Now Entering: Panic Mode… and Uncovering the Silver Lining
One week from today I will be leaving Buffalo to make the 14-hour drive south to Amicalola Falls State Park… and one week from Friday, I will be starting my thru-hike of the AT… is this really happening?!
For a while, people have been asking me how I’m feeling about my upcoming thru-hike. I’ve said some things like “good,” “nervous,” or “excited!” but the truth was… I didn’t really feel anything. The mind-numbing tasks of gear researching (you read that right, I’m not super into the whole gear thing), gear purchasing, testing my pack(s!), filing taxes, dealing with student loans, etc. kept me sufficiently distracted from the actual reason behind all of these tasks – the hike itself! But about a week ago, the real nervousness finally began to set in.
How do I actually do the big thing?!
I’ve come to realize that I cannot conceptualize the fact that I will be attempting to thru-hike for six months. Six. Months. What does that even mean? I’ve been thinking about other things I’ve done for a long chunk of time. Studying abroad: three months. College semesters: 3-4 months. My work as an AmeriCorps VISTA: 12 months. All of those things have been whole entire endeavors throughout which I have undergone significant changes in myself and my life. It’s difficult to conceptualize that I’m about to do something like that again.
The thing is, we can’t wrap our heads around the unknown. I truly have no idea what to expect out of these next six months or so. Everything I do know about thru-hiking has been contained in a couple-hundred-page book, a handful of blog posts, or told to me through the perspective and words of someone else. I have no idea what it will be like for me.
The Silver Lining!
This is all really scary. However, it presents a great opportunity: to release control and expectations and embrace the unknown. One of my reasons for hiking is to loosen my grip on trying to control my life. I guess that starts now! Creating expectations for my thru-hike will only limit the experience. Sure, you absolutely have to prepare for the logistics. But you never know what it will truly be like until you get out there and do it.
All of this to say that I am in full panic mode, and the nervousness has really set in. And, I am doing my best to embrace this opportunity; this impending unknown, because that’s what I wanted. A quote by Joseph Campbell reads, “Suddenly you’re ripped into being alive. And life is pain, and life is suffering, and life is horror, but my god you’re alive and it’s spectacular.” The big/scary/exciting thing outside our comfort zone is where we find growth, and where we truly come alive. I can’t wait!
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