The Next Step

My heart beats out of my chest on a cool, crisp morning as I shakily place one foot in front of the other. My garb is traditional in the sense of pomp and circumstance. My peers and I are cloaked in gowns, stoles and cords with a mortar board crowning their heads, signifying the achievements of the past four years. The graduating class of 2024 walks across the stage, shaking the hands of presidents, regents, provosts and professors alike, gripping their hard-earned diplomas in their left hand. As I step off the stage and pose for photos, I find my family in a rush of emotions and embraces.

Leading up to this moment, I have been asked almost incessantly for the past six months: “So, what’s the next step? What are your plans post-graduation? Do you have a job yet?”

My answer pushes through my teeth like venom off of my tongue, because I know the reaction will differ depending on who I tell — the roster flaunts everything from raised eyebrows and dropped jaws of disapproval and disbelief to wide eyes and beaming grins of encouragement and excitement.

“I’m going to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail,” I say.

This decision was not made lightly. In fact, months of deliberation and preparation primed me to make this unconventional choice.

The Path Chose Me

In October of 2023, I took a field course at my alma mater, Texas Tech University, where a group of peers, professors and I hiked a section of the Guadalupe Ridge Trail (GRT) while making a three-part YouTube docuseries about our trip. The class, entitled “The Path Chooses Us,” was nothing short of difficult. Faced with less-than-ideal weather conditions and a personal lack of backpacking knowledge, the group persevered on the trip of a lifetime. On our last morning of the trail, moments before embarking on our ascent of Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas, one of my professors, Dr. Giemza, mentioned his experience in thru-hiking. Having completed the Appalachian Trail, his story of success inspired me. 

Upon our return from the trip, I opened my journal and reflected on the week spent in the wilderness. “While it was the hardest thing I have ever done, I don’t want it to be the hardest thing I ever do,” I scratched onto the pages. I wanted more challenge, more work, more payoff. Therefore, I applied for a permit to hike the PCT, and to my surprise, I received it. Since that day, I have been steadily planning my trip and accumulating gear while writing final papers and turning in assignments to wrap up my undergraduate experience. 

Life’s Windows

I believe there are windows in life that we pass by. Until now, my window has been framed with my desire for education, journalism and visual storytelling with an emphasis on following societal norms of gaining my degree and applying that to a job. However, as I hang my college diploma on my wall, that window has passed me by.

I yearn for the day I have a small house with a backyard for a dog. I want slow mornings sipping coffee and reading the news as I prepare for a work day. I dream of one day having a family under that roof with me. However, at this moment in time, that window does not yet present itself.

So, as I have no roots planted, it seems like a great time to pursue this hike. I’m not here to prove anything to anyone. I’m not looking for anything in return. Simply put, I want to hike! Now is the time to do so.

So, here I am, ready, excited and admittedly nervous to hike northbound on the Pacific Crest Trail through California, Oregon and Washington! Subscribe to my posts to read along as I take my ‘next step’ post-grad.


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