This Too Shall Pass
Now 3 months removed from the trail, working and scrambling to apply to graduate school, I find myself re-reading the journal I occasionally kept during my 2014 thru-hike. This post especially resonated with me today. Enjoy.
Before I left the comforts of our hotel room in Boiling Springs, PA, I took another shower in the beautifully mirrored bathroom. I was still clean from the night before, but a hot shower is a luxury I might not encounter again for a week and couldn’t pass up enjoying. Bathing in warm water after usually cleaning off in the frigid streams was a shock in a good way. I washed my hair in the almost too hot water and took extra time to dry it with the hotel’s blow dryer. I’d forgotten how easy it is to dry your hair when you don’t have to crouch under a public bathroom’s hand dryer hitting the hard silver button over and over again.
Clean and warm, I curled up on the soft bed under the comforter to catch up on the news with my last few free minutes. Too soon time was up and I pried myself from bed. Automatically the backpack was on my shoulders and we were out the door. Back in hiking mode.
Two hours later I found myself walking through thunder claps and huge drops of rain. My clothes were soaked, and my socks were more wet (if that was even possible). I waded through what resembled a creek instead of a trail, attempting to dodge puddles and instead splashing mud up my calves with every step. I had no clue how long the rain would continue. All I knew was that there was only one option – to keep walking North. At least the air feels cool on my face.
Two hours later I’m sunbathing on a hot parking lot next to my drying socks and shoes. The clouds have revealed stunning blue sky and a group of us have stopped to eat lunch while drying as much of our wet gear as possible. The warmth feels wonderful and I’ve rubbed most of the dirt off my legs under a nearby spigot’s running water. The sky is beautiful and clear. The nearby overflowing riverbanks remind us of what we just came through, but for now that’s in the past.
Whenever I’m having a hard time during this journey, whether it be walking through torrents of rain like today or hiking up a 2000ft hill, I repeat to myself the phrase my grandfather said over the phone to me in Hot Springs – “this too shall pass”. This simple phrase always puts things in perspective for me. It reminds me that nothing lasts forever, so I might as well choose to enjoy the moments, good or bad, as they come. The god awful climb will end eventually and we’ll go downhill. The rain will eventually subside to the sun.
While I’ve exclusively thought of this phrase as a way to keep optimistic during negative moments, today I realized I should be reminding myself “this too shall pass” during the positive moments as well. All this trip we’ve been walking away from Georgia, from my home. Now, past the halfway point, we’re finally walking towards the end of our hike, towards home. My Appalachian Trail journey isn’t going to last forever. It too will eventually come to an end. I need to try to cherish every positive memory and my time with each person as much as possible.
For example – today I had the opportunity to talk with someone new, Stark. I heard a bit about his interesting life as a college athlete, about his time living abroad to teach English as a second language, and about his desire to work in some combination of higher education and community service. After 13 miles of hiking with him today almost exclusively in the unrelenting downpour, he was picked up to take a few days off to visit family and to attend a wedding. Though I truly enjoyed chatting with him, I regret that I was too busy telling myself “this too shall pass” about the rain, and instead not saying so about the person in front of me who may never re-enter my life story.
Life’s too temporary not to live every moment to the fullest. I never know when, or if, I’ll be in these situations and with these people again. So whether it’s a moment when I’m clean and comfortable after a hot shower, or a moment when I’m beyond sore after a 43 mile hike, it’s all about being present, being bold, and being intentional with my life.
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