Last Wednesday, August 22, marked my one year anniversary of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail.
In it of itself, that is maybe worthy of a Facebook status. This post is dedicated to reflecting on where my life, or more accurately, my mindset, has since gone.
When Michael Jordan made this proclamation in 1995, it was without question the two sweetest words any Chicago Bulls fan could possibly hear (and equally as bitter for the other 29 teams – suck it Karl Malone/Patrick Ewing/Reggie Miller/Shawn Kemp).
When I say I’m back, I mean it in the – holy fuck what kind of routine have I fallen into – sort of way. When I say I’m back, I mean I’m back to working 60+ hour weeks. I’m back to living in my inbox. I’m back to sweating the bullshit – the same person who actively acknowledged that everything is the bullshit.
I knew I wanted to write this post – although I hadn’t a clue about which direction to take it (disclosure: that’s my usual formula). Just before I sat down to open up the faucet of thoughts, my earbuds (which were attached to my iPhone) snagged onto my belt and subsequently yanked my phone onto my bedroom’s hardwood floor and smashed the screen into 100 pieces. This was after a full day of mundane, administrative tasks and thankless chores (commonly referred to as “headaches”). Needless to say, if there was a face within arm’s reach, it would have been punched. The shattered iFriend coupled with the carousel of task oriented thoughts began pushing my internal PSI near the “WE’LL DO IT LIVE” meltdown zone.
It then occurred to me, if you were to take a Polaroid of the August 22, 2012 Zach Davis and contrast it to the 2011 version, it’s clear that much has changed, and I’m not just referring to the majestic fire beard. The serene, unshakable, and eternally optimistic Badger has been replaced with his easily annoyed twin.
The trail hasn’t bestowed me with the gift of unconditional and unwavering joy. But it has offered me a worthy consolation: perspective.
When confronted with a challenging day, the pre-trail Good Badger believed that life’s events were out to get him, or at the very least, were unfolding unfavorably. Like magnets, bad events would seem to attract one another until I was a moving manifestation of Murphy’s Law. The mental radio was playing 40 stations at once, gradually building into a cacophony of angry static. And that angry static was the medium through which life was observed.
Today the angry static still has a way of finding this radio, but unlike before, I’ve located the “off” switch. I’ve learned that life isn’t the DJ; I’m the one laying down the tracks. And the only way to change the song is to stop singing along, but instead listen objectively. The space between the radio and the radiohead is the happy medium.
To un-radio-metaphor the above: life doesn’t cause your unhappiness, you do. My iPhone shattered and immediately my internal monolog responded with, “FFFUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCKKKKK WHY FUCK SHIT FUCK NO SHIT NO FUCK WHY”. After the mini-internal tantrum, however, I was able to remind myself, that 1) it’s not my health (other than perhaps a slight myocardial infarction) 2) it’s not the health of a loved one, and 3) I HAVE AN IPHONE TO BREAK. The screen on my pocket laptop is now a little harder to read. They’re called White People Problems because they’re not real problems. Nobody should feel bad about my smashed iPhone display, myself included.
The moral of the story is that my greatest take away from the trail – that real happiness is a mindset, not a set of conditions – is occasionally forgotten. I still get pulled into my own bullshit factory. But unlike before, I now have the road-map to find my way out. And although it may take a bit to discover that I’ve strayed, this GPS is shatter-proof.
Sidenote: I will be speaking at the REI in Charlotte, NC next week. If you can, come say hello.