The Irony in My Trail Name
Just as I’m opening my eyes to see the ceiling of my tent each morning, I’m reminded of how far from home I am, and all the comforts it once provided me. I’ve grown to like my tent, but I still miss my warm bed. I miss everyone I left at home, and the separation anxiety I feel about being so far from the people who know me makes me terrified to open up to people out here. Even though everyone I’ve come across on the trail has shown me nothing but kindness, I usually find myself to be absent minded or scrambling to find something interesting to say so I don’t come across as apathetic. I just can’t relax. Anxiety and trepidation are black clouds that have always followed me around, and even out here I can’t seem to evade them.
I told myself hiking the Appalachian Trail would potentially be one of the most challenging undertakings of my life, but telling myself that was much easier than actually living through it, day by day. For some reason I thought it would be easier to leave everything behind, hike over mountains, find inspiration and hopefully peace within myself, then go back home knowing everything would be just as I left it.
On top of this uneasy transition, my trail name just garnered an ironic twist. Usually when I tell people my trail name, at least half of them ask me how I got the name Romeo, and I reach for a response like, “I’m in love with this girl back home. She’s waiting on me and I’m always calling her whenever I can out here.” It makes me feel good saying that to the hikers I meet. It gives them an idea of who I am and momentarily puts me at ease during the conversation. But now I should probably formulate a new response when asked about my trail name, because the girl I left back home isn’t waiting on me anymore.
The third day on the trail, Rich and I had to hitch a ride into Dahlonega so he could get some new gear; he found his tent to be completely inadequate in that it didn’t provide proper breathing ventilation, and the accumulating condensation caused the inside to be soaked from wall to wall. Feeling like we would get behind on our mileage, getting off the trail didn’t rub me the right way. But we had to do it. As Rich and I checked into a Days Inn motel later that day, I felt unduly stressed out about the unexpected change in plans. I was ready to dive headfirst into the wild, yet here I was in a shitty Days Inn motel for the night. So I confided in Katie as someone to vent to.
As I expressed my anger the conversation became acrimonious. She disagreed with my reasons for being angry, and this culminated in her texting me “I can’t do this.” I was frozen with fear. Then I called her. She didn’t pick up. I called her several more times and no answer. This was gut wrenching. Later that night she finally got back to me and we worked it out. Me not being there is really hard on her, especially if we’re bickering. She’s dealing with separation anxiety as well, and it isn’t easy being so far from someone you love for so long. We knew it would be difficult, but we were optimistic. I was confident our love would carry us through anything. Ignorance is bliss when you’re madly in love.
I fell hard and fast for this girl, at a time when I told myself not to fall in love. But love just happens. You feel it and you’re forced to react. Before the trail, Katie and I were inseparable. Planned or unplanned, I’d make time for her. Whether it be staying up all night playing Mario Cart or cuddling till the sun came up, I was happiest when I was with her. We were crazy about each other. We spontaneously planned a weekend trip to New York City just for fun. As the trail loomed closer, we made plans for the future, thinking we’d have all the time in world together after I finished my hike. We were wrong, and I was naive to think love would be enough to carry us through the time apart.
Whenever you’re in a relationship and they say, “we need to talk” or “I need to talk to you” it’s usually not for good reasons. And you really get an idea of where their head is at when they start removing pictures of the two of you on social media before the phone call is even had. I’ve been through break ups before, and desolate hole they leave you with is hard to fill.
“I’m not happy. I need to go out there and make myself happy.”
I guess she couldn’t do that while waiting on me to come back. I’m not enough when I’m not physically present in her life. I had half expected this would happen after I got the text message “I can’t do this” the third night out here, but I was holding out hope that she would wait for me. I felt despondent as I hung up the phone after one last goodbye.
Maybe tomorrow will be better. Maybe my anxiety will finally take a back seat in my conscious thoughts if I no longer have to worry about if I’m worth waiting for. I’ll no longer have to fear her leaving me now, she’s already gone. I hope she finds the happiness she’s looking for now that I’m not holding her back. I love her but that wasn’t enough to make her stay.
During the mornings and nights out here I’d sit in my tent coming up with reasons to go home, the loudest and most prevalent being Katie. Her leaving me changes everything. The thought of abandoning the hike for her is no longer in the cards on the path to Mount Katahdin, the trail’s northern terminus. This turbulent change will force me to grow in ways I didn’t foresee, and I’ll be sticking with the name Romeo and all it’s newfound irony.
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