Quarter-Life (almost) Crisis
It just came out. Like word vomit.
He shouldn’t have found out like this. From his perspective, it was probably the worst possible way to find out.
“Aww, that’s so sweet! I just got a text from my dad. He says he feels touched and honored that I wanted him to hike through Maine with me, since he won’t be able to hike the rest of the Trail with me.”
“You’re doing what? On the what? What!?”
Sitting on the floor watching my boyfriend’s incredulous response through FaceTime on my (comparatively) tiny phone screen, I felt a little exasperated. I sat and waited as he glared. After a few minutes, he recognized the familiar stubborn set of my jaw. The stubbornness that had not been seen for nearly two years.
“You’re really going to do it?”
“Do what?” I played dumb. I knew I was being aggravating, but I couldn’t help it.
“Hike the Appalachian Trail. Alone.”
I proceeded to explain. But he, like so many others, didn’t seem to understand my motivation – no, my need – to hike the Trail.
So… why am I doing it?
I have an internship that could turn into a permanent job of some sort (yay, networking!). I have a Master’s degree. I am in a long distance ownership with my fur baby, my ten year old Oldenburg gelding. I have a boyfriend of nearly six years, who has lived a few hours from me at all times since last summer.
Why are you putting your life on hold for six months?
Because I want to.
I jest. It’s more complicated than that. One year ago this past June, I stepped down from a prestigious, federally-funded grant program that paid for the majority of my graduate school tuition. I felt beat down. I was tired. I felt like I was being pushed into a corner I didn’t want to go into. And I fought back. I lashed out. And even with a wonderful GPA and a bright future if I had stayed in the program, I walked away from 2.1 million dollars.
All of a sudden, I could breathe. I no longer felt like I was being suffocated, stifled, or drowned.
And in the past year, I’ve stepped farther and farther out of my comfort zone. I’ve reached out to people I lost contact with. I’ve made new friends. I’ve become more vocal.
So, why am I hiking? I can’t put my answer in words. I’m doing what my heart is telling me to, and my heart is saying to go for a hike. A really long hike.
Yeah. Is that a problem? I WILL have people meeting up with me along the way to section hike. My dad may be hiking the Smokies with me (we’re discussing meeting at Fontana Dam and hiking to Damascus, where my mom will pick him up). A friend of mine wants to meet me at the Delaware Water Gap and hike with me throughout New Jersey and possibly New York. And then I’m meeting my dad again in Maine. I won’t be entirely alone.
And I won’t be alone on the Trail anyway.
Is this a quarter-life crisis?
Maybe. I did just finish school and have no classes or schoolwork to look forward to for the first time in my life.
What if you change? What if you come back from the Trail a different person?
That’s perfectly okay.
What if I don’t like the new you?
Your loss. The Trail changes people. It’s a life-changing experience. (I have yet to meet a thru-hiker I didn’t like, though.)
Have you read Wild? A Walk in the Woods? AWOL? Appalachian Trials?
No. No. Yes. And yes.
Are you doing the hike because of the movies coming out?
No. Absolutely not.
Hi. My name is Gina. I’m a displaced Northerner from the South living in the North as a glorified nomad. I have a horse.
And I’m hiking the Appalachian Trail NOBO starting in March of 2016. I can be funny. I think.
And I hope you’ll follow along on my journey, through my Appalachian trials, my triumphs, my low points, and my permanent awkwardness (that’s the funny part).
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Wooo Gina! See you out there! I am also a solo female hiker. You’ll make friends 🙂