Why Not Fly to Maine? Why Walk the Appalachian Trail?
It’s nearly a controversial thing to walk somewhere, anywhere, where I come from in Kansas. If there isn’t parking right in front of the place we wish to frequent, there may not be riots in the street, but there will most certainly be a meeting about it at City Hall.
The notion of walking across 14 states can seem not only ludicrous, but plain dumb.
Why would anyone choose to walk all the way from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine, some 2,190 miles?
Well, Here are My Reasons:
- Despite my parents best efforts to surround me with love and security, I endured physical and sexual abuse in my youth. These events impacted me in ways I’ve just recently started to process through a year(+) of trauma therapy. This trauma likely had some impact on the course of my life, the (often poor) decisions I made, the (at times, seemingly mediocre) life I’ve led up to now. This is my opportunity to reach back for that scared little boy in the childhood gone awry and take him on the adventure of a lifetime, to show him that things are alright and that life is good, and that life can get better. This is my opportunity to take back the narrative of my life’s story.
- I acted out in my young adulthood as a likely result of the first bullet point. After much (if-you-are-thinking-it-I-probably-did-it) antics at home, I ran away to California at 17 years old. Although a short-lived journey, I guess I was trying to escape something I simply couldn’t understand. My answer was to leave home with a backpack (oh so marginally) full of a drained savings account and head West. I want a do-over on this type of self-reflective, life-saving extended trip. I’m not running away this time. Everyone knows where I am and where I’m going. There’s no need to print posters and put them up at the airport. I’m running, er walking, toward something this time. I’m walking toward a mountain, sure, but I’m walking toward a belief in myself that hasn’t existed before, a belief that I’m not a major fuck-up, or failed person; that I am worthwhile and I deserve to be here (goddammit). And I’ve worked my ass off to get here.
- I’ve struggled with self-doubt, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and low to no self-confidence for years. These feelings are reinforced or diluted through the events that we experience. I remember an early-career layoff that exacerbated the above, but, most recently, these infections heightened during my recent divorce. A couple labels that have stuck with me through that ugly process was an anonymous letter announcing “You Are A Failure” and descriptions of narcissism, emotional abuse, and neglect being volleyed my way further eroding any trust in myself. This is a journey then, not of failure or self-loathing, but a journey to renew faith in myself; to trust myself, to know that I’m a good person. I’m hiking the Appalachian Trail to super-charge my lost confidence and to hopefully work on soothing some of the other mental maladies that are swimming around my brain.
(Man, move it along already; this post is a total downer!)
- I’m hiking the Appalachian Trail because I’ve never backpacked by myself and never backpacked longer than one week at a time in a group setting. This is to prove that I can do both (with pizzazz!).
- I’m hiking the Appalachian Trail because I’m a plant nerd and want to see all the wildflowers come to bloom this Spring (over 1,000 varieties of wildflowers in the Smokies alone!).
- I’m hiking the Appalachian Trail because I’ve visited the Eastern part of the U.S. the least out of the other parts of the country and would like to experience its’ diversity, small communities, and, of course, its’ natural beauty.
- I’m hiking the Appalachian Trail to become physically fit. I’ve been skinny all my life, but skinny does not always equal fitness. I want to get stronger, walk further, and trek harder as the weeks go by. I want to turn my chicken legs (mmmm, chicken legs) into, I dunno, cow ankles?
- I’m at a pivotal moment in my professional life. I’ve had some great experiences the past decade or so, but I have been dissatisfied with my career and general direction for years. A friends’ response to my frequent whining really resonated with me, “You know, Andy; your problem is you’re too damn comfortable.” Well, I’m hiking the Appalachian Trail to get out of my comfort zone, reflect on my past experiences, and begin to cultivate what the next chapter might look like for the next 5 or 10 years. As a wise person once said, “Growth happens on the edge of comfort.”
Here goes nothing.
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