After some time thinking things over, letting things sink in and some debate over what if anything to share about why I left the AT, here it is. As I have been told by friends I did this for myself and I don’t have to explain anything if I don’t want to. I know this. I made this a public experience by putting up this journal as well as through Facebook and in doing so I wanted to explain not because I felt I ‘had to’ but because I ‘wanted to’. In doing so perhaps I can learn a thing or two and of course there’s the therapeutic power of writing.
So here’s the full explanation why I left the trail.
I got sick of it. In between all of the breathtaking views you see in the photo’s is a lot of walking. Sometimes days and days of boring walking. I got sick of walking. I got sick of walking with no new input and very little new to think about.
Ok Not quite so simple…
Not too long before I left I had gone through a break up. To be completely honest I have had some trouble handling it. I can honestly say I almost didn’t make it to the trail and came close to canceling the hike all together because of it. With all the miles of walking and little new input, I thought of almost nothing else and of this person often 12-14 hours a day. With nothing new to think about the sound of my own wheels drove me crazy. I got sick of it and wanted new things to think about.
I had made it a good amount of the way without thinking too much about my art. I figured a break would do me good and I’d just get back to it when the 6 months was up. Sometimes for days all you see is tree’s and mountains and while there’s beauty and inspiration in those, it doesn’t exactly inspire a figurative artist to work:) As I turned to new things to think of, I looked to my art. I thought of how it feels for me to make art. I thought of how it feels to explode onto a piece of paper with a pencil, pastel or a brush. I thought of the fire that burns in me at times when I draw. The fire of 1000 suns. Great, now I started a fire in the woods, uh… how am I going to put that out?;)
I thought of the incredible amount of positive feedback I have received over the last year or two on my art, mostly through my Facebook Page. Feedback mostly all from women who shared their feelings of how my art had helped them to find beauty in themselves by challenging traditional images and ideals of female beauty. I thought of how my art could further be used for healing by exploring projects such as breast cancer survivors and others.
I really, really wanted to make art. I thought whether I would rather spend the next 4 months making art or continuing walking and thinking about things I’d rather not be.
I considered going back…
After being back in NYC for a couple of days I did consider heading back. “Finish what you started dammit” a voice told me. I went to sleep planning to get back to it the next day. It was a rash not thought-out decision. When I awoke and walked to the rest room, the pain in my knee’s and cramping in the arches of my feet told me perhaps I’d better give it a little more thought. I imagine the cramping of my arches will go away eventually, but after almost 2 weeks of very little walking and I wince near to tears every time I have to go up or down a flight of stairs (somewhat essential for getting around in New York City). My knees where in bad shape when I started and I realize now though I may have some long term knee problems to deal with as a result of this hike.
I guess I didn’t have what it takes…
Dealing with your own thoughts and being able to handle the miles of boring walking is as much a part of completing the trail as physically overcoming the big rough mountains. In the end I did not have what it takes to be a thru-hiker. My hat goes off in respect of those who do. It really is an incredible accomplishment. I am coming to peace with this though. I have other things I can do and other accomplishments I can make. I did at least have what it took to make it as far as I did.
No. Not for a second. I have always lived life by the saying “no regrets, only lessons learned”. Some disappointment in not completing yes. Was this really about finishing? Maybe, maybe not. Really though it was about learning through experiences. I love to learn, and one of my foremost goals in life is to learn through experiences. This was most definitely an experience and I most definitely learned many valuable things. The journey is the destination and while this particular journey may have come to an end others are waiting to begin.
What I have learned?
Lots! Too much to cover here, but a few highlights:
1. The people I have in my life are amazing. Your support, encouragement was incredible. Thank you!!!
2. Confidence! This is a big one. I Left NYC with 0 days experience backpacking. Yup, absolutely no experience. Sure I had camped before, but with a car, at camp grounds. Backpacking, living out of a bag for 2 months is a very different experience. I had also never hiked a serious mountain, never anything over 3000 feet and never any serious bouldering. For someone who rarely gets nervous I was a bit terrified before I left. I did my home work, I did lots of it, I was well prepared. I did it, I did it with no problems and encountered nothing I couldn’t handle. I am now much more confident in the things I can tackle in my life, the mountains I can overcome both metaphorical and topographical.
3. I have some other skills I may be able to use. This journal was never intended to be much. Just a chronicle of events. I have received incredible feedback about, the writing and the photography. Perhaps I can combine those skills with my art in use for greater things.
Will I hike again?
Definitely! I still love hiking. While I have some issues with my knee’s to deal with I will continue to hike, I will continue to backpack. I love the outdoors and will continue to love it and learn through it by hiking and backpacking. I think though I will do so in shorter section hikes 1-2 weeks or so.
Time to make art!!! Time to apply the things I have learned and confidence I have gained to other area’s of my life. I will continue to grow, I will continue to explore, I will continue to learn, I will continue to seek out new experiences.