The Slow and Grueling Transition to Society
It has been well over a minute since I summited Katahdin and my return to society, the “real world”. While it is nice to sleep in a warm soft bed and wake up with clean dry clothes. It has be not so straight forward, coming back home. Things and tasks that once felt normal and straightforward, feel stressful… offputting… grueling…. Way more so than hiking felt.
The fact is, I went out on the trail to change. I went out there to recover from my greif and trauma; to prove to myself that I am still capable of doing challenging things. Most people don’t walk 2000+ miles for shits and giggles, we all have a reason. To my surprise, I did change… just in more ways than expected.
Physically, some things are off
A new interesting side effect of hiking 15+ miles a day is I can’t stay still. I have to do something physical with my body or I become anxious and restless. So, now I trail run… Well I try to trail run…. It turns out I am pretty slow and bad at running. I hope that I will start running races…. Eventually.
As we all know, trail running, ultra marathoning, and thru hiking are all gateway drugs into each other. None of us actually know where the pipeline begins, but we know it is a fact. Something that no one talks about when transitioning through the pipeline, is the muscles that control walking are very different than those that control running. While you are in incredible shape to walk a marathon; your running muscle are not ready to take on such a feat… you will get your ass kicked by running a mile.
Also while you are transitioning in your new domestic life, you have no idea how, or what to eat. Because hiker hunger is now apart of you. I can tell you exactly how many calories are in that power bar, but have no idea how to appropriately fuel myself now.
While I have gotten my shit together and I am following a meal and exercise plan, there are days that I become feral. If given the opportunity, I would eat the delicious garbage I ate on trail, but I can’t… Because it doesn’t taste as nice, because I am not starving. You will learn that starvation is one of the best spices the world will ever know. Now that you are in civilization and are not underfed, all the junk you ate on trail, tastes like shit. Maybe it is for the better that I tolerate “healthier foods” better. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t turn down some cake or cookies, but I can’t do junk food as much.
I knew personality wise, I was going to change. I knew I was going to come back different. I learned that I am more straight forward now. Especially with my opinions and how people interact with me. People might call it brash or blunt, but I don’t take as much shit as I did before trail. I call it how I see it now, I don’t need to beat around the bush for someones approval. Why should I waste my time weaseling my way around the point? It has caused me to lose some relationships and people to walk out of my life, but maybe that is for the better. I someone isn’t going to be honest and upfront about with what they want, then they can walk on by. It isn’t worth the fight to keep them there.
To be blunt, life is simpler out in the woods. Yes, there still are pressures, “Will I have enough money to finish?” or “Can I make it to that gap by the time the shuttle shows up?”. But, they are less extreme as they are in the “real world”. As the Holiday season descends upon us, it has been jarring to watch the stress people go through. I work as a bartender in a liquor store. Yes, in the Promise-land that is Nebraska we can have fully operational bars in our liquor stores (I know the South needs to get it together). It is crazy to watch people stress themselves out over meaningless things. “What is a worthy gift to buy?” “Is this really your best bottle?”
It is astounding talking to people at the bar. They are stressing themselves out over things that in the long run don’t matter. I now have an outlook on life that is, unless the stressor is affecting your health, your finances, or your life in an extreme manner. It doesn’t matter and you should just move on.
At the Present Time
I’m struggling. I got ghosted and lost some major support groups within the first month of returning home. It hasn’t been the easiest transition back to my home town. I am applying to jobs, but am constantly rejected. But, I’m Lucky: I have a job that makes ends meet while I look for other opportunities. I got to therapy and my therapist thinks I’m sane enough. I’m looking to move out of my mom’s basement. I have a busy schedule that keeps me from being too idle and I’m saving my money for the next outdoor adventures. But none of it feels enjoyable, it feels like a means to an end. Till I get the next hit of outside.
I am in a world surrounded by people and things. I have entertainment, booze, food all at my finger tips… I could distract myself and have a good time, but it doesn’t feel as rich. Not as real. It feels like switching from full strength coffee to decaf, not quite right.
Being around people isn’t the same. The people I interact with aren’t as vulnerable and open, everyone is so guarded. When I talk to people it feels like I am playing pretend. Every conversation is a recipe: a dollop of cordial small talk, followed with a dash of intriguing life events, all while trying to be too vulnerable or too open about oneself. As to not make the other party feel too uncomfortable… because that shit is for your therapist.
It is so lonely. I didn’t think I would be this lonely.
What should have I expected, I live in Nebraska. A state known for being flat, lack of trails, and where its denizens are shocked and appaled if you walk more than one mile on unpaved ground. For instance, I was at a family Christmas party where I noticed I had become the social other. No one knew what to talk to me about with me: I was not engaged or married, no children, and I live in my mothers basement at almost 28 years old. According to Nebraskan standards, I am a spinster. No prospects or of interest to those around me and I will be shriveled and old before I know it.
It was sad. I had just accomplished a major achievement and because I wasn’t married, with child, or working a miserable job: I was othered. At first I tried to make light of it, that it is so funny that no one knows how to talk to me any more because I am not doing the normal adult thing. Ha!
But now, I realize I have little to no community that lives within an hour of me. I am basically an addict, I am just biding my time till I have enough money and days off to go outside and hike… And I have no one to share it with. No community to share my excitement, yearning, or dreams with. I just feel so alone without the trail.
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