I have come to the conclusion that walking the trail is going to make me face a lot of my own issues, fears and inhibitions. There is no greater breach of comfort zone than immersing yourself in the woods for six months without technology, fast food and showers. As I begin my preparations, I am already starting to face some of those fears. After reading fellow blogger Little D’s post on the topic <clicky clicky!> and in an attempt to overcome and conquer my own fears, I decided to be open and share them with you. Please try not to judge, unless you have no skeletons in your own closet…
I still have months of time before I hit the trail, and I already feel as if I am distancing myself from the people in my life. I assure you, it is not intentional, but having this much uncertainty about the future means that certain walls are being built up inside me, to help protect me from loneliness, depression and whatever else may come my way. At first, I did not even notice it happening, especially since I am a solitary soul to begin with, but when I stop and look back, I can see a definite shift in my friendships starting when I made the decision to hike. There are even a couple examples of severed friendships already… mostly due to their lack of support and entirely on their terms. I think it is this lack of acceptance of my decision by a few key players that has accelerated this shift in mindset, too.
I am not proud of this change in me, and am trying to work things out in my head so that I can avoid, or minimize, the effects. But I am terrified that starting my hike will equate to walking out of the lives of my friends. To those that do not support me – well, I suppose it is their loss, not mine. However, the more acceptances I gain, the better I feel about the decision to quit my job, throw everything in storage and wander into the woods. Maybe I am not QUITE as crazy as I think I am. Well… maybe…
Anyone who knows me knows I am an introvert. I prefer my space, my quiet time, my solitude. I get lost in my thoughts more often than I care to acknowledge. Part of me wonders if this is why the trail appeals to me so much – hours upon hours, mile after mile, of nothing but me and my thoughts. Having said that, one of my longest-running fears is “dying alone”. No, I am not being morbid or planning my ending, but as much as I enjoy being alone, I do not want to be alone when that times comes. So in that respect, anytime I am thinking of doing something even semi-risky, I hesitate. Fear holds me back, and as hard as I might try, I have a hard time pushing myself past my comfort zone. This fear is multiplied exponentially when I am attempting that risky business alone. Again, it is that whole “fear of being alone” thing. I’m a walking contradiction, I know.
I realize the majority of the AT will be outside my comfort zone, but even in knowing this, it doesn’t make the fear go away. If anything, it makes it worse! However, this won’t be the first time I have been outside my comfort zone, so it’s just something I will have to accept and just deal with it head-on. The dream is stronger than the fear, I assure you.
I cannot deny it, I am scared of injury. I am quite certain I can overcome blisters, bug bites, cuts and bruises. Even simple accidents don’t ruffle my feathers. But there is a big unknown when it comes to my knee and how it will handle the day-in, day-out of hiking long distances. No amount of prep work will give me an answer, so until I am doing it, I will not know for sure. And the recent articles about an ultrarunner collapsing and dying on the trail don’t help either!
I have already taken some steps in prepping my knee – going to the gym, walking a few miles every evening, mountain biking on weekends for some cross-training, and even taking some supplements to help my knee maintain, or better yet, improve its health. But the fear will remain at the back of my mind, probably until I complete the trail.
What Am I Missing?
Another thought that has been floating around at the back of my mind for a while is how to comprehend everything I will miss while I am gone. I have images of Tom Hanks in “Outcast” watching TV and trying to absorb all that has changed while he was gone. Sure, I can do without the TV shows and political commercials without even batting an eye. But what about the last-minute family events? I hate knowing I am going to miss a whole season of bike club events. And I am worried I will miss out on watching my niece grow, or worse, that she will stop thinking of me as her personal playscape. That does not sit well with me.
I already have plans to use my cell and Facetime to keep in touch with family and friends while in towns, and if I am doing my mental-math correctly (probably not…) I should be close to my niece around her birthday, and if possible, will hitch in for a weekend to celebrate with her and the rest of the family. Ultimately, I know it is only a few months and the experience will far outweigh most events I might miss.
These are just a few of the bigger fears. There are others, I’m sure, but taking Zach’s advice, I am trying to tackle them one at a time. I would love to hear about your biggest fears, whether they are based on the trail or off. If you have any comments, advice, or topic suggestions, please use the comment box below or use the Contact Me page up top.
Until next time, remember to “Spin the Compass.”