How My Grief Resulted In Growth

 Commemoration

A year has passed since I was supposed to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. To commemorate my April 10 NOGO start date I decided to read back the articles I wrote on here. I struggle to recognize myself in my writing from a year ago. So much has happened since and my headspace has changed a great deal. Therefore I want to reflect on my growth by putting down my thoughts one more time.

Many people will say that 2020 has been the most boring year ever. Working from home, being stationary instead of traveling and exploring, not being able to work out at the gym, no fun parties to attend, and I could go on and on. Nonetheless, last year has been everything but boring for me. 2020 has been the most terrible, yet the most astonishing year of my life.

Launching My Career

In January 2020 I finished my degree and became a registered nurse. Instead of starting my career right away, I planned on taking time off to go on a 2650-miles adventure along the PCT. My plans turned out a little different due to the global pandemic. I decided to throw myself in the deep by making myself useful as a nurse and started working at the COVID-unit.

I have seen things a 22-year-old should not see. In fact, no one should experience what my colleagues and I have experienced. By now I have seen a lot more people die than I am old. In the past year, I have seen my patients struggle, suffer, and give up because there was simply nothing left to give. My heart aches when I think about all the times that I tell family members that not everyone is allowed in the hospital – not even to say their goodbyes. I hold my patients’ hands as they take their last breath because no one should die alone. Though sometimes I miss their passing and walk in to an already cold body.

Right now everyone is tired of Corona because they are fed up with the restrictions. I feel exhausted in a completely different way: worn out of accepting and moving on. I am not asking for pity, but I am asking for understanding. Please stick to the rules and restrictions in your area. Get vaccinated, keep your distance, and let’s get those contamination rates down. Together.

Silver Lining

On November 15 2019 I send a message to this cute hiker dude with, at the time, blue hair. I told him, “you look good.” He had no idea that this was my attempt to hit on him. So I decided to be a bit more straightforward and invited him to crawl into my Tiger Wall UL2 tent. And after that day we never stopped talking.

We met each other on a Facebook group for long-distance LGBTQ+ hikers. We connected immediately over our passion for the outdoors and the insane dream to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.

Messages about gear, food, and resupply strategies turned into cheeky video calls. It all happened so fast and before we knew it we fell in love. The excitement of finally being together grew every day. Our individual dreams became something we wanted to share. So we made plans to hike the PCT together.

Unfortunately, those plans never became reality due to the current pandemic. When our thru-hike got canceled, we felt devastated. And that is an understatement!

However, when one door closes another one opens. The PCT not happening made it possible for him to move to Amsterdam. Isn’t that the best plot twist of 2020?

Soulmates

I soon moved out of my parents’ house and found an apartment for us. On August 24 we finally got united and it was the most beautiful day of my life. I still struggle with describing what it actually felt like being in each other’s presence for the first time. From that moment everything got brighter, happier, and more wonderful. My love for him is so pure. I don’t think I will ever be able to define it to its true extent – our love is too good for words.

In September we celebrated my birthday in true fashion. We went on a backpacking trip in France – at the time this was still possible. Our trek into the French Alps is one of the most special backpacking trips I have been on to date. It felt monumental to put my PCT grief to rest with someone who understands, feels, and shares that grief.

To this day I still dream to hike the PCT. Now when I dream about it, I see my partner and me. Together.

Parc national de la Vanoise, France.

Enlightenment

Reading back my articles from last year has put everything in perspective. I don’t think that there is any reason to justify our own personal dreams over a global pandemic. Be responsible and recreate local this year. Take care, stay safe, and thank you for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments 2

  • Avatar
    pearwood : Apr 12th

    Marijn,
    What a delightful story, hard parts and all.
    Got to thinking back about turning 22 in 1972, almost five decades ago. I had just graduated from college and been commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the US Army. I went on active duty in January, went through Army flight school, got assigned to Fort Richardson, Alaska (by Anchorage). Lost some colleagues to glaciers and box canyons. Flew search and rescue; had some happy endings and some sad one. Your perspective on life changes.
    Oh, and the pride flag out in front used to be for my LGBTQ+ relatives and friends; now it’s also for my trans daughter. Life goes on.
    I’m heading out next February AT NOBO. Planning to celebrate number 72 on the trail. I thank God for good health and a repaired back.
    Thanks for writing.
    Blessings,
    Steve / pearwood

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Marijn : Apr 12th

      Hi Pearwood,
      What a wonderful story, with difficult parts, on your end as well! Thank you for being an ally to the community.
      I’m already excited for you to celebrate your 72nd birthday on trail next year. Stay safe,
      Marijn

      Reply

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