Fat Chance: Why I Am Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail
I’m hiking 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada.
“What?” she said as I shared with my friend that I plan to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail. She looked at me the way a dog does when they are confused when you offer them table scraps of leftover salad. I was a fat girl hiking.
A blank stare fell across my boss’s face when I told him it was my dream to hike from Mexico to Canada in one continuous adventure. He blinked and turned his head to the side much like the dog did. Confusion.
But it was the dean of students from my recent teaching job—an athlete herself—who looked at me and, without skipping a beat, said, “I’m going with you. What’s your plan?” I was lost in her open-mindedness and her interest. At the time, I was speechless; I didn’t have a plan yet or at least no way to articulate it. No one had ever asked me before. I think she may have sensed my hesitation and nerves. She said, “Well, if anyone I know can do it, you definitely will.”
This Watermelon Hiker no longer felt judged for my plus-size appearance. I no longer felt like I was a size 20 trying to fit into a size 18, because that was the largest size in store. I felt supported and she helped me realize that I can do hard things. Her response was more than I could ask for: she listened. She listened to how the words “Pacific Crest Trail” came out of my mouth. She saw the spark in my body and ignored my understandable insecurity. She didn’t see the bullied Watermelon from seventh grade; she saw me.
Making the Decision: Pacific Crest Trail
Deciding to take time away from teaching was the hardest decision I’ve ever made. The circumstances were far from ideal and it was unplanned. My family was dealing with a difficult loss and we needed to pull together. I loved my job, my peers, and my bosses. It was my “forever job” and I belonged. But it was at that time when I had to make a choice. Family first.
When I resigned, I wrote a note to my students on the board. I didn’t want them to see me upset, so a note would have to do. They taught me so much in the short time that I was with them. But the most important thing I learned is that we are always growing. Life balance is the goal. I told them that I was going on a 2,650-mile adventure and that it was time for me to focus on growing myself. If it wasn’t clear by the time I finished my note, I told them that it was one of the greatest gifts of my life to have spent time with them.
In reality, it was the gift from the dean of students that made the impossible possible. She knew what I didn’t until that moment. I CAN do hard things and I will. This is why I’m hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.
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