On a Midnight Plane to Georgia
Well, today was my last day at work, tonight was my goodbye party and tomorrow I get on a plane to Georgia. I have had so much going through my mind. I think back to all the experiences that culminated in this moment. The one I am in right now, the night before I leave for my thru hike. I think about the friend I made when I was 23, she was thru-hiking and it was the first time I had ever heard of the AT. I looked at her with such a reverence, I never imagined it could be me. Years later, I called to ask her permission, I always figured the trail was her thing, and she said, ” the trail is there for anyone who wants it.”
I think about my ex-boyfriend who had hiked a section and I always assumed we would thru- hike together. That is when I began to imagine a thru-hike was possible. Life happened and we didn’t work out and eventually, I realized I still wanted to do it even if it was on my own. Now, I especially want to do it on my own. I’m glad I had that time to realize my dreams, and I’m glad things happened the way they did. I held onto my dream through the separation and found the courage to make it happen.
I think about the life planning workshop I went to a year ago in Korea when I broke down in tears. I realized going after my AT dream would set me back a year and a half from my other dream of creating a sustainable life that I love in a place I am happy to be in. I have been on the go for so long, as much as I dream of my thru-hike, I almost equally dream of a steady life in a happy place where I can develop professionally. At the workshop, the woman running it took me aside and gave me a little trinket turtle. I told her I felt so lonely and like I didn’t have a home, she said the turtle would remind me I always had home with me. I might carry that turtle to Katahdin, and the woman who ran the workshop said she would meet me there and climb with me to the top.
I think about how I judged myself for this decision. I called myself flaky and lazy, scared and told myself I was just putting off life for another year. Most people write about having played the game and then get to a point where they give up and live. I have been living and realize I need to play the game. But I just can’t explain how I want this adventure, how I feel it inside of me. I would rather be someone who answers the call than ignores it, no matter what it leads to.
I think about my parents. How they were not happy with my announcement, tried to talk me out of it. Tried to change my mind. How I was so scared to tell them, I almost didn’t go for it at all. And how eventually, slowly, in their own way came to a supportive and encouraging place. Now, they are meeting me and hiking with me for all of New York. They have been to REI with me, stayed up late pouring over maps and gone over and re gone over my checklists. I am beyond grateful for them in my life and so happy they have accepted and supported this idea. I know it has not been easy for them.
I am trying to manage my expectations. I don’t want to demand anything from the trail. I don’t want to demand epiphanies or clarity or amazing life changing experiences or spiritual awakenings. Do I want those things? Sure, but expectations are dangerous and often toxic. I just want to be a student, and show up with my pen and paper, a good attitude, ready to learn. I just want to be open.
Maybe I will make it one day, maybe I will make it Katahdin. Maybe I will be heartbroken when I have to leave the trail, maybe I will be ready. I don’t know. But what I will know is that I am the kind of person who is willing to sacrifice, focus and go after what they want no matter how crazy it sounds to the people around them. I know I will answer the call, and whatever happens after that is out of my hands. I will walk. Hopefully 2,189 miles. I will walk one foot in front of the other, open mind, open heart.
Tomorrow I get on a plane and I don’t know yet what parts of myself I will leave here forever, and I don’t know what parts of myself I will find. All I know is I am ready to find out.
It’s been a crazy, insecurity-filled, second guessing, exhilarating, an exercise in trust getting to this point. And now I am ready to let go and walk.
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