Thursday, January 14, 2010


Saying you will do something is very different than actually following through with the said decision.  After beginning to plan this trip I began to see many disconnects between my imagination and that of reality.  Often times I find many more differences with my friends, co-workers, and family than with myself.

Someone claimed this would be a life changing experience.  Honestly the first thing I think of when this is asked or stated is I would perhaps find myself in a coma, or even worse.  I hope that this trip won't be that life changing.  But to answer the question that they ARE asking... I expect to be different at the end of the trail.  I hope I will be different.  Realistically, every moment that passes, leaves an impact.  Each day of work, each day of school, each day of goofing off, or running errands... makes you who you are.  The culmination of those small changes leaves you significantly different than who you were the year before and the year before that.  You will see how my trip will change me because it will be 5-6 months without talking or passing the time with me.  Hopefully I will still be the same girl that left you, but more improved.  A Gidget 2.0. :)  

Thru-hiking a 2,650 mile trail takes determination, fortitude, endurance, mental strength, persistence, and most of all purpose.  Without which, the trek, the 5-6 months, the effort, and planning are useless, pointless exercises.  For those that doubt my ability to complete the complete trail, I doubt it too, but if I allowed my doubts to determine my lifestyle, personality, and independence I wouldn't be who I am.  If you let your doubts rule your mind set, would you be who you are now?  Simply put, no.  You wouldn't be independent, full of spunk an' spice(the younger generation's definition: someone people respect or go to with questions.)

I will be different than I am now, but more than likely I am already different than who you think I am now.  

Telling the Project Manager

I walked down the quiet hallway.  Between my wheezing and slight fever my body was exhausted.  The test was at 5pm, but I hadn’t gotten an hour of sleep.  At least I got to work on time.  Thank goodness it was before 7:30am, I need to get down to the trailer by 8:30.  Both my coworkers handed over a few packets each, my APM pushed a heavy specification book for the next construction phase to me.  “Would you pop this into Prolog”(a technical shared file program). 
“Of course.”  work to keep my mind off of school here I come. 
It’s the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and payroll is critical.  I need to hurry down to the site.  Sweating heavily that damnable h1n1 vaccine, my PM calls me into his office.  Three jackets and sweaters deep, he sees his little intern, with an obnoxiously large bag, binders and packets in hand.  “Intern, I need to know what your plans are for the next 6 months to a year.” Great, I’m heavily sweating, breathing with difficulty, and my former marine project manager is asking me the question I have been internally searching for a right way to tell him so he might understand better.
Hell, “I’d like to continue my internship until April.  In mid-April I leave to backpack the Pacific Crest Trail.  It’s a 5-6 month hike." deep breath. "Does that answer your question?"
His eyebrows raise, a mixture of shock and concern were left.  “Yes, that answers it.  Short to the point.  No problem with that.”  He leans back, hands put together like the itsy-bitsy spider song.  
Forty five minutes later after his drilling about my PCT planning, hiking concerns, topics, stops, highlights, and various other worries,... I am released.  Walking away, I realized he said what I needed to hear, “Wow, I’m jealous.  I wish I could do that.”  

The Outdoor Addiction

I realized early on I am a little different than other people. If I have a choice between sitting inside or on the patio, I choose the sky for my ceiling.  It doesn’t matter if there are smokers, if there is a strong wind, or if I feel overheated and start to sweat.  I go so far as to leave my window open every night.  If I have an option between going to a museum or hiking Dog Mountain, I’ll choose the strenuous hike that may very well leave me completely exhausted and a dirty mess in front of my fellow hiker.

Over a year ago I sat in my company’s main conference room with eight other interns answering the same question, “What do I want to do after I graduate?”  My answer was significantly different.  It was more than one thought, it was personal, it was a dream I’d had for years, it was purely, unexpectedly, me. My answer didn’t include a masters program, marriage, or continuing to work for this general contractor. (Even though I would love the opportunity to be a full-time employee.) I want to really live.  I want to explore.  "I want to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.” The president was clearly surprised by my answer and asked why a hike in California.  Well, I’ve been hiking and backpacking for years.  It’s where I get my answers, it’s my inspiration, it is in a word, serenity.  I started doing some trail work in the spring of 2008 in the midst of the desert section and fell in love.  When it was time to get off the trail, take our showers and fly back to Atlanta, I was the last off the trail, the last to jump on the bus, and the last to walk aboard the plane.  This trail found me, learned my name, and has been calling me back every night since, with one sweet dream at a time.

As it became time for me to make a decision about my future I looked at my coworkers and my fellow students.  I realized I don’t want to live a life where dreams are only dreams.  I want to define myself by something other than a career, a marriage, or my educational background.  As hard as that will be for my co-workers or parents to hear, it’s more important to me than fulfilling either of their expectations.  It is what will make me significantly different, extremely content, and a much better person on the inside.

The Handshake

If you know what you want, or are insane, I’m not surprised.  If you are the former: for one, knowing what you want IS insane, for two, you’re lying to yourself, you just don’t know it yet.  For the latter: you’re either overconfident about your coolness or an idiot, either way you need to make a list to fit into the first category.  If you plan to read this, you will not find the answer to the meaning of life, but you may discover an appreciation for sanity.  Regardless, you will hear what happens to that crazy person who turned down the “sane” choices, disappeared, and hiked 2,700 miles in search of the real thing.  Yes, I'll give up steamy showers, blessed central air and heating, southern home cooked food, a deliciously pillowed bed, loved ones, a terrific job, and (get ready) deodorant.  I'll peer behind boulders in 105 degree weather, trudge through forests in the pouring rain, and use a freakin’ ice axe to climb snow topped mountains looking for the sanity people say only maturity can bring. To many, this is, without a doubt, a guide on what NOT to do.