From Teacher to Trail: My Accidental Journey to the Continental Divide Trail
You know how, when you’re a kid, adults are always asking questions like, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” Maybe now you’re the adult. Or maybe you’re the kid getting asked those questions, or maybe you’re an adult who feels like the kid. I’m a high school teacher, and I have the unfortunate displeasure of asking my students that question too many times per week.
My first year teaching, I put my resignation in for the following school year in preparation for an out-of-state move, only to be completely discouraged from both the move and teaching as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This brief hiatus in stable employment led me to the Appalachian Trail in 2021 – my fifth ever backpacking trip, my longest time away from Ohio, and my parents’ rude introduction to accepting that I like to spend a lot of time away from cell service.
Immediately after the Appalachian Trail, my then-boyfriend now-fiancé moved to Colorado. He decided that thru-hiking was a one-and-done experience for him, but I knew that I had more trails in me. I got another teaching job and did smaller trips and treks over the summers. I was excelling at a job that I genuinely liked, but I knew I would eventually quit to pursue another thru.
One day in November 2022, my friend texted me and asked if I wanted to do the Continental Divide Trail with her in 2024. I actually originally said no. I wasn’t ready to leave my students, my coworkers, and my stability. I responded with a yes less than 24 hours later.
When I ask my students “What do you want to do when you grow up?”, I don’t mean anything about careers. I mean it when I say that I honestly don’t care what job they seek after graduating. What I do care about is that they know enough to have life-changing experiences like this. They deserve to know that a paycheck is not the end goal. What one does with that paycheck is the whole point.
In order to pursue this journey, I have to quit my job mid-year. As of today, January 22nd, I have 46 days until I leave my school. The paycheck does not outweigh the opportunities on the other side of the resignation line.
The final lesson I wish to impart on my students is that “what you want to do” does not have to be — and should not be — their job. Their lives are too valuable for that.
I am excited to continue to share updates as I prepare for and eventually hike the Continental Divide Trail!
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