Since I've been back, the question on everyone's mind has been "how was your hike?" How in the world do you sum up a 2,200 mile thru-hike from Georgia to Maine? How do you respond to that question? Don't get me wrong, I love that my friends, family, and even complete strangers are totally enamored by my experience and want to know more. But literally how do you even begin talking about the last 6 1/2 months of your life? I hiked. I hiked through sun and I hiked through rain. I hiked through snow and I hiked through mud. I hiked with biting bugs. I hiked with pain. I hiked during the day and I hiked at night. I just hiked. Yet I know that thru-hiking the AT was much more then putting on my pack everyday and moving forward. I still have yet to comprehend what I really did.
So how do I answer this question? "Incredibly life changing." Before leaving on my hike I had a list of goals I wanted to achieve; getting fit, becoming more spiritual, becoming more confident.....the list went on. Nested within that nice neat printed list of goals was an idea of how life on the trail would be and how I would come to achieve those goals. Naive, yes. I admit that I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Still, I knew I had the drive and passion to stand on top of Katahdin in the end. Did I achieve what was on my list? In many ways, yes, but more importantly I believe that I gained what I needed from hike. This experience provided me the opportunity to wake up to many things in my life that I had either been asleep to or to emotionally weak to let go of. For that I am extremely grateful. I will never look at the world the same as I did before nor will I ever view myself as the same as I did before.
I'm not sure if it would be correct to say I learned a lot about myself. Perhaps more appropriately would be to say I chose to get real with myself. It's easy to be honest with others, but many times it's not as easy to be honest with yourself. You don't want to admit to and examine your faults. Rather you like to protect yourself; to protect your ego. It's like when your best friend tells you that your butt looks big in your favorite pair of jeans; the honesty is embarrassing at first but if you care enough to listen and open your mind you can more easily see that shes right. When I chose to get honest with myself I was embarrassed and angry about many of the decisions I had made in my life, but after I sat with that honesty for awhile I began to appreciate the truth for what it was and felt empowered to change. I am a much stronger person then I had let myself be. I have spent much of my life striving to meet the expectations and desires of others and have almost always put myself at the bottom of the list. I blame no one but myself. I am the one who made the decision to place the opinions, wants, and needs of others above my own. This very decision has been a clear pattern throughout my entire life, including throughout much of my hike. It took nearly 1800 miles for me to wake up to the reality of my actions, but I woke up. I got real. I have no regrets. My hike was meant to be what it was meant to be for me. My hike was life changing.
"Do something everyday that scares you." ~Eleanor Roosevelt