try not to should yourself

view to the left of Humpback Rock, near Rockfish Gap, VA (Leica M6, Ektar 100)

Is it too soon for a doubts post? Should I keep the gung-ho honeymoon narrative alive a little bit longer? Sadly, I am not that person and this is not that blog. I’m here to discuss the nitty gritty of thru-hiking and internal conflict is inevitable when making such a huge decision. How you relate to feelings is just as important as their existence. Sometimes I let mine do a jig on my chest while I try to sleep. Other times, I politely tell them to f* off and leave me alone while I take the risks necessary for personal growth and mold prevention. Here are a few of the feelings I’m contending with at the moment.

I have a partner who can’t join me on this particular thru-hike*. She has expressed mild interest in the concept, moderate fear about the realities, and a firm stance that she is not able to freeze her artistic career to tromp around the woods fleeing bears and getting Lyme (her ideas, not mine). Thus, she will remain in charge of two cats, one dog, a car (in Brooklyn, this means moving the car for street cleaning twice a week, minimum ), and all of the cooking/cleaning/life shit that we have shared for the last 10 years. You single people can pat yourselves on the back for adulting all by yourselves while I feel sorry for my partner because she has to do what you’re already doing. We’re used to having help! Her perspective: “I will make it work.” My perspective: “She’s going to curse my name, hate for me a loooong time, and/or ask me to come home.”

I worry about delaying certain life goals that we share as a couple. For example, we’ve been daydreaming about owning a small piece of land for about five years. I could use some of the time, energy, and money I’m dedicating to the hike in pursuit of land instead. Enter guilt for prioritizing my goals over our goals.

I also keep realizing that I won’t be around to share “next year” experiences. “Oh, we should go to California next summer to visit so-and-so”… Oh right, I will be pooping in the woods with all of my new smelly friends instead.

Then there’s the “responsible adult” guilt, which usually comes in the form of shoulds. I should be accumulating hours for my therapy license instead of walking ten hours a day and eating fritos by the fistful. I should be saving money for the aforementioned life goals instead of spending it on all you can eat pancake breakfasts (which I might not do because gluten and I are not really friends most of the time). I should be attending to family and friendships instead of debating whether to take a picture of that pretty view or that pretty view (who needs to choose? take both!). Excuse me, I seem to have shoulded all over myself and need to clean up this mess.

Will guilt stop me? No, but I do plan to pay attention to it for cues about what’s important to me (my relationships) and what I’m afraid of (being seen as irresponsible). Anyone else out there questioning their decision to thru-hike?


*note the implication of future thru-hikes


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