Never too old to take a gap year
In April 2019, I made a spreadsheet (love excel!) counting down the tasks for a successful spring 2022 AT NOBO launch. It started with announcing my exit plan from my job. I am only 53 and was astounded by the number of people who thought I was retiring…like never having to work again? As fabulous as this sounded, without a winning lottery ticket, this is not feasible. Then I told them that I was hiking 2193 miles GA to ME. At my age, with two kids in college, leaving a job I loved (albeit stressed out) with no plan for the future beyond summiting Katahdin…ya I got some raised eyebrows. Adding to the mystery is that I am happily married, living a pretty idyllic mountain resort life where many people only go for vacation. Actually now I am starting to doubt my plan…just kidding!
So like all long hikers I got the most often asked question: what made you want to do this? or the Why? While there are common themes, each hiker and their reasons are as infinitely unique as snowflakes. For me, my reasons started as simple as a marshmallow, I could hold it, describe it in simple terms, wrap my brain around it. Why thru-hike the AT? Adventure, love of the outdoors, overcoming the physical and mental challenges. Then I started to dig deeper, question how my reasons held up in tough conditions, I stretched and dug in and to my wonderment, my marshmallow reasons merged and transformed into pulled taffy that was pliable, twisting and wrapping my brain in sweet sticky goodness. At the core, my reasons were the same but they took on a more personal meaning in the context of the bigger question, especially after the pandemic hit, and one that few people asked…
A: Because I can’t go back in time or control the future, I only have today. There is no perfect time, or the right set of circumstances, only the choice to carpe diem!
Taking a gap year to make taffy
After realizing how much my decision has been inspired by my daughters’ adventures and travels, I started calling this my gap year. It fits across all meanings: a break from continuity, a disparity or difference, make a space, and a mountain pass! I researched, planned, strategized, tested, and in all ways possible prepared (see future post on this subject) for this epic trek yet I know it is my pliable (define: adjusting to variable conditions) approach that will get me to my goal.
You can drop a marshmallow but once you start to make taffy, it is stuck to your fingers, you are committed. It is messy and takes time but so worth the effort. I am a taffy woman and this is my gap year.
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