I write this from the cement patio floor of a frat house at Dartmouth College. This is completely irrelevant to the proceeding post- but how could I not mention that?
You know that uneasy feeling you get when some significant stage in your life is nearing its conclusion? Maybe you’ve experienced this during your senior year of high school, or college, or before moving to a new city or leaving a job, or the end of a meaningful relationship. You’re still in the midst of it, but once you let your mind wander just a little bit forward in time, you can sense the end. I call this “Last Lap-itis”.
I have a severe case of Last Lap-itis.
Sure- there are still more than 450 miles to go. Yeah- this 450 miles goes through the Appalachian Trail’s most challenging terrain (The White Mountains of New Hampshire and the sheer chaos that apparently is southern Maine). If I really bust my ass maybe I can be done in another month. These seem like facts pointing toward Holy Shit Town (part of Double Fuck County). But consider these facts:
- I have been living in the woods for over four months
- I have walked from Georgia to New Hampshire; more than 1700 miles.
- I have completed 12 of 14 states.
- I have already suffered through: multiple blisters, dehydration, insane chaffing, extreme heat, extreme cold, finding spiders the size of softballs on my mattress, running downhill through a lightning storm, leg stiffness resembling a mild case of rigor mortis, full body swelling, watching a 30 ft. tree fall not more than 8 feet away from me (today), walking through clouds of mosquitoes, peeling numerous ticks off of my body, sleeping with a stranger no more than 4 inches on either side of me, and not seeing another human for over a 48-hour period.
What I’m getting at is- for all intents and purposes- I am almost there- and I’ve proven to myself that it’s going to take something drastic to drag me off this big, beautiful, bi-polar bitch.
Or in other words, I am on my last lap.
And alongside this particular case of Last Lap-itis, comes a giant bag of mixed emotions.
- I am ready to sleep in a bed, but I don’t fully at peace indoors.
- I am ready to regain some of my simple luxuries (i.e. Netflix), but don’t want to get sucked down the same black hole of technological dependency.
- I am ready to once again see friends and family, but fear what my new life perspective will reveal of who and what I used to know.
- I am malnourished, scraped up, and lacking in all proper forms of hygiene, but wonder if my mental health will take the hit in the process of regaining these other forms of self-care.
- I will come out of this with a heightened level of focus and passion for life, but know that I will be unable to care about much of society’s artificial bullshit (more on this in a future post).
- There are days where I am enamored with the meditative qualities of being completely present in nature- where the end has no meaning because I am fully engaged with the now (on the count of sounding completely hippy, I plead very guilty), and there are days where I wish I was making my ascent up Mt. Katahdin so I could finally end of this insane journey.
In talking to others along the trail- I have come to find that this feeling is the norm rather than the exception. There is a glaring dichotomy between being ready to finish the trail, and a looming panic of what happens to them once they reach the top of Katahdin. I regularly ask hikers, “so, what happens for you after mile 2,181?”. I almost always get the same wide-eye glance which unmistakably says, “”I haven’t gotten that far yet.“ Apparently the only thing more terrifying than the thought of what happens before summitting Mt. Katahdin, is what happens after.
In the mean time, hikers seem to be in a hypnotic trance, being magnetically pulled toward their final destination, constantly repeating the mantra, Ka-tah-din, Ka-tah-din, Ka-tah-din. A beautiful view has the power to make one forget about all else; the challenges that lie ahead both on and off the trail. Anything else, and we are at the mercy of where ever our minds will wander.
I guess the lesson learned is: scaling a mountain is challenging, drastically changing your lifestyle two times in six months is terrifying.