Breaking Out of Your Box

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Just an hour before getting on the Appalachian Trail to hike roughly 340 miles

I’m going to tell you a little story about me. About eight year ago, I fell in love. Seven years ago, we parted ways and I ended up with  a man whom I really didn’t love but moved in with anyway, knowing I was settling. As could be foreseen, it ended fairly quickly. When it ended, I had few choices ahead of me as I was financially strapped and fairly isolated, so I did the only thing I could do…

I went hiking.

What?!

Yeah, I borrowed a vehicle to move my things temporarily into a friends garage, had my mom drive 500 miles to pick me up, and a week later I was driven to the nearest trailhead on the Appalachian Trail. Since I had really no money anyhow, I decided to spend what little I had on a month and a half’s hike heading South, which is how I ended up in Virginia. I accomplished roughly 340 miles from Duncannon, PA to Buena Vista, VA with no maps and, for the most part, no companionship. Though unprepared mentally and physically, I say with complete confidence it was the best decision I have ever made. When I made this choice, I was mentally and emotionally wore out and just at a complete loss in my life. Instead of facing reality, I chose to do one thing that I’ve always wanted to do but was too chicken shit normally to do it. To those extreme practical-minded individuals out there, I’m sure it sounds as if I made a completely irrational, scary, and fucked up choice (which I agreed with at the time and dyed my hair blue to bolster the notion that I was going crazy.) And yet, I made a choice that helped me to find ME again, one that renewed my confidence, that brought pure joy to my soul, and that brought me so much pride in ME again.  Yah, I was scared for the first three weeks to tent anywhere but at the shelters where I knew I’d find at least one soul to share the night with. Those first three weeks I slept little and it became hard for me to maintain my body temperature at night, which meant even less sleep. I had multiple breakdowns – releasing all the grief and stress from my last two relationships. But a few things happened that changed everything. One, my bullheadedness in not getting off the trail. Two, I learned to accept help from others, whether strangers, friends, or family. And three, my week hiking through the Shenandoah National Park was worth every moment of pain I endured as it was one of pure joy and gratitude. By this point, I was tenting alone in remote areas off the trail, running into black bears and rattlesnakes yet keeping my calm, and relying on my intuition about people who offered help, like with rides into town. For anyone who can’t fathom where I’m coming from, it’s a completely different world out there. Those that hike for more than mere hour jaunts are usually responsible towards their fellow hikers, wanting to make sure they are safe and okay to send on their way. There were days when I’d see no one all day, but one other hiker and it was if you two were the best of friends, because you were just so happy to have companionship for even just a few hours.

 

A second quick story is how I spent my 39th birthday week. I decided to try something new, and ended up doing three new things I’ve never experienced. On the day of my birthday, I learned how to rock climb and how to snowboard (really loved that one!) A few days later, I went ice skating for the first time ever. Can’t say I’d do that last one again, but rock climbing and snowboarding I’m up for.

So, here’s my challenge to you. Push your safe boundaries that you’ve set up for yourself and try just one thing that is on your bucket list.  What’s one thing that you can accomplish that you’ve always wanted to do but were too chicken shit to do? Why haven’t you done it yet? Here’s one thing that always got in my way: no one who would say yes to going with me. Out of all the items I checked off my bucket list above, the only one I actually had anyone with me was ice skating. Seriously. I found places that offered snowboarding and rock-climbing lessons and, of course, was crazy enough to go hiking alone in the middle of nowhere. If you wait for someone else to yes, you’ll probably never end up dong that which you most want to do. Just say fuck it. You are worth it. Believe me.

When you do something outside of your comfort zone, it makes you realize that you are so much more capable than you ever thought possible.

When you finally work up the gumption to let go of your fear by doing at least one thing that might scare you on that bucket list of yours, let me know. I’d love to hear how you said “fuck it” to one of your fears. And don’t forget to be awesome!

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