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.