Can I just say how wonderful it has been to hear from so many people over the last couple of weeks as we have finished posting our musings from the trail. The number of times people have said, “I looked forward to these posts every week” and “What will I read now?” are sweet and inspiring. Thank you to everyone who has followed us so diligently over the past few months. I hear you asking for more and I wish we could give it to you in the way you really need, but hopefully this will do. I guess, among other things, this is a “what’s next” post as well as a “what’s now” post.
If you remember in our last post I left you with no clear conclusion on how I was feeling. I knew some things and I didn’t know others. Strangely, life has only changed in small ways since then. The trail has continued to become, more and more, a distant dream. We experience it now only through story telling and picture looking. It feels very far away indeed. And the further it gets the more I miss it. I had a crazy moment the other day where I wanted to drop everything and go hike it again this summer. I never felt that about the AT. But with this trail I feel like there were so many things we missed. Looking back I know that the biggest issue with our PCT hike was that it was rushed. We had a lot of places we had to make it to, book ends and goals. As someone who loves a good sufferfest I loved the challenge of meeting those deadlines, of putting in the big mile days, of learning to hike after dinner until sundown. But I wonder, all those time when we forced ourselves to get up before the sun, all the times we passed up epic campsites just because we hadn’t met our miles, all the times we wanted to swim or nap or just rest, what would it have been like if we had taken the time? The thing about the PCT is we were afforded an opportunity to walk through incredible splendor and beauty, and I feel like we didn’t get to take full advantage of it all. My memories feel like we walked in fast-forward, like every moment was clipped. And so I look back now with a sense of regret and longing.
I am unsure about the future, which doesn’t help my desire to rush off into another adventure as fast as our feet can carry us. I wonder sometimes if people embrace this lifestyle just to avoid the bigger decisions in life, or if it really is okay to just want to walk for the rest of our days. After my position with EarthCorps ends in December I have no idea what I will do, even though I am frantically applying for jobs. I am interested in a graduate school program that would start next fall, keep us in Seattle for two years and put me on a most definite track. A track that I know I love and care about. But then I think: does this mean I will never get a chance to be a river rafting guide in the Grand Canyon or a sled dog guide or a park ranger or any number of other things that I think would be amazing. Does it mean I will never have time to write a book? When the rubber meets the road do I want all of those things to be activities that I just squeeze into weekends and a couple of weeks off a year? I am struggling, just like I did after the AT, with the reality of the world. It is probably the same reason so many of you enjoyed reading our blog, because it was an escape from the actual pressures of a society that requires a rather strict path out of all of us. Walk it correctly and in the end you can retire to seek out your pleasures. But I seem incapable of walking it “correctly” and so I stand on the precipice of the same new decisions I made every winter.
The truth is I am in transition. By some weird stroke of fate I was actually given a book on transitions to read through the other day and it clarified so much for me. Of course I have been living through change and transitions for years now. I’ve been ending one job and starting another every six months since I graduated from college. You would think I would be good at transitions. And yet, every winter when it is time to transition again I struggle, hard. This book finally put words and concepts to what I have been trying to do, albeit unsuccessfully, for the past couple of years. It points out that change is not actually what is challenging for humans. It is the transitions between changes that destroy us and the reason for this is because a transition begins with an end. In order to start transitioning from one thing to another you have to actually end the way things were. You have to end your previous identity. You have to let go and move on and reconcile.
And in between ending one thing and starting another there is this nebulous, amorphous, confusing, sad, directionless, neutral grey zone. This place where you will be for some undetermined amount of time. It is the winter before the spring, and often for me it is the actual winter before seasonal jobs start up in the spring. It is often a hard time because during this time you deal with the loss of the past, you deal with the loss of your previous identity, you actually deal with loss the same way you do when someone dies. You experience denial and anger, sadness and grief. Of course we know this right? But I don’t think I ever really knew it until I read about it the other day. Suddenly it all became so clear, why the happy busy way in which I was trying to jump straight into my changed life without really saying goodbye to the trail had been leaving me questioning. How one even goes about saying goodbye to such a thing I don’t know, but I know I haven’t properly ended that part of my life yet. And then to top that off soon I will have to say goodbye to a job that I love, which will pile on another transition. When I look around my life is just one big woven mat of transitions, some strands ended, but ragged and loose. Maybe with this knowledge I can be better about tying them off, knotting them so they don’t fray so badly.
But transitions can also be a time for creativity. Without the strict systems of the past or the new systems of the future you can harness possibility and command it. There if flexibility there and options. There are open doors, opportunities for rest and recommitment and rejuvenation. There is the time to sit back and look deep, turning inwards, refocusing. I see the ways I have done this in the past, but now, with the new dawn of understanding for what this time in my life can be, I hope to be even more productive and preemptive. I have goals and ambitions and things I know I will be proud of. A big part of that is writing.
You may think that now that we are done hiking we are done writing and sharing, but that is so far from the truth. We have so much left to come. We have a winter of running and snow, a spring filled with climbing and a summer full of Northwest beauty to explore. Just because we are off trail the outdoors do not stop calling our names. Kyle has his camera primed and ready to go and lately my legs have been restless in the stillness of office life and my fingers have been feeling itchy without the click of the keys beneath them. We hope you will continue to follow us as we figure out how to find bliss in a necessitated life.
And of course there will be posts about gear. Always.