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Roller coaster ride

If nothing else, one day you can look someone straight in the eyes and say “But I lived through it. And it made me who I am today.”
― Iain Thomas

At this time of year, we are all in the habit of looking at where we’ve come from in the past year, what growth we’ve made. We ponder what the new year will bring, and make promises to ourselves about what will do to improve ourselves.

For myself, 2013 was a roller coaster ride. I went from depressed and longing, to utter happiness and accomplishment, then back to being morose. I started the year in my eyes as a failure and ended as a winner when it came to hiking.

Highlights of the year 2013

  • Walked 2185.7 miles
  • Met some amazing people
  • Saw sights I never had before
  • Made discoveries about myself, and the person I am
  • Feel in love
  • Was cheated on
  • Made a grand romantic gesture, sans boombox
  • Started playing music again
  • Accomplished what I set out to do

Everything on that list, baring one, were things I did. I had ups and downs, good times and bad. I followed my dreams and was rewarded. I was also punished for decisions I made along the way.

In the end though, after 365 days I’m older and a little wiser. I’ve accepted the fact that my parents know what they’re talking about, and mom is usually right. I should follow my dreams and make plans for the future, budget and commit to things. I should let people know how I feel, and especially tell the people that I care for that I love them.

I don’t know what the new year will bring. I can’t look into the future like that, though sometimes I wish I could. All that really is for sure is that you can’t change what has happened, nor can you forget the things in the past. Embrace them. Accept them. Make them part of who you are. Take the things that hurt, the people that you miss and use those good memories of them to plug the holes in your heart and soul.

The things that hurt you in the past year have made you stronger – I know that because we’re still here.

I hope the coming year brings joy and happiness. It limits your sorrows and dulls your pain. May we all heal a little in the year 2014.

Rays of sunshine always break through the clouds somewhere, somehow.

Rays of sunshine always break through the clouds somewhere, somehow.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

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Broken

The holidays are two-sided affair for many people. It has promise of family, and the love they bring. But it also has the promise of family, and the stress they bring.

Usually I fall into the second category. Stress. When I’m with primary family – mom, step-dad, brother, dad and his girlfriend… its stressful for me.
It’s only gotten worse since I’ve hiked.

It’s only really gone off the deep end since I came back and been living with my mom and step-dad.

My mom has been supportive of me during this time, my recovery and reintegration. But she never really has understood what I’m talking about, or the obstacles I’ve been dealing with. Its not to say she hasn’t been empathetic, she just doesn’t actually listen to what I’m saying. Not really.

So she suggested we go to a family counselor.

“Your son is broken” was the second thing the counselor said when mom came into the room.
I think it finally hit her – having someone else tell her.

Because since I’ve been back, I have been broken. I’ve been mired in a funk. Brought down by post-trail depression, heatbreak and physical pain.

Post-trail depression is a real thing. It happens to every long distance hiker. It’s easy to see why – you spend everyday living with people, sharing everything with them. At the end, you are ripped from your family and shoved back into a world where at best people don’t understand what you just did. At worst, they look at you with disdain.

So how do you deal with post-trail depression? There are lots of people who have ideas and theories about it.

I’ll let you know when I’m finally over it myself. Because it’s a long long road back from it.

And I’m not sure where I’m going from here.

Somewhere not here

Where am I going?

I’m not sure. But it’s my journey. And I’ll keep walking the whole time.

Solvitur Ambulando

Walking solves all my problems

 

Family, Trail Friends and Home People

The other night an old friend of mine called me up and demanded I drag myself out of the hole I’m living in and come to her place for dinner. She’s known me for years, dated me once upon a time, and is one of those people who knows everything about me. During my Soouthbound AT Hike she drove 4 hours to come see me in PA.  Changed her schedule for me, bought me all the lunch I could eat and then tossed in some groceries too.

One hell of a lady

She drove 4 hours through New Jersey to see me, get lunch and buy me groceries. That’s what family does

One hell of a lady

When AT Thru Hikers get home we usually have a hard time reconnecting, reintegrating. We are detached from the people we knew before at home, because we’ve done something so different from anything most of them have ever experienced that it can become hard to relate. We isolate ourselves often, because the people we’ve come back to just don’t get it, are so focused on their little slice of the world that we don’t understand anymore. Think of it like this – why would a hiker who has lived the last 6 months out of a 60 liter pack care about buying more stuff.  The new car, that expensive pair of shoes, the big screen tv – we don’t really care about these things anymore.

The closest thing I’ve come across to long distance hikers and those like them are returning vets. They get it. (No, I’m not comparing the trials both have faced as alike – the isolation is the same though)

So when it was demanded that I leave my house to hang out with her, and a few other people I went. It’s good sometimes to leave your comfort and go be uncomfortable – especially when you know it’ll do you some good.

Sometime during the evening we got on the topic of girlfriends, love interests and partners. Like with any other group of friends, we like to know what the others are all into – “But is the sex good?” is a generally accepted question in my circle of friends. When one of the guys said he hadn’t asked the girl he’d been pining over for a bit out, I kinda lost it a little.

“If I can drag myself out of my depression and the hole I’m living in, to come out and see you, eat tacos, get lotto tickets and snag depression ice cream cones, you can ask a girl out!”

Later when I’d gotten home I realized something – it was the first night since I’d been back where I didn’t feel the sharp knife of loss when I was with people. I wasn’t thinking “Man, I wish Roadkill was here, she would have loved that joke.” Instead I was just thinking of me.

Finally right?

Beyond that though, I wasn’t longing for my trail friends and family when I was with other people. I was okay with where I was in that moment, fully there and not with half of my head in the mountains somewhere.

Hikers become so close to their tramily (trail + family) – we share everything with the people we’re with. There are perhaps 3 people in the “real” world who know everything about me, but with my trail family, they know everything. You hike long enough with someone, you tell everything and learn all. Keeping a secret while hiking with someone is to me, impossible.

Luckily you can choose this family

I’d do anything for family

The people who become your tramily are people you like – who you chose to be with and stay around. They get you, and you get them. You don’t always agree – hell sometimes you bicker all day long, but they are yours. And you are theirs. It’s strong bond of love, and when you don’t have them anymore you long for them to be there. It’s a tragedy that we’re all so far apart usually.

Even when I was in my relationship on the trail, in love with a wonderful girl, I still missed my tramily. I wasn’t with them a lot when I was with her, because she had a different hiking speed, and a different desire of things to see and do. I had made a decision that she was important to me, and as a result I missed time with my tramily. I don’t regret that, even with the way things ended up with her, but I do miss the times with the tramily.

When people ask me what the best part of the Appalachian Trail was, I say without hesitation – “The people I met and the friends I made who became my family.”