong-willed black lab (and I think beagle?) mix. I adopted her when she was five years old, and while she has some insecurities that we have been working out, she’s a great companion and loves nothing more than following a scent or being in the lead on the trail. She doesn’t do tricks simply to entertain you. For the first three months we were together I took her to the dog park and attempted to “train” her to jump over a short bar. She adamantly refused and would run around the obstacle to me as if to say “I got here, why work harder when you can just go around?” It wasn’t until I was hiking with her five months later that I realized how extremely agile she was and the extent of how large of a log she could jump over, when it suited her to do so.
I couldn’t ask for a better companion on the trail.
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