March 13th came and went with the idea that I was going to come back to this space and finish what I started, at least here, on this blog… but that didn’t happen, neither did Katahdin. Funny how life happens.
March 13th marks one year that I officially started my AT journey and one year later, I am realizing more and more that the journey didn’t stop when I left the trail in Lincoln, NH last August, only 200 something miles from “completing my dream.” My journey is still in full swing and in some ways more beautiful and magnificent than I could have ever imagined. But it took a little while to get to this point.
Leaving the trail. Not finishing. “Giving up.” “Failing.” It has hung over me as a dark cloud for a while now. I can’t pretend that I wasn’t extremely disappointed in myself when I did not finish the trail and I won’t pretend that I was anything but pissed of… at the trail, at myself, at life for not going my way. I don’t say this for any kind of sympathy, more to validate those feelings because they were real and worthy of experience and mention. I have an assumption that many folks who attempt the trail and don’t finish have a lot of shame, guilt, and frustration but it is what you do with those feelings that counts…
For a while, I just brushed those feelings off. I didn’t deal with them. I was sick and tired and hurt and my defenses were down. I just started moving on with life, because that is all you can do. And then life just took over… life happened and my journey started up… and in a way it felt better than ever…
I got a new job. A perfect job… at least for me during this time. It was a job working with people and kids that I was familiar with and passionate about. With a flexible schedule, a great purpose, and still a taste of adventure.
I moved to a new place. A beautiful place. With land and trails and animals. It is a new setting but speckled with familiar pieces of a life I have loved before, surrounded by water and mountains, and wonderful people. And my Millie… I have my dog back and she is perfect.
And then I fell in love. A deep love. A love that has shaken me up and re-energized my heart. I have never been in love before and I have to say it has been one of my most exciting, yet comfortable and rewarding adventures.
All of these things probably wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t hike the trail and the sure wouldn’t have happened if I got off the trail at the exact time I did. Not only that, but I wonder if I would have been ready for those things if I didn’t take the time to attempt my dream adventure of the AT… or even known I had wanted them.
Hiking the trail turned out to be almost exactly the opposite of everything I thought it would be… I thought I would finish and feel this overwhelming sense of achievement, instead, for the first time in my life… I truly felt what it feels to fail. Failure sounds like such a dirty word with such a negative connotation. I know it might be many people’s instinct to want to respond to this blog post saying how I shouldn’t look at my time as a failure, and of course, I don’t as a whole. But the fact is, I failed at my goal of doing a thru-hike. And I want to make that an okay thing to say, because truth is, I am proud of my failure, because that means I attempted something really hard. I took a risk. I tried. And although I didn’t make it, I am empowered by the thought that I followed my dreams, I didn’t succeed, and I am still okay. Actually, better than okay. I am happier than I have ever been in my life.
In honor of my Hufflepuff trail name…
“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”― J.K. Rowling
I hope inspiring thru-hikers read this blog post and know that you might not finish your hike, for whatever reason… you might fail. And that is just as okay as succeeding. It may not feel as good and I will tell you it will be really hard for a while, but in truth, I think I probably got more out of not finishing my thru-hike as I would have if I had that golden photo of me at Katahdin.
So don’t let it scare you. Do it anyway. And to others who have failed…at your hike or maybe anything else that you attempted whether it be a relationship, a job, a crazy adventure… be proud of your failure. Let it empower you, mold you, teach you, and expand you.
Most of the lessons I learn from my hike are so sacred that I hold them close to me… not necessarily wanting to share them with others, because they might not quite understand them anyway. I will continue to learn and reflect from the trail. And some day… maybe years from now with friends or my partner or maybe my own children strapped to my back, I will finish my hike. And when I do, I believe it will be the exact right time for that to happen and I will be so very happy.
Until then, I am closing out on my trail journey … but my life journey is just taking shape and I have to say… I am really excited.
And for anyone who will just miss my mad blogging skills, no need to fear! Here is my newest blogging adventure: http://makingitinmidcoast.wordpress.com (I know it is true love with my new guy, because he is willing to blog to me! Doesn’t the saying go, “Those who blog together…”)
So thanks for coming along for this adventure. It truly was extraordinary…