Life’s Greatest Accomplishments

Like most people I have seen myself becoming many different things in my life.  My first aspiration ever, as a third grader, was to become an Archeologist.  A few years later: the President of the United States.  In high school I wanted to be an actress.  When I went to college I actually came sort of full circle and declared a passion for Anthropology.  Really what I was committing to was a life in academia.  I believed, at that point in my life, that my greatest achievements would be mental ones, that I would use my brain to think and create and grow.  I thought for sure I would go to grad school to get a masters and even, probably, a PhD.  If you had asked me at that point what I what I thought my greatest achievement would be three or four years down the road I would never have guessed it would be a physical feat.

The reason for this is because I was never an athlete or a dancer.  I had never focused on a trade, ever learned to make anything with my hands.  I wasn’t used to my accomplishments being performed by my body, but instead they were things thought up in my head.  But two years after graduating from college I hiked the Appalachian Trail and that has been, thus far, the most important and grandiose event in my life.  Sure there are mental aspects to hiking the AT, but for me it was the physical enormity of the trail that felt like the biggest accomplishment.

To top off that accomplishment my line of work for the past four years has been manual labor oriented.  Building trails is hard physical work, often filled with design and math, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty I enjoy it because I get to use my body and my hands every day to create something new.  I get to lift things and push things and carry things and pound things and every season I watch my body get stronger.  I would never have imagined in college that I would find myself toiling over trails and spending all my time using a chainsaw and building rock walls.  But I think I find it immensely satisfying, especially in comparison to college, because much of what I did in college was theoretical (pardon my french) bullshit.  I don’t mean that in a derogative way, if I had continued on in my studies I think I could have done some very important things.  But at the college level a lot of what I was doing, thinking, studying… it was all made up in my own head.  Which was fun, and I was good at it, but in contrast, creating something solid with your hands everyday, that can’t be bullshitted.  You actually just have to know what you are doing.

The last outing for Boealps was a day volunteering with the Washington Trails Association on the Martin Creek Connector trail near Skykomish.  It was a beautiful day, a long hike, and very little work (a volunteer day with WTA is pretty short so when you add a long hike to the day you don’t actually spend a lot of time working).  It was great to see everyone trying their hand at trail work, cutting new trail and cursing at roots.  It was awesome to see Kyle back in his element, hacking away at a giant rootball with a pulaski, a shit eating grin on his face.  And it was amazing to chow down on an awesome BBQ afterwards, provided by WTA.  If my life has taught me anything it is that figuring out exactly what you want to do can be hard, passions change and you need different things at different times.  I don’t know what my future holds although I think I have a clearer idea now ever than before, but I do know that I am currently loving my job, that it is fulfilling, satisfying, and I think, important.  And I also know that I am proud of my achievements, even if they aren’t solving any of the world’s problems.  All of my physical achievements are pushing me to grow in ways my past self could have never imagined.  My past self would have been shocked at the things I am doing today, and the ability to surprise myself… I think that is a wonderful thing.

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As Edward Abbey said, "An indoor life is the next best thing to a premature burial."

10 thoughts on “Life’s Greatest Accomplishments

  1. thanks for stopping by my blog and the follow – I really like your introduction – what a wonderful path you have taken – impressive that you were able to follow your dreams rather than sticking obsessively to some academic goal – healthy approach to life!

  2. I just want to say that you’ve been an inspiration to me. I too have been a lover of all things academic and haven’t really found that college has been something truly studded with “knowledge.” I’ve learned a lot but it hasn’t been mentally, physically or spiritually rewarding for me. I’m not a professional trailer by any means (YET!) but I find that being out on the trail, pushing myself to the limit and reveling in the beauty that this world has to offer has given me so much more satisfaction than reading in books. It gives me the chance to get out there, be with the world, be grounded, challenge myself and reaps the most rewards for me. Thank you so much for being someone that I can look up to. It’s greatly appreciated and thank you for all that you do on the trails. Without you, the hikers would be lost and it’s through your service that we can find our way.

  3. I totally get this, 100%. In my life I feel I’ve gone through many phases as well. Different focuses challenged my body, mind, and soul and made me grow. I’m so glad we have these different seasons. Thank you so much for all the work you do on trail. You are an angel! 😇

  4. I think it is admirable that you remain open to what suits you best… whether it is academic or physical endeavours or a combination of both. You have seemed to have found your calling and it speaks volumes that the AT is your greatest achievement. It is an amazing one. Whatever is in store for you, I am certain that it will be engaging and exciting.

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