Your Own Best Teacher
I believe each person is his or her best teacher. You have the answers and they must be uncovered. You have answers based on listening and experiences. More listening and more experiences yield more answers… and questions.
In my listening (to strangers, friends, family, teachers, authors, memories, myself) I am increasingly aware of my lack of control. Over anything. The idea of control is an illusion. No doubt it is a helpful, necessary illusion but an illusion nonetheless. Recently I was speaking with my incredibly supportive and wise mother about the potentially unwise choice to throw away what I’ve worked for (and love) by thru-hiking the AT beginning this spring. Her response was that none of what I’ve earned is guaranteed to be there for me anyway. She’s right.
I have the best jobs in the world and, yet, I have decided to leave them temporarily to hike the Appalachian Trail. I am a yoga instructor and actress.* Both yogis and actors strive to stay in the present moment, experience what comes up without judgement, and use it. There are quite a few similarities between these practices and hiking. Fellow Appalachian Trials blogger Tory Anne offers a thoughtful comparison of yoga and hiking here. I find that acting falls in line effortlessly, as well.
With that… here are my lists.
I am thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail because:
- life is short and I need to take advantage of the precious time I have on this planet to experience extraordinary things;
- I will have an amazing adventure to share;
- I will be a part of an elite group of people who have achieved this physical and emotional feat;
- my body has the strength to hike the AT now and I might not have the strength and health later;
- I want to support my husband and share this experience together;
- I’d like to know what it’s like to physically propel myself and my belongings for over 2,180 miles;
- it will be fun to hike and camp for months at a time;
- I want to surprise people;
- I don’t know anyone who has done this ;
- I enjoy calculated, risky challenges;
- I will be a part of American history; and
- this will be the most exotic adventure of my life so far.
When I successfully thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, I will:
- return home with a new sense of ease;
- have a greater understanding that home is a concept;
- have greater appreciation for stability and luxuries;
- have different definitions of “stability” and “luxuries;”
- not be afraid of so many things;
- see every thing and every person in a different light;
- have greater compassion;
- be very confident in my abilities; and
- have an incredible tale to tell.
If I give up on the Appalachian Trail, I will:
- be disappointed in myself;
- feel the embarrassing need to explain myself and my decision to quit;
- have spent a lot of money and lost a lot of money without the satisfaction of completing my goal;
- feel unfulfilled;
- feel like a failure;
- be less likely to take more risks;
- doubt myself; and
- always wonder what might have been.
* Prior to this path, I enjoyed a corporate career in educational technology as well as teaching middle school special education and other professional occupations in the disabilities field. With the exception of a year directly out of college (I waited tables and firmly believe that, if possible, everyone should), this is my first departure from a more traditionally professional role. For the record — and further solidifying these as the best jobs in the world — my bosses and agent have been nothing but supportive and loving in respect to my AT thru-hike plans.
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Regarding your list, should you not finish, it will be for a profound reason: one that will change your life just as much as completing this goal will change you. You’ve always met life head one with spirit and adventure, even as a little girl. You’re marked by introspection and reflection: you live in a place where each accomplishment and disappointment is a teaching and learning moment; this characteristic will carry you every step as it always has. I live in a place of joy and wonder at your spiritual, physical and intellectual gifts. That’s where I will be standing, cheering you on, celebrating how you embrace this adventure.