“What the heck are you doing out here?” This was a conversation with myself a few weeks ago as I was attempting to haul myself up a rather steep and rocky mountainside. Just a few miles ago, I was having a whole different conversation with myself as I was blazing my way through the rocks and mud on a much easier stretch, where I was telling myself just how amazing I was for getting up at the butt crack of dawn to come out and hike 10 hard, and challenging miles in an area I knew ZERO about. But now, the trail was showing it’s true colors, and so was I. Continue reading
Stepping out of the vehicle and feeling the bone chilling wind rip through my body, I began to question if this really was a good idea. It had been weeks, since my last real hike, and I was already nervous about getting back out there, and using the weather as an excuse to delay getting started, seemed like a really good choice at the moment.
But there I was. Strapping on my pack and standing in front of the sign to one of the world’s most famous footpaths….The Appalachian Trail. Continue reading
You know that feeling when you’ve been away for several days, even weeks, and you are finally home and all your crap is put away, and you finally sit down on your couch and you just breathe?
That is how I feel sitting here in front of my computer right now at this moment.
It has been weeks, months really, since I last sat down and just wrote anything without thinking. Life has become so bogged down and complicated that it was just easier for me to let the feelings inside of me sit and stew than it was for me to pour out the words that were inside of me dying to come out. And honestly, if it wasn’t for writing this piece for this article, it may have not happened for a long time to come. Continue reading
“What do you want your tombstone to read?”
This was a question asked on a survey I was taking for a friends graduate class assignment earlier this week. At first I scoffed at the question and passed it up to answer the other nine below it, but as I came back to it, I started to really ponder on it.
What do I want my tombstone to say when I am gone from this earth. When friends, family, and strangers celebrate my life after it is over, what do I want them to remember about me? Continue reading
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. Continue reading
“Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.”
How many times have I heard that statement in my lifetime? Probably to the point that if I had a penny for each time I did hear it, I could retire to some tropical island with my new hot husband, Clay Matthews…..
but I digress.
As children, we are taught that it is impolite to judge others based on what we see of them on the outside. Looks can be deceiving, and 99.9% of the time, we underestimate someone based on how they look, speak, or act. Continue reading
“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.
Unstoppable. Continue reading
I hate art.
There I just said it.
I remember very vividly the day I realized I hated art. I was in the 6th grade and was forced to take an art class along with my other peers for six LONG weeks. Our final assignment was to paint a still life portrait of a vase of gaudy flowers our teacher had sat on the table before us.
For sixty minutes, my fingers worked their magic. Sweat poured feverishly from my brow. I was going to be the next Van Gogh.
Well, I’ll spare you the grizzly details, but what I remember most was my teacher saying, “Jessica, perhaps next year when you can choose your related arts activity, you should pick something BESIDES art.”
From that moment forward, I hated art.
My hatred for the subject was even more fueled by the fact my sister was an excellent artist. She would doodle for countless hours making beautiful and creative designs that weren’t really anything, but were really impressive to look at.
Even my stick people looked shady.
So I let the Illusion that I could be an artist die.
I gave up.
Without a fight.
That has pretty much been the story of my life. If something was hard, made me struggle, or someone told me I was doing it wrong, I dropped it. Cold turkey. Clearly this wasn’t for me, or it would be easy right?
Of course that way of thinking only left me feeling even more bitter and angry at the world, so I knew I needed to make some changes.
And I did.
And then I thought I was all better.
But of course….. I wasn’t.
Over the past year, I have developed a strong and incurable passion for hiking and being outdoors. There is no other place that I feel more alive and at home, then out in the woods. I have hiked over 600 miles in a little over a year, developed some amazing friendships, and seen and done some amazing things.
But the old me is still deep inside, and sometimes she likes to come out.
She tells me that I am too fat, too ugly, too slow, too weak, to unlikable, too introverted, too extroverted, too messed up, too insecure, too dumb, too cocky, and sometimes just too much.
I don’t like her.
She doesn’t show up too often, but when she does, she comes at me with all guns loaded and aimed at me.
A couple months ago she showed up, and decided to stick around for a while. She followed me to work. She followed me to church. She followed me on outings with my friends and family. She even followed me when I went and cut off 13 inches off my hair last month.
“Are you really going to wear that?”
“Are you really going to eat that? You’re fat enough…just eat carrots.”
“Are you really going to try and do that? Good luck. Hope you have a nice dress to be buried in.”
For the first couple of weeks I didn’t listen, but she got more and more persistent, and pretty soon the jabs got harder and harder to ignore.
Last weekend it finally became more then I could take. While on a hike with my ultra fit and amazing sister and another friend, I struggled. I didn’t feel well, and the climb was tough. All I wanted was my couch and big ole glass of coke. I did good shutting out the hateful me, until the three ladies over the age of 60 passed me going up the mountain.
“Well, well, well…. do you believe me now? You are NOT cut out for this. You suck. You are weak. You are too fat, and clearly you just a wanna be.”
That was all I needed to hear. I was officially defeated.
I finished my hike, came home, and pouted.
Now some may not understand what I am talking about, and that is good. Consider yourself blessed, but some of you out there know all too well what I experienced and how real, frustrating, and defeating it is to have those kinds of conversations with yourself. Others will tell you to get over it, move on, it isn’t real, and that you are just being a baby. But some of us know the realness and struggle all too well.
It has been a crappy week. I have wallowed in my self frustration for seven long days. I created my own little pity party with me as the only guest.
Sad and pathetic I know. Go ahead. Laugh.
But this morning I got up and I opened my devotional for the day, and instead of the bible verse that went along with it inspiring me, it was the quote the author used.
“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You can’t paint,’ then by all means paint, and the voice will be silenced.” ˜ Vincent van Gogh
That voice is always going to be inside my head telling me I can’t. And you know what, I am okay with that now. Because ultimately I am the one with the power. She may speak, but it is up to me to chose to listen and believe.
So go ahead evil girl inside of me, talk away. You may tell me I am not good enough, but I chose not to listen. Instead I will draw on what I know I can do. Over the past year I have done and seen WAY more than I ever thought I could, so that proves that I am pretty amazing.
I may not be skinny, all that gorgeous, fast, considered a part of the in crowd, or even in shape. But I AM determined, stubborn, full of sass, adventure, and crazy adorable.
Some may have stopped reading a long time ago, but to those of you who stuck it out, listen…… You are AWESOME. You are able to do AMAZING things. DO NOT listen to that voice inside of you that tells you different. You may not reach all your goals, you may not do it with style and grace, and you may fall down along the way, but listen, the ONLY way you or I will ever fail is if we don’t TRY!
Keep going. Keep moving forward. Pushing through the frustrations, the pain, the looks, and the comments.
Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go find where I put those paintbrushes…. I feel a masterpiece coming on.
Some days I feel like I am in a war.
The internal battle inside my head is crazy intense and I find myself arguing with my inner self like two 10 year old girls.
“You are such a baby!”
“No I”m not! You are!”
“I know you are but what am I?” Continue reading
“Great things are done when man and mountains meet.”
When the great poet William Blake spoke those words almost 200 years ago, I can only imagine he had no way of knowing that they would come to life right here in Eastern Tennessee in 2017. He could not possibly have foreseen that my friend, Benny, would live out exactly what he meant.
For the past 2 months Benny has been on a quest of epic status. On January 1 of this year, he set out to hike every inch of trail miles in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park by the end of the year. That is a Massive undertaking since most people take years to complete hiking a map.
But just a few weeks into the journey, he decided that maybe he could break the current record of hiking each and every trail..
The Current record is 4 months and 12 days.
This Saturday Benny will complete his journey, setting a new record of 2 months and 19 days.
Oh, did I mention that there are over 800 miles of trails in the Smoky Mountains?
I remember very vividly seeing Benny make the post about going for the record. At the time I had never met Benny, but we are both members of the same Facebook hiking group, and I was well aware of who we was and the enormous task before him. I instantly joined his page, so I could follow along with his journey.
This man was phenomenal. With each and every post he made me feel like I was part of his journey. Every few days we were treated with an update, and the most beautiful pictures.
I was instantly a fan girl!
By chance, I was able to meet Benny at an event we were both attending at the first of February. One would think going after such an ambitious record would give you a swollen ego, and extra large head, but sitting and chatting with Benny for those couple of hours was like catching up with an old friend. Within seconds, I knew he was the most down to earth, humble person I have ever had the honor of meeting. Of course I had to go all fan girl and get a selfie with him and another friend of ours.
Personally meeting Benny, made following his journey even more sweeter. Now I was invested in his success.
But following Benny’s journey also got me to thinking about my own.
Struggling with my injured foot, life stresses, and just being plain tired, had caused me to put off fully seeking completing my own map. “Those mountains aren’t going anywhere. I have all the time in the world to finish.”
But watching the passion that Benny exhibited, the fire within me was lit to immediately get serious about what I needed to do to complete my own map.
Those mountains may not be going anywhere, but I am not guaranteed tomorrow. Watching Benny actively pursue his dream showed me, that NOW is the time. Don’t put off what you are passionate about until later. Later may never come.
For the past month and half, I have worked obsessively on a plan to help ensure that I will finish my own map hopefully by the end of next year.
This Saturday, I will join my fellow hiking community as we come together to celebrate the final leg of Benny’s amazing journey. I will watch with tremendous pride as my friend takes his final steps towards his dream.
Benny may not be aware, but he has inspired many. In him we see what happens when you want something bad enough, and you work hard to make it happen. He sacrificed time with his wife and children. Time away from work. Time to just sit and relax. He went out cold,wet, sick, tired, and hungry, but never once did he post a complaint.
How could he….he was living his dream.
Harriet Tubman once said,
“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars, to change the world.”
Benny has reached for the stars, and while he may not entirely change the world with this phenomenal record breaking hike, he has definitely changed the hearts and the lives of those who have been following him.
Great things indeed.