For the majority of the trail, Verge and I talked about two things: Food and the Future.
We talked about food because we really appreciate how it affects your body’s efficiency and balance, and also because we were two starving thru-hikers who were sick of oatmeal, trail mix, and ramen noodles and who would really prefer to be thinking about the tastiest veggie-filled dinners we could think of or a nice piece of chocolate lava cake.
We talked about the future because it was fun to fantasize about how we wanted our lives to be. From walking the trail, I realized that I am in complete charge of my life and how I live it. I thought about how I wanted to make plans for when I got back: purge my house of useless knick knacks and excess clothes (I mean, come on, I wore one outfit for 5 months, I think I can get rid of some clothes), chop my hair off (everyone needs hair change once in a while), positivity mantras, eat well, exercise, drink water, sleep, and do more of the things that I want to do in order to mold me into the person who I want to become (i.e. learning a new language, practicing my photography, learning the ukulele, go rock climbing and hiking and swimming and running and skiing and skating, etc.), etc. When I got back, it was time to really start my life, ya know?
Here’s the thing, I tried. I got into a gym routine with my mom; we went almost every day at 5am. 5am is a bit of a stretch for me…like a bit more than a bit of a stretch for me. I NEVER wake up that early. Point is, it wasn’t sustainable. I don’t go to sleep early enough for that. I was falling asleep on my commute to school–super dangerous; I was falling asleep in classes (VERY unlike me), and I felt like I was in a miserable half-asleep state for most of the day. I even started drinking coffee! I don’t drink coffee! It lead to me getting sick, and it lead to me being stressed out and feeling behind on my work. I worked every weekend at my job, and I felt like I never got a break.
I continued to try to fill my life full of mini adventures when I had the time. I went rock climbing with my friend from work; I went on hikes up our beloved Mount Monadnock and on Franconia Ridge in the Whites; I was lucky enough to get together with Princess Peach and Mountain Goat to go for a short camping trip in the Catskills in New York, and I even attempted my first winter camping trip with Verge and my dad, Bombadil, in Vermont (it didn’t go that well…who wants to sit in their sleeping bag and freeze their butts off for 14 hours in the darkness anyway? NOT ME! Honestly, I probably just needed better gear…) I did, however, meet a wonderful gentleman who shares many of my interests, as well as my values, who I started dating in early November. He has proven to be supportive, adventurous, encouraging, and kind hearted.
Here I am on December 29th, 2016, and it is almost the new year. It has been four months, almost to the day, since I summited that magnificent mountain, Katahdin, and left all my friends to go our separate ways. I can’t help but feel a little lost. I have only climbed one mountain and gone to the gym once since Thanksgiving. I found myself wailing on a punching bag in my boyfriend’s basement on Christmas. Was it really just the dark “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” Christmas episode that got me so upset? Or was it the fact that I’m simply out of whack. It’s stress coming at me from every angle. It’s social stress; it’s financial stress; it’s stress about my upcoming graduation in May and needing to find a job and face my massive student loans; it’s struggling to not be constantly missing my trail life and feeling like the trail was a dream, or is it the here and now that is the dream? It’s feeling like a directionless lump who only gets in people’s way; it’s not getting nearly enough exercise, and it’s all of this combined that creates something that feels much to large to conquer. I feel like a constant rain cloud (or something more sinister) is looming over me, and I know I just need to look it straight in the face and conquer it one step at a time. Just like the trail.
My boyfriend, Gary, got me to think of life like I thought of the trail. It’s just like climbing the next mountain; this is simply my next obstacle. He also said, “the people who love you are the trail angels of life off the trail,” which I thought was incredibly sweet and really did help me envision things differently. The trail was such a clear goal: you walk and you get there. I feel like I just need to keep making clear, simple goals. Even if they’re tiny, just so I can keep on conquering. So, though I still have many adventures that await me, currently, this is my “Next Ascent.”