How a hike through resuscitated me (and why I hike in AT)
It all started because I thought I was dead
When the news started reporting on Covid19, I convinced myself I was dead. Not just, like, dead and buried six feet under, but dead and in hell. Not that I ever believed in Hell until 2020. But the existence of a pandemic in my lifetime felt so like a punch in the face that it was easier to accept that I was dead. . So yeah, something about me? I’m a great germaphobe, like, if anyone around me is sick, I just disappear. Covid was almost the perfect hellish torture for me. Almost. The only thing that would only make matters worse was if there were people bending over and throwing up on the sidewalk.
Not only did I have complete and utter collapses on the family couch every day, but I also went to Zoom College. The University of Vermont assured us that we were in an unprecedented time and promised that they would help us during the last two months of a newly created online school system. Spoiler alert: they didn’t do any such thing. The teachers received little advice, the workload in all of our classes increased in one way or another, and on top of that, all the pressure I had felt as a senior to find a job. tripled in a struggling economy. I needed to find a way to deal with the anxiety, stat!
My quarter-life crisis led me to the track
Before the pandemic, I had already struggled with my identity. Nothing had really changed in the four years I attended college: I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do when I started UVM in first year and I still didn’t know not what I was doing when I graduated. I majored in English because I liked it. I attended UVM because I knew I could hike and ski. What I was going to do with my major was something I never really understood.
In fact, the more I thought about my post-graduate life, the more anxious I became. My family tried to reassure me that this was completely normal and that all the elders felt the same. But I couldn’t help but think that if I got into a career right away, I would lose a part of myself that I hadn’t yet discovered. The idea of ââliving a linear life – going to school, getting a job, getting married, getting old, retiring, moving to Florida and – UGH – playing golf, before eventually passing away – plunged me into a depressive spiral.
I needed a way to control the situation I found myself in. If I had to sit inside, listen to the news, and get more and more anxious, I knew I would lose my mind. It was imperative that I prove to myself that I was not, in fact, dead. I had go hiking. Starting a hike without preparation seemed ridiculous. And besides, it was out of the question. For one thing, ATC had already asked all hikers to leave the trail. On the other hand, I just didn’t have that kind of money. So I set my sights on something a little shorter: the 272 mile Long Trail in Vermont.
So you’ve come the long wayâ¦ What does that have to do with TA?
Without the Long Trail, I don’t know if my AT dream would have ever come true. It’s safe to say (but certainly with a clichÃ©) that the Long Trail has changed my life. I started the trail with a lot of anxiety about the trek and the world. I returned home after two hundred miles with a broken foot, a ton of gratitude, a new outlook on life and a new love of long distance hiking.
The Long Trail taught me a lot of things: how to convert grams to ounces and ounces to pounds (sorry Mrs. Condon, I wasn’t ready to learn weight conversions in fifth grade!) And how to enjoy every sunny day. and hot shower. It taught me how nice people are. The people around me blew my mind; Whether it was just meeting someone who was fun to talk to on a long climb, or a random stranger off the trail offering to pick me up trash. It was as if the world knew that I needed to restore my faith in humanity. This too ultimately forced me to stop biting my nails, a boring habit I had had most of my life. Best of all, it made me feel alive again.
When I got off the trail I knew for sure I wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail. Since I’m hardly ever sure of anything, I knew I had to follow my dream.
Why am I hiking?
Why the TA? Come to think of it, why go on a hike instead of going on vacation to Europe? (I think this is my travel-obsessed sister’s hottest question)? And the most popular question, “Why by yourself?” “
I’ve pretty much at least considered hiking the entire Appalachian Trail since I first discovered it while hiking with my dad in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The idea of ââa winding trail wandering through ravines and over mountain peaks from Georgia to Maine intrigued me. Secretly, whenever we walked, even at a distance, near a place where the TA crossed, I hoped that we would get lost and have to walk to Katahdin. Much to my disappointment, this never happened. As a student, I never had the time or money to hike the trail. Now, like many other recent graduates without an orientation, I have the time, the money and the freedom to pursue the adventure that I have always dreamed of.
And more personally I do this hike for myself. I’ve always been a bit of a codependent in my relationships. As a solo hiker, I hope I can alleviate my addiction to others. I would like to become more satisfied and have confidence in myself. In addition, the hike is therapeutic. It eliminates most of the anxiety that I feel in my day to day life. The hike makes me feel like a badass it makes me feel normal. Even bad days are good when I look back on them. I want to make sure my life has depth, not just length. If I can do it, even if it’s only five hundred miles, I can do it all. I do this for myself.
That’s all for the moment. Cheers.
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