The Feral Queen Claims Her Crown
This is a tough blog post for me to make public, but I feel like telling this tale is part of my journey.
This post is about trauma. If that’s not why you read my blog, feel free to skip this one.
Chunky gal. Dangerous curves ahead. The spicy Italian buffet. These are all pet names I’ve used on myself (yes, even the buffet one) over the years. To normalize, to me and to you, the pride and love I have for myself. That I fought really hard for. The fact is, most of my life I’ve had more body than I knew what to do with. As a kid I was looked at, by other kids and adults, as some sort of oddity because I developed early. I rarely had use for dresses, but even still, boyish clothes just seemed to emphasize all that my body was even more. I was a Great Dane in a room full of Chihuahuas, I didn’t see myself as any different, and constantly wondered why I didn’t fit in.
Then came the blatant sexualization years. Guys making comments. Girls making comments. Teachers normalizing comments instead of admonishing those who made them. There was me, with my big heart and bigger smile, trying to go along, because boys will be boys and girls are just jealous, right? Wasn’t that what we were taught?
But it wasn’t just from my peers. It was from family, too. “You may not be small, but you know how to carry what you got.” This was said from a male family member. “Put that away, nobody wants to see that!” This was said from a female family member. On and on it went. Put up boundaries and speak up? Well then you’re just being oversensitive. It’s just a joke after all.
There was a lot more than just Meg on my back when I left Springer Mountain.
One of the things I set out to do on my hike was to have more conversations with myself. Rip off the bandages, clean out the wounds, and let the healing really begin. It isn’t always pretty work, but sometimes out here, you embrace the suck.
This was the mindset I was in during my hike of the triple crown. Up and over Dragon’s Tooth, with day hikers and weekenders everywhere, I found myself letting guys lead the way down. Watching them and copying them. Why was I doing that? Some of these people had far less experience, none of them were carrying packs as large as Meg. And then I realized my conditioning. To let the men lead and show you how, even when you are perfectly capable to do it on your own. Because somewhere I had been programmed with being both too much and less than. Damn. Alright girl, cut it out and figure your own way off this climb. Once down, I headed to the nearby hostel, and came face to face with the predator that’s been roaming the trail this year. Great, just great. By then I was feeling feisty and knew it was not the right environment, so I bailed, decided to wait at the convenience store until the rain subsided, and then just find a good stealth for the night. And that’s when things really started moving in the right direction. Just as I had finished my last cup of surprisingly good gas station coffee, I received an invite from some fellow female hikers to get out of the rain for the night with them. Done and done. We all know I’m not sweet enough to melt in the rain, but I rarely turn down an opportunity for a decent bed. It turned out to be a great girl’s night. There are a lot of women on the trail this year, but even still I have found it rare to be around just women.
Refreshed from a night of female fellowship and a good night’s sleep, I set back out on trail early the next morning to tackle McAfee Knob. The threats of thunderstorms provided a mostly quiet trail, and I have a tendency to get extra introspective in the rainy weather. It was the perfect combination. With a little music in my headphones (currently on a Broadway kick), up I went. I was aware of each step, every inhalation and exhalation, the sweat on my neck getting cooled when the rain came and went. I felt STRONG. Inside, I asked that hurt inner child to lift her head. To take notice of what she was capable of. This body of mine is capable of amazing things! Could she see that? Could she let go of one pain with each step? When you let go of something that no longer serves you, you leave space for something else to take its place. What did she want that to be?
With each step, she wanted to release the shame she had been given, but never really believed in. She wanted to release the preconceived notions of what she should be, like a hand me down sweater that was not her style. She wanted to release the worry about her body being seen as something to someone that she didn’t intend.
Instead, she wanted to REJOICE in the fact that she is a force to be reckoned with. She wanted to LOVE every single ounce, curve, stretch mark, and hair. She wanted to OWN her wildness, her larger than life personality with reckless abandon. And finally she wanted for me to REMEMBER that this is my life, and I need nobody’s permission to live it my own way.
By the time I summitted McAfee Knob, I was no longer the hiker that had stepped on trail that morning. I was a feral queen, ruler of my own hike, my own body, my own life. The rain had subsided, and I was left with some beautiful views, sunshine mixing with clouds laying over distant mountains like the crest of a wave. It reflected how I felt inside, light and dark, in a state of flux, waves of endorphins rushing through my body enough to raise the hair on my arms. It was magnificent.
I had the summit to myself, save one group of weekenders. All men. Oh I see you universe, well played. One of the group asked if I had friends following behind me, and hearing that I didn’t, offered to take my photo so I could get the iconic shot on the ledge(or at least as close as I was going to get to it). Yes, I will allow you to look at me. No, I don’t give a damn what you think about what you see. I’m sure he and his friends will remember that photo shoot. I was woman. And I roared!
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