Broken. Bitter. Exhausted.
That is who I was a year and a half ago when I began what would become the wildest and most amazing journey I have ever embarked on.
Life just stunk, and I needed a change.
I never set out to become a hiker, it just sort of happened. Being someone who had been a screw up and underachiever her whole life, I just wanted to prove I could set a goal and complete it. At no time did I expect my life would totally change.
But change it did.
Within a couple months of starting my journey, I was already checking goals off my list. As soon as I accomplished one, a new bolder and bigger one was waiting to take it’s place.
Suddenly I went from being the person watching everyone else live, to the person who was out living.
Life finally had purpose and meaning again.
But everything came to a screeching halt last Fall when I encountered a pretty serious Achilles Tendon injury. I was warned to let my foot rest and let it heal or I was on the path for a tendon rupture and a year off my foot. But I ignored the warnings from friends, family, and most importantly my Doctor, and I kept doing extreme hikes and going at a pretty intense pace.
By October, I was done. The pain was no longer bearable and my foot was so swollen, I could not wear a shoe. My Doctor did what he had to do to insure I stayed off the trail and off the operating table….He put me in an air cast.
I was absolutly crushed. No longer was I able to live out my passion.
But I worked hard. I did my exercises. I followed the plan, and by the first of the year, I was ready to get back it.
During my time off though, I had plenty of time to plan and dream. I made the decision that once I was given the green light I would set out to complete my Smokies map (hiking all 900 miles of trails within the Great Smokies National Park), and become a distinguished member of the 900 mile club by October 2018.
I just knew everyone was going to cheer me on and be happy for me. I had so many wonderful hiking friends, and knew I would not be hurting for companions to help me achieve my dream.
What happened was the opposite of what I dreamed.
While they encouraged and supported me, many concerns and issues were brought to the table. Many thought I was crazy for setting a time frame. Many that I thought would share my passion and dream, quickly told me I was on my own. Others told me given my Achilles tendon injury, I would never do it fully healthy. I suddenly found myself in a sea of doubt and frustration.
Had I bitten off more then I could chew? Was trying to achieve this more than my foot and body could handle? Should I take more time? Was I crazy??????
Frustrated, I went into a dark funk. While people were supportive, no one seemed to fully understand the passion I had or why this was so important to me. I felt so alone and unsure. One day I found myself complaining to a friend, and she came back with the most perfect response.
“Be willing to walk alone. Many who started with you , won’t finish with you.”
It was then I realized the obstacles I needed to Overcome were not the people around me, but myself. It was my own fears and doubts I was allowing to hold me back. I knew I was strong, determined, and capable. This was MY journey. No one else’s. I could not force others to jump on board and expect them to enjoy the ride if this wasn’t for them.
So I embarked, alone.
I would like to say it is easy, but I’d be lying. However, along the way I have been blessed with a hand full of folks who are on the same path. Their reasons may not be what mine are, but they are walking with as much passion, purpose, and sense of urgency that I am. Sometimes we walk together, sometimes we walk alone. But there is always comfort in knowing they fully understand why I am doing what I am doing.
Sometimes the biggest obstacle standing in your way is you. We listen to outside voices who try and tell us the opposite of what our hearts are telling us. We doubt our dreams and push them to the side to please others or sometimes to just shut them up.
But don’t stop. Listen to your heart. What is it saying? If it is telling you to stay put, by all means stay put, but if you are yearning for something more, something greater, something awe inspiring, my advice is simply this……
Folks may not understand why, and you may have to walk alone at times, but GO! Somewhere down the road you are going to see just how strong and amazing you are. You are going to find yourself on top of a mountain others told you you couldn’t climb and you are going to jump for joy even though you are physically and mentally exhausted.
Remember, just because others may not understand your journey, doesn’t mean it is wrong.
I still plan on working on finishing my map by next October, and hopefully move on to bigger things like section hiking or even thru hiking the Appalachian Trail. My heart has a calling, and I simply must go.
Even if it means I start alone.