This article originally appeared on The Trek on August 26, 2021. Read it here.
There’s a scene in “The Devil Wears Prada” where Nigel says to Andrea, “Let me know when your whole life goes up in smoke. That means it’s time for a promotion.”
I keep thinking about one of the moments on the trail where I was joking around with someone I was hiking with. I was close to 900 miles into this long section hike and said “Do I look like a thru hiker? Do I fit in yet? After this many miles, I still never look like a thru hiker!” He laughed and said “You do look like a thru hiker, everything is falling apart.”
We were joking around, but he still meant it both literally and figuratively. In that moment, one of my pack pockets was functional exclusively because of duct tape. Everything was dirty. I was skinnier than I probably should have been. My life back at home felt like it was hanging by a thread, just like Andrea said the same to Nigel about her own life right before he remarked with the above quote.
My life is the smoke, and trying to stay on the trail is the promotion. A little overdramatic? Yes. The very real way that I feel? Also yes.
Since I last wrote, I made it through New Hampshire, into Maine, and through Southern Maine. I made it through the hardest part of the trail. I came home less than 200 miles from the end. I felt heartbreak on so many different levels. “Home” is a loose term right now. This all comes with the end of a relationship, one that I was so sure was going to survive the trail. The trail didn’t end us, the trail was the backdrop. There are layers upon layers to this story with two sides to it, but that’s all I can say for now on that subject matter.
I hoped to be writing about how I finally did it. About how I got to Katahdin after the turmoil in the beginning of this hike where at one point I wound up getting off the trail for two weeks because of some life matters at home. About how I’ve been coming back to the trail since I started it in 2019, how more than once some of my hikes have been cut short, but I kept coming back and I did it.
But right now, I didn’t do it. I never could have imagined it happening this way. I’ve learned that I can fight and fight, but at the end of the day, life outside of the trail can go in such a direction that staying away from it is simply not an option. I hiked on for a little while after the initial separation upon mutual understanding. But I finally officially knew that hiking on to Katahdin was no longer in the cards when my dad, who has been supportive of me finishing this hike in any and absolutely every way possible, very seriously helped clarify to me in my mental turmoil that I needed to leave it behind and attend to more serious matters at the forefront.
I tread murky waters now. I hiked through heat, cold, days of rain, tough terrain where “climbed” is a more acceptable verb than “hiked”. I gave everything I could to keep my home life functioning, or so I thought. Now I only question it. I am doing some deep soul searching, wondering what expense a personal goal is worth. I wonder if the benchmark that I thought existed, where “when my life is built around my ability to pursue personal goals I’ve done it right” is not an accurate way to think about things.
This post is short, it is vague, yet in my opinion, it is necessary. We need to show the struggles as much as we do the victories. I always thought that hikers who reached a certain point close enough to the end were definitely going to make it. I suppose that anything can happen.
I have loose plans to come back to the trail briefly before I head back to work again, but it doesn’t feel like as much of a priority right now. In adhering to another’s advice to not put a personal diary out there into post form right now, I’m signing off right here for the day. As I reflect, I do hope you enjoy some of my photos from New Hampshire and Maine, and that they add brightness to a rather somber-toned post!