mile 723.3 – 741.6
The following is the post I wrote the evening of day 49. Over the days that followed, I had even more time to think and to find a healthier perspective about some things. I’ll go into that in Navel gazing, part two in a few days. Hold on! There is hope after all!
There’s too much time to think out here, which is one of the reasons I was attracted to this trip to begin with. But guess what happens when you have too much time to think? You are revisited by every uncomfortable memory, every bad thing you’ve ever done or said, every bad decision you’ve ever made and all of the ways in which you don’t measure up. Or I should say, this is what happens when I have too much time to think.
When Hunter and I got engaged, the quiet little inside-voice whisper that told me I wasn’t good enough became a loud, echoing yell. Before meeting Hunter, I had a handful of friends I didn’t see often, and I hardly left my apartment when it wasn’t necessary. I had a steady job that I didn’t like, some solitary hobbies I enjoyed, and a contained, manageable life. I was back in college, trying to make a go of it for the umpteenth time, and making good grades and slow progress.
Though I’m sure it doesn’t sound like it, I was the happiest and most stable I’d ever been.
I had been working hard at happiness and stability for a long time, having dealt with depression and anxiety from the age of fifteen. At 32, I was ready for a big change, which is why it was so easy to jump in with both feet when I met Hunter. I was immediately head over heels. Only a few months after we started dating, I quit my stable job, sublet my manageable apartment and ran away to Santa Fe, NM, where Hunter works each summer.
It was an enchanting summer full of love and new experiences, but it wasn’t easy. I was with a successful, energetic man, surrounded by his successful, energetic friends and colleagues. I did my best to shake off the voices that told me I didn’t belong (those voices that had been with me for as long as I could remember) and tried to project a confidence I desperately wanted to feel. It seemed to work! I’m not sure if everyone accepted me that first summer, but by the second and third summers, I was part of the family. At least, I mostly felt that way.
I felt the same way back home in Nashville, TN, where I became friends with all of Hunter’s friends. We were busy- always going out or having people over, or going on trips. I came to love these people like family, but still wondered if they would all eventually realize that I didn’t belong.
I knew I wanted to be with Hunter, but the thought of marriage scared me. There are many reasons for that, including my family’s less-than-stellar track record with marriage, but the thing that scared me most was partnering with someone when I still didn’t feel like a whole, confident person myself. What could I really offer- to him, our friends, the world, myself?
I had been reading and dreaming about the PCT for a few years when we got engaged and it all of a sudden felt like the exact thing that could save me- a test of my physical, mental and emotional strength. It would make up for never finishing college. It would prove to me that I could make friends on my own. It would prove that I could be responsible and organized. It would prove I was fun and interesting. It would force me to face down all of my demons and finally see myself as confident and capable.
I know, it’s a lot of pressure to put on myself and this hike. But, I thought, I had done all of the hard work already. I had been in therapy for years and made measurable progress. The debilitating depression I used to deal with had almost completely faded into the background. I had down days or weeks, but I generally felt happy each day. I had become more grounded, more balanced, able to course correct easily. This trip would just help me shed those stubborn old patterns I hadn’t been able to shake yet, to finally let go of the fear that I’m not good enough.
As I set out from the southern terminus 49 days ago, I knew I had to let go of all expectations that this hike would save me. I also knew that if I were able to shed any of my old patterns or beliefs, that they would most likely go down kicking and screaming, meaning they might get a whole lot worse before they got any better. I was exactly right.
I’ve been out here for a month and a half. I am depressed and lonely. I feel incapable of making either friends or good decisions. I want to quit at least once a day and I hate myself for it. I feel boring and stupid and like a big, fat phony and wonder when everyone I know is finally going to realize it and banish me from the kingdom. And, I hate my stomach. And, I hate myself for thinking and feeling these things and wish I could just quit it.
This is where I’ve been for the past few weeks, and it’s awful. I walk up and down mountains all day knowing I should just take it all in and feel grateful, but thinking these thoughts instead and beating myself up about it. I keep thinking, what if I walk all the way to Canada and end up in worse shape than when I started? What if I only manage to alienate everyone around me, including all of my friends reading my sad, soggy blog? What if I even drive Hunter away and all I’m left with is bad feet and a ridiculous tan?
But here is my hope: Maybe this is just exactly what I thought would happen. Maybe all those old defenses and negative patterns are in their death throes. What if those old fears are kicking their last kicks and screaming their last screams? What if I do come out the other end of all of this feeling confident and capable?
I still have a lot of work to do, and I still don’t know how to do it, but hope lives. I believe in a better way, and as long as I believe I can change, hope lives.
So, I’ll get up in the morning and keep walking. I’ll walk up and down mountains. I’ll keep thinking. I’ll keep feeling. Ill keep believing. I’ll keep hoping.