Thru-Hikers: Are We Selfish?
Wool underwear. Check. Hiking poles. Check. Ultralight tent. Check. PCTA permit approval. Check. Approval of all friends and family… unchecked?
A Thru-Hiker Journey
I’ve written blogs about my plus-size body, my seriously novice backpacking abilities, and my mental health journey. Writing about how these aspects of my life have each brought me to my decision to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail has been cathartic and eye-opening. So many people have reached out to support me, strangers who see something in me or rather something in themselves that together we can identify with. I feel like we are on this journey together. Like I’m taking each of your Instagram handles with me as I step onto the PCT. It is a responsibility that I gladly accept.
The Responsible People
I can’t ignore some obvious responsibilities that I have. The most important of which is my husband and our three daughters. My husband, the World’s Greatest Teacher, is 100% supportive of my hiking dream. I’ve been talking about the PCT for the last five years; it’s only happenstance that I have been able to fast-forward this would-be “retirement hike” to 2020. It is not his retirement dream to hike the PCT, therefore he is grateful it is taking place now.
Additionally, my “pit crew” consists of my three daughters: Nine, Seven, and Three. Nine is my navigator. If you’ve seen my Instagram, you may have noticed the nice PCT map chart we created. She is meticulous when it comes to details and numbers (if only that were evident in the cleanliness of her room). Seven is my supply officer. She will be putting together my resupply packages and following Nine’s resupply strategy. Nine seems to think I will only need food in Wrightwood. Yikes. As Seven works out the math between miles of when to send me new shoes, Three, well, I’m not sure what Three does. I think she might be the Ringmaster of the Shit Show.
Are We Selfish?
So, why do I think I’m selfish? Well, not everyone is as on-board as I had hoped. Our families seem rather confused about the entire situation. One day I am at the job of my dreams and the next, suffering from PTSD and without work. It seems like every few years there is a major shift in our life circumstances: March 2019, spinal surgery; summer 2014, bipolar diagnosis; 2008, 2012, 2014, 2016… each of those years changed our family drastically. With each of these changes, great things occurred, but not without struggle.
I know our families love us and are rooting for us. But, I think me hiking the Pacific Crest Trail for five months alone might be where they draw the line. I don’t know. For those of you, like me, who feel in their gut that this is our calling—this trail is part of our life journey—have we even stopped and asked ourselves: Are we selfish?
Am I Selfish?
When I asked myself this question, I was surprised at my answer. I took that long, hard look in the mirror and knew it. Yes. I am selfish. I grew up my entire life hearing “family first.” I believed that once you have children you give up your rights to your own identity. Society says that if you work, you neglect your children. Society says that if you stay at home, you’ve settled. Society says that life is hard and you just suffer through it: pay your taxes, pay your bills, and make sure your kids aren’t tardy to school. Only recently has “society” slowly moved in a direction of self-discovery and self-acceptance. Only recently have we heard that in order to help others, we must help ourselves.
So, I guess I am selfish. And whether or not being selfish is a good thing is up to you. But for me, society doesn’t get to decide if I am selfish. Nine, Seven, and Three are the people I answer to. And they are pretty freaking excited and proud of their mother.
Selfishness is exactly why I’m doing this. I want my daughters to be selfish, take up room and claim the right to exist, struggle, and succeed on their own terms and in their own way, with or without a smile on their face. Our choices may not always make sense to others. We may be considered reckless, crazy, outlandish, and wild. But if I know one thing, it is that no one can define our journey. Only we do. And we will.
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