Reset Days 1-7: I Am the Lightning and I Am the Rainbow

Long story short, I was right.

I’m heading back to the trail in a couple of days. I knew that when I decided to come back to NYC it was to remember all the reason why I wanted to leave in the first place to shake me out of this funk that I’d been in for a few weeks. I knew that a few days at home would, quite literally, send me running for the hills. But I’d grown nostalgic during this, the longest amount of time I’d ever been away from home, and I’d lost all motivation to hike by the time I got to Harper’s Ferry, so a part of me wasn’t sure if this would be where I called it.

It took 36 hours.

Thirty-six hours, an amazing day hanging out with my girlfriend and night hanging out with my friends, for me to know I don’t want to be here. Thirty-six hours for me to miss my tent and the forest and my tramily. To miss wondering if my body will bust while hiking 15 miles, to miss the terror of a thunderstorm, to miss the quiet of 10PM in the middle of the woods.

Each day past that had me wondering when I’d finally go back, worrying about how bored I am here at home. Bored, in New York City. Unable to stay up past hiker midnight most nights in the city that never sleeps.

I thought I’d be more excited to be home, to see my friends. And don’t get me wrong — I’ve loved getting to see my loved ones. Loved seeing my parents, catching up with my friends and girlfriend, eating food I had described as the thing I miss most from home. But it felt so empty. And not empty in the way it felt to imagine milestones without Achilles, but empty in a way that you expect to feel something when nothing shows up. Empty in a way where most of my conversations feel scripted, regurgitated, on a loop whenever I talk to people. The things I used to enjoy feel like chores now, like I was more excited to experience them with my new friends to show them a bit of my history than I was to experience them for myself.

I found myself caring a lot less about people’s worries or expectations of me than when I left. Most of the people who were worried have barely spoken to me, both on trail and now that I’m back home, and (to be quite frank) don’t have enough understanding of what my life has been the last three months to worry over me the way they do. They don’t know what I’ve overcome, what I’ve experienced, or why I came home in the first place. They never called or reached out or checked in. And for a while, while I was on trail, it hurt. I wondered why the group I had expected to support me left me high and dry alone in the woods after the first month. I wondered why I bothered caring about it.

Like I said, I’d been entirely too nostalgic.

But coming home gave me a perspective I needed. Not just about wanting to be back on trail, but on all that I’ve accomplished thus far.

Once again — they don’t know what I’ve overcome. Who I’ve grown into. What this kind of experience does to you.

I walked a thousand miles. I left everything behind to live in the woods with absolutely no prior backpacking experience — not so much as an overnight camping trip past a backyard slumber party when I was seven — and I thrived. I became comfortable with myself, no longer walking on eggshells about things that felt too precarious to approach in conversation before. I trust myself. I know myself better, for maybe the first time in my entire life. I don’t feel like I need to convene with the council of my friends before making a decision on things, before going anywhere, before doing anything. I no longer feel like a broken human who needs to be told what to do, the way I felt before I left.

I was so desperate to heal, to prove myself as worthy to the few people it seemed still believed in me. But now I believe in my own worth. I don’t need confirmation or reassurance, I know what I can do.

Hell, I came “home” because I knew it would be the best motivation for getting back to the woods, my real home. I may not have been able to remember my own motivations, but I knew they’d show as soon as I returned. And while returning home was all it took to remember why I want, love, and need to hike, it took a voicemail from a friend who had barely spoken to me in the past few months saying they’re worried about me my first night back home for me to recognize the magnitude of what I’ve done. It took my impulsive, gut reaction to realize I do see how much of a badass I am, how much more capable I am at being my own person than when I embarked on this journey. I wondered how they would even know what to be worried about. I thought that if they were worried, they should have reached out weeks prior when I was actually in a dark place, when the Virginia Blues were hitting their hardest and I was overwhelmed and felt useless. They don’t even know me anymore, they haven’t taken the time to do so. They took my absence as a way out from the constant worry they’d felt while I was at rock bottom the whole year before — which is understandable. But, in only worrying now that I’m back after they missing the journey I’ve taken, they have framed me in a way that no longer fits who I’ve become.

I have put myself in a place of fear for three months and pushed through it at almost every opportunity.

Be it on my own or with the help of my friends. Be it on my own or with the help of calling home. Be it thunderstorms on mountaintops, crying but pushing through, or climbing firetowers to look over the edge because it terrifies me.

I’ve walked miles and miles and miles on my own with nothing but my own thoughts and finally was kind to myself. Finally, as my grandmother puts it, differentiated between the two voices in my head — Ego and Spirit. Finally learned how to be my own pep-talker, to uplift myself the way I do my friends.

To be worried before I decided to come home would be fair. But to only worry once I’ve made the call to take care of myself feels infantilizing. I don’t need to be babysat. I don’t need to be taken care of. I need companions who meet me on the same level that I’m at. If I was to be treated like a child to be worried over, the time has long passed.

I wrote something last summer, in the throes of heartbreak and the beginning of a months-long spiral out of control.

I watched lightning strike at the end of the rainbow and felt static.

I wrote it in a prose poem as part of an allegory for all of the loss I was experiencing at once, but it stems from something else.

I was on the ferry on the way back from the beach, watching the sky at the back of the boat through a rainstorm that had hit halfway through the ride. There had been a brilliant rainbow, and then lightning struck it. Everyone else was awestruck at such a sight, and I just felt stuck. Stuck in this feeling that made it feel impossible to enjoy anything. Stuck in the feeling that I knew I must be destined to feel that way forever, and that everything else was just doing my best to pretend it wasn’t the case. The person I loved had abandoned me when I needed him most, my body had completely betrayed me, my friends felt that I was too despondent and annoying to show up for before I was even truly spiraling out of control. It was a time where I clung to anything and everything that made me feel like maybe it would be okay. Anything and everything except for myself, because I –obviously– couldn’t be trusted. I’d made all the mistakes that led me to where I was, so why listen to myself?

It’s been almost a year since that day. I came back home with the same feeling of despondency, albeit at a much smaller, more manageable level. I was afraid I’d succumb to the same thing, the same small comforts that made misery manageable. But instead I found myself bored with and overwhelmed by the life I’d left behind. I found myself feeling like an alien amongst everyone back home. Like everyone expected me to be the same person, and I don’t care to correct those who don’t catch on. Like I have nothing to prove to anyone except myself. Like I don’t have to suffer fools if I don’t wish to.

I am no longer something precious to worry over.

I left this city the first time as a desperate shell of the person I’d thought I might become, still licking my wounds and trying to show that I was worth loving. I leave it the second time excited to continue growing into the person I’m meant to be, having proven to myself that I can be all that I wish to be — and knowing that it won’t happen here in this stagnant chamber of distractions we give ourselves to survive the mundane.

The cartridge has been blown on. The game is no longer glitching. I am not some broken thing without the ability to function, I’m a multiple-expletive badass whose future is infinite so long as I grab out and take it.

So long as I can breathe, I can keep moving.

When the sharpest words wanna cut me downI’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown ’em outI am brave, I am bruisedI am who I’m meant to be, this is meLook out ’cause here I comeAnd I’m marching on to the beat I drumI’m not scared to be seenI make no apologies, this is me
– “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman

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Comments 4

  • liverbrook : Jul 9th

    I’ve missed those sparks… Thank you!

  • Rick "Quiet Man" : Jul 9th

    I am always drawn to your posts. This one explains why. The trail is a journey. A quest. And you have leveled up. “This task was appointed to you. And if you do not find a way, no one will.”

  • Audra : Jul 9th

    I have been following you from the start and wanted to let you know you are so STRONG! Don’t let anyone, including yourself, tell you otherwise. Look what you have accomplished, how far you have gone, how much you have overcome and how much you have grown. Be proud of all of that. Most people couldn’t do it. Thank you for sharing all your trials and tribulations, and especially the DM quest which I totally felt like I was there with the two of you. Congrats on what you have done and I for one will be cheering you on to the finish!

  • Seresa : Jul 14th

    You are enough. You know what is best for you. TRUST YOURSELF!
    PS I am new to reading your blogs


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