A Loss, an Unexpected Ceremony, a Text and a Decision!
I never thought I would be a blog person. As soon as I told people I had made the decision to attempt a thru hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, everyone asked, “Are you going to write about it?” So…. Here we go!
Life in Minnesota to Arizona
In order for me to set the stage for the thru hike, it’s important to know my WHY! After college, I moved to Arizona to pursue a teaching position in a small rural community. I never expected that 10 years later I would still be in AZ, at the same amazing school! I taught Kindergarten for 3 years, held leadership positions for 7 years, the final 2 years as principal.
My Goals and Why
As I grew professionally, my personal life came crashing down on me. This part of my past is important because it has become one of the driving forces for my WHY! All the events that transpired in a short amount of time resulted in what I thought I knew and understood to vanish. I had to rebuild a life in AZ and for the first time on my own. I put up walls to protect myself and my introvert tendencies amplified.
During this critical time, I leaned on my family more than ever, my faith, and of course a good dose of counseling.
Counseling was never anything I thought I would need. I soon learned it was everything I needed. It was through counseling that I began to rebuild my life one hour sessions at a time. My counselor challenged me and supported me. One thing that came from counseling was the need to set goals for myself, and I quickly realized that I had lived most of my life for others. In 2018, the goals were to 1) earn my master’s degree, 2) become a vegan and, you may have guessed it at this point, 3) complete a thru hike! I earned my master’s in 2019, have been a vegan since April of 2018 and now I am on my way to attempt a thru hike.
Telling Others I Would Be Hiking The PCT
I have always, almost to a fault, cared too much about others’ perceptions of me. I never wanted to let family and friends down. For some reason, I believed that attempting a thru-hike would somehow do just that. As I began to wrestle with the idea of thru-hiking this idea became my mental barrier. I knew that I needed to take the personal journey for myself. The first step would be to let others know and navigate through their reactions and emotions.
Over a span of about four months, I told others that I made the decision to attempt a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail in the Spring of 2024. I would have to leave my job of 10 years, and due to logistical reasons I would move back “home” all in search of this goal.
Winter of 2022
A close friend sent me a text that has stuck with me. At the time she did not know I offically decided to hike the PCT in 2024. She sent “2023 is your year! No more holding back, but a time to move in boldness. The lion in you had been dormant for far too long! Speak what you want and desire, and it shall be yours! You have served others for MANY years and now it’s your time to reap the harvest! Move boldly as the lion in 2023!” This simple text helped reaffirm my decision.
Spring of 2023
I began to tell more people whose opinions I valued. Everyone’s responses were similar. They were shocked, sad, but overall supportive. Each conversation became easier until I got closer to the day I had to tell my staff. In March, I stood in front of 70 of the most kind, loving, and supportive people and told them I would not be returning the following school year because I was going to hike the PCT. The room was filled with tears, and questions, but again overall support.
Emotions and the Unknown
Emotions began to weigh heavily on me. The weight of this decision hit me hard. I was leaving a consistent and rewarding job, amazing friends and co-workers, a strong support system, an apartment in a beautiful state and everything I have known for 10 years. I was leaving all this for the unknown. It came to me that I was, for lack of a better phrase, “putting all my eggs in one basket”. I am putting my entire future, both professionally and personally, on hold all in an attempt to thru-hike. I had to intentionally remind myself of the many conversations I had with my counselor. This decision was not selfish but finally a selfless decision.
Finding Solitude And Purpose In Nature
You may be wondering where this sense of thrill and need for solitude came from. I had never hiked before living to AZ, I had never camped, except in my mom’s backyard. I found that as time went by I began to find answers while hiking, camping and being in nature. Around the same time as my divorce, my sister had an idea to go on a road trip and visit some National Parks. We set a date for our first road trip in June of 2017 and have continued to plan National Parks trips since. Over the past 6 years, I have found that every trip we take ends up happening at a vital moment in my life.
An Unexpected Ceremony at Devil’s Tower
Our first National Parks road trip began just 3 days after my divorce was finalized. On this trip we visited Devil’s Tower. While there we were invited to attend a Native American ceremony. A group of Native women sought me out at camp and said “We saw you and knew you would be here.” This caught me off guard. I thought, “What in the world does that mean?” I had never seen them and didn’t even know about the ceremony but they believed I needed to attend! The ceremony emphasized connecting with the earth and nature. That night at a camp, I remember lying awake and for the first time feeling that I would be ok and would make it through this chapter of my life.
Now from the outside this may seem irrelevant. I have always been a person who looks for signs and I received one that night. I have experienced similar situations each time I’ve emersed myself in nature. All of our trips have served a purpose for me at that specific time. These experiences have motivated me to attempt my first thru-hike. I believe I am meant to do this, I am meant to experience this in order to learn something and/or teach someone else. What this is, I do not know yet!
The Simple Question “What Were Your Initial Thoughts and/or What Are Your Thoughts Now?”
I took time recently to hear from those I love. Here is what they said:
Mother (the typical Norwegian Mother)
- She said “How can you leave you job, and how can you possibly eat enough to sustain your already thin body.” However after hours of watching PCT YouTube videos, and gaining a better insight she said “I fully support your decision to hike the PCT. I realized the importance of you taking this journey at this time in your life. As your mother, I have had to go through the process of accepting your decision in order to wholeheartedly support you.”
Work BF (often classified as my work wife)
- She said “I felt like the decision had to be made for the next chapter of life. It was funny because I was excited. I knew that you were making the decision not based on other people but what you finally needed. I am happy that you are finally doing this for you. The beauty of it is you had purpose, intentionality, and faith behind the decision.”
Older sister (my backingpacking, hiking and national parks travel buddy)
- She said “I was confused. I thought you were hiking the AT or at least that’s what you talked about in Shenandoah and the Smokies! I was also surprised because you talked about this for years. Regardless, you’re my brother and my best friend and I will always have your back. I wish I had the courage to take such a big risk, but I’m excited for you!”
Twin brother (the 6 minute older astrologer)
- He said “It’s right on time from an astrological perspective! You are experiencing a power transit that asks you to let go of a past version of self, in order to step into a more authentic version. This experience will surely prove to be transformational and help align you with your greater purpose.”
Gordy and Nugget (14 month old kittens, weighing in at a combined weight of 33.2 lbs)
- No comment. Gordy and Nugget are currently suggesting which gear should be removed in order for them to join the hike while maintaining a light base weight.
Now Go, Be Your Own Lion!
My mind played games on me and told me a narrative that was not true. I had to learn to sift through the mental muck and think with clarity. This can be true for so many aspects of life. It’s easy to talk ourselves out of things that are uncomfortable, unfamiliar, or that do not fit the status quo. However, when I allowed myself that space, I found the peace I was seeking for the entire time.
If anyone has considered, contemplated, or desired to make a big decision for themselves, I encourage you to take that step! Step out and see what beauty will follow! Stay strong in your choice and know that you can and will achieve whatever you are setting out to do! When those in your life understand why you are choosing to embark on your next decision (a possible thru-hike), you may just find the support and guidance you were hoping for. Whatever you are grappling with right now, I encourage you to be your own lion and move with boldness and intention.
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