Success is a Silly Concept

Trigger warning: suicide, death if a loved one, Pandemic.

A Note from Lucky: This update is my experience looking back on my past year of growth and is in no way me telling you what to do with your life. Feel free to take what you want from this update, but this was part of my healing journey and thinking back on my growth.

The Background

On this day last year, I defended my Masters in Zoology and finally closed a very traumatic chapter in my life. So many things had happened during that time: a major pandemic shut down the world, my father had passed away, and I was trapped in a graduate program that was as parasitic as the nematodes I was studying. I had sacrificed my time, my physical and mental health, and my joy.

So many told me my aspirations to thru hike were a waste of my time and going to sacrifice my potential. There was so much emphasis on entering a PhD program or getting a job related to academia immediately after the ink had dried on my diploma. It was crucial to my success and my future as a scientist that I push ahead despite what I wanted.

I didn’t feel successful. Sure, I had my masters, but I also moved into my mother’s basement and I worked 3 temp jobs unrelated to my expertise. When I wasn’t at work, I was in physical therapy for Posterior Tibialis Tendon Disorder or battling my newly diagnosed trauma responses in therapy. Between dealing with the side effects of new mental health medications, relearning to walk, and slinging drinks; I felt like a failure. I wasn’t meeting the milestones my peers were living through; buying houses, getting married, or having stable well paying jobs. I had chose not to continue on in my field like many of my peers, I felt like a washout.

The only way I can describe it, I was burnout and sick. I woke up exhausted and went to bed drained. Living felt like a chore, I was exhausted from burnout and living in a trauma response to everything. I spent most of my days crying in my car. I didn’t realize that my trauma and fears followed me out here on trail.

Trauma Lingers

It has taken me about 100 days on trail to feel like living wasn’t a chore. It took about 60 days for the nightmares to stop and for the flashbacks to resolve to something manageable. Then about 90 days to get out of my head and to start living in the moment. My life wasn’t my own until I got on trail and took the time and space to heal from all that has happened to me. If I had followed the advice of my mentors and advisors, I don’t think I would be alive.

While this isn’t the kind if success I was told I had to find or the kind of success I would have envisioned for myself, I am so proud of the growth and healing I have achieved. What I have found out here in the woods, is not the success society expects or demands of me, but something much deeper and richer than a academic achievements or buying a house. By walking on trail, I dissented against the societal expectations of success, ignored the advice of “The trail will be there when your retired”.

I know it is hard, but don’t listen to those people. Don’t let them cheat you or scare you out of what you need to do. I didn’t listen to all of those who looked down on me, the people who bet against me. I instead took my needs and health into my own hands instead of letting others dictate what was the “best for me”. Only we know what is the best for ourselves and what we need to do to achieve that.


Despite my frustrations of being so caught up in my head during the beginning, unable to be fully present in my experience. I am still proud of the trail I have hiked and continue to hike. Despite how long it took me to let go and forgive. I have learned that forgiveness isn’t just blindly letting go of the the things that happened. Forgiveness is an rebellious act, choosing to move on and not give power to the things that hurt you and linger in your mind. I’m not saying you have to forgive to heal, but in my personal journey, was a hard and necessary step. By letting go and forgiving myself, the people and institutions responsible have no power over me.

While on the AT I have relearned that I am capable of great things, despite what I went through and that the things that I experienced were never my fault. I have learned that I am deserving of love and I can share and spread that love instead of hate and bitterness. I have also learned that if we want to grow and heal, we have to move on. Be that forgiveness or indifference, you can’t heal if you are still stuck in your pain. You have to learn to let go of the hurt to learn to be present. You have to actively want to heal.

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Comments 6

  • Rushmore : Aug 20th

    Keep on keeping on! You’re amazing!

  • Alex Barnett : Aug 20th

    I am probably old enough to be your grandfather but I want to tell you that I am proud of you. You have to hike your own hike in life just like you have to hike your own hike on the AT. When you are out on trail in nature without all the distractions you can discover the real you and you don’t have any nay sayers around. Just listen to your self as you take each step on your journey. Remember it is the journey not the destination.

    Take care and keep on trucking


  • thetentman : Aug 21st

    Love the post and the honesty. You are a success and have achieved so much.



  • AJ : Aug 22nd

    I really enjoyed the story. Thank you. I lost my dad 32 years ago. It never stops hurting but it does get easier. And it doesn’t matter if the trail is there if you don’t make it to retirement. Take care of yourself.

  • John lambert : Aug 23rd

    I hope you make it . Your great

  • Hooty-Hoo AT NOBO 23 : Aug 27th


    I’m so proud of you. I’m taking a zero in Gorham, NH and saw your post on the Trek.
    Thank you for the day you sat with me at Sam’s Gap and let me share the loss of my Mother with you. That meant more to me than you will ever know. You are an inspiration. Keep on keeping on.
    We’re almost at Katahdin.
    Hope to see you out there.

    Hooty-hoo NOBO 23


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