“If you could describe yourself using only word, what would it be?”
This was a question I was asked this week on an application for a writing assignment I am pursuing.
I HATE those kind of questions.
REALLY hate them.
I never know what to say. Should I fluff it up and say things like Motivated. Creative. Smart. Or should I be brutally honest and say….Lazy. Spastic. Mediocre.
But today I did not struggle. Today I knew the exact word I wanted to use.
Okay, so I can hear ya’ll now….. “Unstoppable? What’s that all about?”
My whole life I have struggled with feeling I was enough.
I like to give off the impression of being confident, but on the inside, I am a big puddle of nerves and doubt. For many years I would Lust after other’s self confidence. Man, I wish I had that!
But last weekend, I did something that put all those fears and doubts aside, and I learned just how absolutely amazing and strong I really am.
Three months ago a friend asked me if I wanted to hike 25 miles along the Appalachian Trail here in The Great Smoky Mountains.
In ONE DAY.
Before I even processed what she asked, I responded with the words,
“LET’S DO IT!”
As soon as the words left my mouth the sensible side of me shouted, “What the crap do you mean, ‘Let’s do it????? Do you EVEN know how long 25 miles is???????” “What about your foot?????” I suffer from Achilles tendinitis, and spent much of last Fall and Winter in an air cast. Long distances are not recommended with my condition, and rocky trails with lots of elevation gain are highly discouraged.
But this has failed to stop me.
Friends and family, also tried to dissuade me, “Jessica, that is too much for you!” “You need to let that foot rest.” “You are taking on too much…. you need to think this through.”
But I was committed, and it seemed like a fun adventure…so I started to plan.
I started building up my miles and taking some harder trails. I changed my nutrition to strengthen my body. And I started telling people. I mean, if everyone knew my intentions I certainly couldn’t bail out…. right?
Piece of cake. It’s just walking.
At 5:30 am last Saturday, Laura and I turned on our headlamps, and watched her husband drive back down the mountain…..back home, and away from us.
I am not going to lie… at that moment, I wanted to shout., “Come back! I’m not ready!” But I didn’t. Instead, I pulled my backpack a little more snug, took a deep breath, and started walking.
The forest was still sleeping and immediately an owl started letting us know he was the only one besides us awake. We heard sounds we weren’t sure of, and hiking in the dark, we saw lots of things you just don’t see in the daylight……
We quickly settled in and started a nice steady pace up the mountain. For a while we hiked in silence, listening to the forest slowly waking up for the day, then I heard Laura say, “WOW!” and we got our first glimpse of daybreak.
Suddenly all my fears and worries went away. I was walking in the most amazing mountains God ever created, and for the next 25 miles, they were my playground. I started feeling sorry for those who weren’t there with me, AND all who had said I was crazy for attempting such a hike.
About mile 10 I started questioning my sanity. My foot was sore, and my body was beat. We had climbed one mountain already, and still had 2 small, but POWERFUL mountains left to climb. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea. Maybe I am the absolute dumbest person ever.
Then, I hear words like music come from no where…. “You ARE AMAZING!” My hiking partner, who was a good pace ahead of me, knew I needed to hear that right at that moment. That is just how special she is. With those words I perked up, and quickened my pace
The trail was absolutely GORGEOUS. In my almost 700 miles hiked in the Smokies, I had never seen such rich and untouched beauty as I did this day. You could see for miles and miles nothing but glorious mountain peaks, so many never touched by human hands or feet.
And then finally…. we reached the junction that told us we had just 5 miles left to our ride home. I had walked 20 miles. I was in the home stretch, and it was all down hill. Easy peasy! All day I was never tested like I was those last 5 miles. They were some of the roughest I have ever hiked. By now my body was spent and starting to shut down. No longer was I peppy and upbeat. I was hurting. I was hungry. I was exhausted. I was done.
My knee gave out and I was ready to set down and just let the bears and other wildlife have their way with me. But then as we took our final break before descending the mountain, Laura again lifted me up.
She said nothing special, she just listened to me, and again told me how awesome I was. And she was right. I wasn’t sitting at home wishing I could hike 25 miles in one day, I was freaking DOING it! Despite what others said, or what I even thought about myself, I was it getting it done!
Suddenly, I started flying down the mountain. I have NO idea where that burst of energy came from, but I was on fire…. and then I had to pee…. sorry, but REAL life here. After my pit stop my momentum was lost some, but not my desire. All I could think of was that trail sign. The glorious piece of wood that would tell me, it was over, and that it was okay to finally stop.
And then it happened. The trail leveled out and Laura and I were overcome with absolute exhaustion and undeniable emotion. With this hike she closes in on being almost 200 miles done with her map, and I accomplished what others said I would never do.
Exhausted and elated, we posed one final time.
This was the hardest and the most AMAZING day of my life. I learned so much about myself. I am strong, I am fierce. And that it is okay to go scared. Fear, doesn’t have to stop us. Use it to your advantage to show yourself and those around you just how amazing you are.
Honestly, now I feel like I can do anything. I hiked 25 miles in one day in the most rugged and isolated part of The Great Smoky Mountains, and I FINISHED.
Doubts and fears are always going to be present. But so are determination and strength. People are going to support you, but think you are insane at the same time. There are going to be big mountains to climb, and times you want to quit. But keep moving. At the end you will be proud and amazed at just how incredibly strong you are.
NEVER again will I doubt my strength and abilities. Don’t you doubt yourself either. Take that chance. Risk it. Live. You may not finish, and I can guarantee it won’t easy, but the only way you can fail is if you DON’T try.
“And one day she discovered that she was fierce, and strong, and full of fire, and that not even she could hold herself back because her passion burned brighter than her fears.” ∼Mark Anthony
Let your passion burn brighter than your fear… and you will be unstoppable!