This past week has been full of self discoveries, and not the happiest of them. I’m beginning to realize that the reason I feel drawn to hike the AT next year is also the same reason that I maybe forced to shorten my trip to, dare I say it, a section hike instead. I think everyone has a motive for taking on such an epic journey. Maybe a loss of a loved one or a coming of age trip before going off to college. I haven’t been 100% crystal clear of my reason. The athletic part of me wants to do it so I can push myself beyond any other limit that I have ever reached. The vegan/aspiring minimalist whats to see what it would be like to live off the beaten path, carrying everything I need on my back. But I think the main reason, that has become more clear, is that I am a 36-year-old adult that just wants a break from “adulting” in the worst way.
Doesn’t everyone, right? Who wouldn’t mind taking 5-6 months out of their adult life and just putting it on hold until they got back from an epic journey such as thru hiking the Appalachian Trail? Well maybe the hiking part isn’t for everyone, but whatever your calling is, I’m sure it seems more exciting than your day in and day out routine. Or maybe it’s not? Maybe you have found that “sweet spot” in your life where all is good and right in your world. Kudos to you, because I have yet to arrive there.
I thought my life would seem “easier” when I lost my job back in December. Ok, hold on and let me explain. When I lost my job my husband encouraged me to take the next year off to just “be me”. To do and explore whatever it is that makes me happy. Great! So far I have taken about 4 different photography classes, two trips to see family and friends and started to blog more and more (I think the blogging has been my favorite out of everything). I also have taken my time at the gym more seriously and in the spring my running reached levels that it had never been before when I ran in my first half marathon.
But after about 3 months, I felt the need for at least a part-time job. Something that would keep me busy for 10-15 hours a week and would also help the financial offset of when my unemployment benefits would run out (which they just currently have). I actually like to work. It gives me a sense of “purpose”. I don’t do anything glamorous; most of my past jobs have been packing orders for various companies. At my last job I started as an order packer and was promoted to the order fulfillment manager. I had been there for 3+ years and I have been in shipping and receiving for 15+ years total. I have always enjoyed those jobs most. I am not a people person and I have never really enjoyed anything that involves customer service or one on one interaction with a lot of people every day. I like repetitive jobs and somewhat physically demanding jobs. I do not want to be sitting at a desk all day. (Well, not unless someone wants to pay me to sit and blog or edit photographs all day! Maybe one day!) So my current part-time job of packing orders for a small business in my neighborhood, has been perfect! It doesn’t require us to have a second car and it pays a nice little bit of money every month.
But even though I’m not working full-time and I now have had time to do and discover a lot of great things that I love, I still have to “adult” a whole lot, if not more than before. My husband is a very hard worker and brings in enough money for us to live comfortably, but after that, I pretty much take care of everything else. I’m not trying to make my husband out to be a “bad” person, but his “Suzy homemaker skills” are not up to par. I handle all of our finances. For the most part I keep up on all the house hold chores and I make sure we make our appointments or commitments on time. If one of (or in the case of this week, both of) our fur babies is sick, I take care of them. Whether it be cleaning up after them, taking them to the vet, or just being with them when they don’t feel well, that is all me.
My husband had never owned a pet before he met me and my two, now 12-year-old, cats. He has taken on being a great daddy to them. If they could live on love alone, they would be in good hands with him. But since they can’t and they both have started to have very special needs as they have aged, that has all fallen on my shoulders. I’m thankful that he does make enough money and he is very understanding when it comes to their health issues. This week alone probably set us back $1000 (ah the joys of being a pet parent!) but he never blinks an eye about the cost and always just wants the best for them. With that in mind, the best thing for them is usually me being around and taking care of them. They are very bonded to me and have actually been sick with anxiety if I am away for too long. We have actually flown home from a vacation early because they became sick and too much for our poor neighbor to handle. After we were back, everyone calmed down and you would never have known anything was wrong. As much as my husband loves them, most of the time he does not know what to do when they do get sick. And he doesn’t do with sudden changes to his schedule very well. So to have to drop everything (including maybe calling into work) is very hard for him to understand.
Besides our fur-babies we have our own issues. I’m all about being real in my blog, so here is some real life shit. Marriage is work. It is a give and take and is about compromise without losing yourself in the process. It is not roses and butterflies all the time. Sometimes it involves getting down right dirty and dealing with some heavy stuff. We go to therapy together and apart. We both have issues that we have to deal with and some of his issues can get really hard to live with in general. He had been diagnosed with PTSD and an anxiety disorder long before I met him. He is also a recovering drug addict (a result of trying to self medicate his issues) but has been clean for over 14 years now. And even though things over the years have gotten better with professional help, we are faced with a lot of hard issues that most couples may not have to go through. At times they can take a real toll on both of us. And they defiantly make “adulting” even harder for me. I’m not perfect, but I have taken on a lot by living my life with someone who has faced some serious trauma at a young age. Unfortunately our relationship can teeter from a husband and wife, to a mother and child dynamic. It is something we are working very hard to resolve, but it can be very difficult and mentally exhausting at times. This is why the larger amount of household responsibility falls on me. It would be a very dramatic change for me to put everything on him, for months at a time, after I have taken care of it for over 5 years now.
Segwaying (don’t thing that’s an actual word, but it works for me) back into the original theme of this post. The idea of a thru hike versus our life back at home. The scales are not even and things are not looking like they are going to fall in my favor. I know I am still 9 months out from my start date, but everyday something else presents itself as a reason why this hike may not be ideal for my current life situation. I feel that it would be a great escape from my current life, but I am afraid of what would be waiting for me upon my return or what could cause me to have to return early. I also realize that I cannot live my life in fear of the “what ifs” but these are not just small, “what ifs”. Some of them could be real life, game changers and not in a positive way.
So at the current moment I am unsure of exactly what I will be doing next year. I have contemplated doing about a month-long section hike. I would still start around the same time in early April, but I would just hike as far as I could in a 30 day period and then call it quits. Ugh “quits” is an ugly word, kind of like “goodbye”. Sounds too final and well just over. I wouldn’t want things to be over for good. Maybe each year I could come back to the place I stopped at and continue on until I hiked the entire AT? It’s not as badass as being a thru hiker, but I’m sure it would still be a life changing experience. I feel like right now I am looking for a life saving moment and a sense of resolve. But I know I can’t just run away from my issues. They will be right there when I get back. The idea of it all is tugging at my insides but I know that no matter what, everything happens for a reason.