Time Will Come: Processing and Accepting “Failure”
This article is for anyone who didn’t make it. Not to the final mile on Katahdin or Springer, but to mile zero to start such a sought-after journey.
Welp, This Blows
I’ve avoided writing this article for the past few months for one reason or another. One being working toward acceptance of perceived failure: I am not hiking the Appalachian Trail this year. From an outsider looking in, the hardest part truly is getting to the trailhead. After spending months researching and purchasing gear, and telling loved ones my plans, I am not making it to Amicalola.
Coming to terms with my decision to not thru-hike this year has been an ongoing process. I slowly felt myself being pulled in a direction that wasn’t focused on the trail. Every decision that took me further from attempting the AT caused the repetitive internal question, “But what about thru-hiking?” Slowly but surely, my priorities changed and before I knew it, my decision was made. I was not going to attempt to hike the entire Appalachian Trail this year. Ouch.
It appears that now more than ever, self-worth is based on judgment and acceptance from others. Pressure from one’s self, loved ones, and social media influencers can easily sway decisions for better or for worse. It seems that if you aren’t doing the absolute most at all times, whatever you are doing doesn’t matter.
My intentions to thru-hike were and remain for the sole benefit of myself, to live life to the fullest. However, having internal and external pressures/stressors can make any decision feel like it’s not your decision. After realizing I wasn’t going to thru-hike the AT, I was disappointed in myself and afraid of how others would judge me.
“What would people that knew my plans say?”
“How would I tell the people that I’ve bonded over thru-hiking this year with?”
“Would they think I’m a cop-out or too weak to complete something of this endeavor?”
By not even attempting to thru-hike after all the mental and physical effort put into preparing for this trip, I immediately considered myself a failure. I couldn’t follow through with something I was so confident in. Despite coming up with a million different ideas for backpacking adventures to fill this void, nothing could live up to my expectations after planning to thru-hike the AT. I was a failure who could talk the talk, but couldn’t walk the 2,190.9 mile walk.
Acceptance and Moving Forward
The biggest take away from reflecting on the perception of failure is similar to that of the trail: hike your own hike. Minimizing pressure and expectations from friends, family, and social media can be challenging on a day to day basis. Having confidence in decisions that excite you and are in your best interest is what matters most at the end of the day.
There is no doubt that I will make it to Amicalola within the coming years to thru-hike. While it’s upsetting that I am not attempting the AT this year, that decision shouldn’t undercut what is to come. Choosing to thru-hike a shorter trail (Long Trail 2020) doesn’t make me a failure or lesser than those on longer trails. It’s still a kick-ass opportunity that has so much potential for personal growth and internal satisfaction. How we perceive and respond to situations can ultimately affect the outcome. By changing how I view this decision, I am able to focus on what I will gain and get stoked for upcoming adventures rather than what I may be missing out on.
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