Once again, its time for the Weekly Writer's Workshop courtesy of MamaKat. I do like these little assignments!
This week, I chose: Talk About an Experience Where You Felt Humbled
In looking back over my life experiences, one thing that stood out for me is how those experiences that leave you humbled more often than not also leave you empowered.
This year, I can pretty much divide my life into three distinct phases: phase 1 -- before hiking, phase 2 --the hike, and phase 3 -- post hike. Each phase held a big decision, a big challenge. Each was pretty humbling in its own way. And each was empowering in a different way, as well.
PHASE ONE: PRE-HIKE
When I made the decision to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail late last year, I figured the big steps had already been taken, so to speak. I had decided that this was something I had wanted to do for a long time and damn it, I was going to do it! Period. End of story. Hooray for me.
Then I actually had to take action.
Writing out a letter of resignation and actually quitting my job was harder than I thought it would be. Not because of the logistics of living without a paycheck for 6 months. That was the easy part. No, actually taking action and quitting made me face, head on, all the struggles and conflicts I had faced in this position.
Like any job, this one was riddled with challenges-- the majority of which had little to do with my core responsibilities. Always a problem solver, I jumped head first into resolving the issues and making everything work seamlessly. It wasn't that easy. But I had always believed that when things were difficult, you just had to try harder, work harder. So I tried harder and worked harder. And things did not change.
When you have always believed that there is nothing you cannot do, if you just put your mind to it; if you have always been able to succeed at anything you tried, it comes as quite a shock when you try and try and do not succeed. In taking the action of actually quitting, I had to come to the humbling realization that no, I cannot change the world single handedly.
And then a weight lifted from my shoulders. I cannot change the world single handedly. I was never meant to.
PHASE TWO: THE HIKE
Any sane person would already know. When undertaking a 2200 mile long hike across 14 states, it would seem to reason that I should expect it to be hard. And I did. Sort of.
I expected long days. I expected sore legs and feet and arms. I expected to be hungry and cold and tired. I just didn't expect so much of it!
And I didn't expect the rocks.
I hiked over non-stop rocks from the middle of Virginia until Massachusetts. Then, after a brief reprieve, they started up again in New Hampshire and continued on through Maine. I discovered something: I'm not great on rocks. I have to go slow. I have to carefully pick my way over the rocks. And I was acutely aware of my short little hobbit legs the entire time. I had a hard time keeping up with some of my hiking partners. And my feet hurt so much! This was so much harder than I thought it would be.
I, along with many other hikers, kept asking "When does it get easier?" Short answer: it doesn't. Just because we put in all that hard work in the states we thought were hardest doesn't mean the trail got easier when we thought it should. You have to keep working hard whether you are prepared for it or not. (It's true of life as well, not just the trail, isn't it?)
I have to say that to this point, hiking the Appalachian Trail has been the most humbling as well as the most empowering experience of my life. Though it was non-stop difficult, it was also filled with amazing views, amazing people, and of course, the wonderful sense of accomplishment at the end.
PHASE THREE: POST HIKE
When I was preparing for the hike, I read a lot about the difficulties people had to adjusting to "real life" after spending 5 to 7 months living outside, hiking all day. To which I thought: "What a bunch of rubbish!" These people, I surmised, were just rationalizing their own laziness!
Imagine my surprise when I had so much difficulty adjusting to living indoors! (The air indoors is so much dirtier than the air outdoors!) Plus, the humbling realization that I just can't jump right back into my old life.
And the empowering realization that I don't want to.