“I probably look like a crazy person right now..oh god..” This was me after one mile on the AT, sitting alone asking myself why I was doing this; Elan’s not here what is the point? In that moment I had a better rendition of the ugly cry than when the dog died on Marley & Me..and I’m sure the passerbyes agreed.
Backtrack about one hour and I am hiking the Approach trail with my two friends Erin and Cailyn. It was extremely muddy from the snow atop the summit, but we all shared a good laugh at how quickly our shoes were being worn in. About one mile further and we reach the Springer summit, “It’s beautiful, I could get used to seeing these views everyday.” We all nodded in agreement as we sat in awe of the cloudy mountainscape.
At the summit I met a few interesting people, two of which were brothers 23 and 24 from California, both with long blonde dreads. They are what I pictured the kind of people hiking the trail- straight hippies. Another man, 45, is a husband and a father of three little ones battling against his own self. He told me he was hiking the trail for his children, to be a better dad for them. He inspired me through his courage to leave his family for months to grow himself to the father his little girls needed, despite the risks. It is cool to hear others stories; everyone on the trail has their own reason for doing so. I believe all three of those men have what it takes to finish the trek.
We hiked down the summit and back to the trail head and began walking. Now, I had gotten a puppy expecting her to be bigger and more prepared to hike the trail but I was reluctant to leave her little butt behind behind I wanted a constant friend on the trail so badly, especially one that cute. Looking back, it may have been wise to leave her behind at least until she was more fit for the task, but I took the chance and she dug her heels into the ground refusing to walk. I wanted to explode. I put her back into her carrier until she wriggled so much she fell to the ground, and it hurt me more than it did her I’m sure. I sat next to her and grabbed her, scolding her, “Why?? Why won’t you walk, just walk!! Please just walk, just walk. Please.” She looked at me like I was talking jibberish with full dark eyes. What was I doing?
It was so disheartening, not because she wouldn’t walk but the fact that she was there and mine really. I wanted her so badly and loved her so badly, but she is not Elan. And I do have to care for and protect her because she’s a puppy.
Elan, I wish you were here to watch over me. I miss you looking over my shoulder at my text messages and warning all the guys against messing with me. You were a good big brother. I wish we could be walking together.
Now remember the ugly cry? This went on for the next ten minutes or so before I headed back towards the trail head saying to myself “I can’t do this. I’m crazy, why did I think I could.” Over and over again.
After waiting at the trail head a bit for my mom to rearrive I sit with her and talked until I was calm again. “I’m so disappointed in myself” I kept saying. I had no belief in myself and no desire to get back up and try again.
So what now?? All this work I’ve done, all these people who are watching and believing in and helping me, it can’t all go to waste. So, it is Sunday morning and I am heading back out to the trail without Spring, but with my mom. Yeah, the director of Vanderbilt Nursing is taking a week off to come and get me going on the trail. She’s so cool.
Anxiety holds more people back from their dreams than anything. When I called my friends telling them I couldn’t do it they told me that since they have met me I have been talking about this goal. I couldn’t back out. I was just SO uncomfortable, and when dealing with anxiety at least for me it is extremely difficult to not feel like you belong. I wanted home, and my bed, and my family.
So here goes out to my last blog post ‘The Tomorrows’ because I am far from perfect and need to hear my own advice sometimes. Here is to the challenge of a lifetime, facing fears, and being uncomfortable for unforgettable memories. I hope you all feel like you can face your fears. And if not, I don’t either! So you aren’t alone, it’s a journey we can take together.
Well I am heading to the Cooper Gap, I will check back in when I have service next. Off to the trails!