When the Perfect Doesn’t Work Out Perfectly Part 2

In order to get to the top of the second look out, there was a massive, steep, and polished boulder that needed to be passed. BDawk couldn’t and didn’t want to try and pass it. He had become spooked of steep boulders while hiking the AT in Virginia that summer. It was evident that the experience in Virginia had a profound effect on his willingness to climb. I continued to encourage him to climb on his own, thinking he would try to get up the rock if he knew I was up there. I even tried to help him, but his lanky legs resisted every inch. Suddenly, he became so spooked and agitated that he darted off into the thick brush, disappearing within seconds.

“It’s okay,” I reassured myself. “He does this on trails at home and will always make it back to me.”

Five minutes passed.  I continued taking pictures with my phone from the top of the vista.

Ten minutes passed. I walked around the trail and vista point to see if I could find him.

15 minutes passed. I sat, panicking, at the top of the vista, thinking about my mom telling me, “Make sure you don’t lose BDawk!” Damn, her and her fucking comments.

20 minutes passed. An old, stocky, weathered hiker asked me if he has a bear bell on him. “The bear bell would at least alert the bear, before he could sneak up on it.”

21 minutes passed. I’m frantically thinking about BDawk’s lack of bear bell and how that could prove fatal.

28 minutes later, I hear the jingle of his collar. A sigh of relief came over me, as I had just resigned myself to the notion of coming home without a dog. I tried one more time to get him to go over the boulder, to no avail.

“What the hell am I going to do,” I questioned myself. That was the only trail I had considered, my only option. Quickly, I started to trouble shoot. Thoughts of abandoning the trip popped into my head. “I’d feel like a failure if I quit now,” I thought. I still had something to prove to myself.

My mind immediately thought of the trail split, at the lake a quarter mile back. I took out the map to evaluate my options. At the lake the trail did split, the trail to Giant Mountain (which I was on) went right and to the left a trail to Roaring Brook Falls. “It is the only other option,” I sighed, disappointed that I couldn’t follow through with the original plan. But  seeing that I didn’t have any other options besides abandoning the hike altogether, I decided to go with it.

The hike down the trail seemed more difficult than I had expected. The steep incline of the trail seemed exacerbated by the fact that  I was heavy with emotions of anger, disappointment and anxiety.  I hadn’t anticipated my dog not being able to complete the trail with me, what could go wrong next?  In addition, each new group of hikers we passed seemed to rub it in that I wasn’t going to reach the very top, a subtle yet still painful dig at my self-confidence.

We returned to the lake and I took a minute to take in the beauty surrounding me, while trying to regain composure over my emotions.

I started thinking about my hiking partner, my ex-boyfriend who had been on all of my previous hiking and backpacking trips. He always kept me in a positive mood. But this time I had to rely on myself to keep my emotions in check. This time I had to rely on myself for every aspect of the trip. Fuck. I took a few more pictures to quiet my mind and to remind myself that I am surrounded by pure beauty.

We continued on the trail towards Roaring Brook Falls until I found a decent place to set up camp. After setting up the tent, I emptied the gear, organizing the necessities that I would need for starting a fire, setting a bear bag, making dinner and feeding B-Dawk. I was able to put up the tent and bear bag  effortlessly, a small victory since I had never been in charge of either task on my previous trips. These small victories kept me positive for the time being.

Finally settling in at my “campsite” for the night, my mind continued to race with thoughts of my incompetence. Swiftly, in a desperate rush to avoid the negative loop, my mind shifted to another thought.

“Fire! I must start a fire!”

I thought if I could start a fire and keep it going, then maybe I would feel less incompetent. To me, keeping a fire going was a matter of my survival for the night. The ground was wet and there was a damp, chill in the air. I was skeptical that I would even get a spark to catch, yet I scavenged around my campsite for any kindling that was remotely dry.  Then in the distance, I spotted a Birch tree shedding its bark, in large, papery stands, perfect for starting a fire. I grabbed two handfuls of bark, and returned to the kindling I had scavenged. Methodically, I broke down the tree branches into more manageable pieces, continuously thinking about how to start the fire. I decided to lay down the largest piece of bark on the ground and tear the other pieces into thin strips, easy enough for any spark to catch hold of it. I put the meager pile of strips down, hoping that my logic would work. I took out my zippo lighter (yea, I cheated, you backpacking purists) and struck the cog. Instantly the spark started to smolder and caught hold of the bark, creating a tiny flame that continued to consume the thin strips. Immediately seeing the flame, I felt a simultaneous feeling of accomplishment and urgency.

“I can’t let that flame go out!” I told myself. In my mind, letting the fire go out would add to insecurities and incompetence. I hurriedly yet strategically placed the kindling over the flame, hoping it would grow. Slowly it did.

For 3 hours I sat staring into the fire constantly thinking about life: my recent breakup with my ex of 5 years, a failed attempt at dating a coworker, a run in with a crazy man who threatened me and my dog with a knife 20 feet from my house, a recent car crash that totaled my car, an unstable father and his ailing health and the various emotions that went along with all of that. As much as I was nervous to go out backpacking by myself, I felt like I needed this time. It was time I needed to escape the crazy, to sit in silence and reflect on what had happened, what was happening and try to figure out what needed to happen next.

I started thinking about what all of these recent events meant. I started second guessing my breakup. Maybe I really did want to focus on a family, settle down and that traveling was not as important to me like it once was. I sat by the fire and let the warmth surround me. I hoped it would fill the emotional void I had in the pit of my stomach.  As the darkness consumed the light of day, the fire died down and the kindling ran out. I decided to go to the tent and read to quiet my mind.

I took out On the Road by Kerouac and started reading. I was temporarily comforted in knowing that Sal, Kerouac’s protagonist, would have been able to relate to my fear of being alone despite my quest to find solitude. I read until my eyelids became heavy and then disappeared into my cocoon of a sleeping bag to go to sleep.

Although I was heavy with emotions, I slept lightly. The mixture of the cold air, hard ground, and my own anxieties did not provide a good night sleep. In addition, B-Dawk, who was not equipped to sleep on the cold ground without a crash pad, was shivering profusely. He huddled next to me to absorb any heat from my sleeping bag. Eventually, I ended up giving him my jacket to use as a blanket.

In the morning, I made breakfast, gathered our things and decided to head back to the car. The three day adventure was cut down to one night. My emotional state and lack of gear to keep B-Dawk warm at night prevented me from wanting to stay any longer. We returned to the trail, taking in the beauty one last time before returning to our car. The remaining time, I decided to take a trip to Lake Placid, see the Olympic training center, and then over to Lake George just to say I saw it. I was disappointed that I was unable to finish the trail, get to the top of Giant Mountain and spend a few more nights out on the trail.

When I came back home, friends and co-workers had asked about the trip.

 “It was great!” I replied, lying through my teeth. It was better than telling them the truth, I thought.  No body wanted to hear the truth. I didn’t even want to admit the truth.

 REFLECTIONS ON THE TRIP:

It has been two months since going to the Adirondacks. Reflecting back, I can say that if I had been in a better state of mind and not dealing with all of the emotional crap, I would have enjoyed the trip. I have later realized that the trip was not as bad as I felt while there. The disappointment of not finishing the trail was the most painful part of the trip, but I have decided to try again in the Spring.  Most importantly: I SURVIVED! I was skeptical that I would even survive a night alone in the woods. I also learned some valuable tips about backpacking/hiking that I only could have learned through experience. Talking to other more seasoned hikers, it only gets easier with experience. In addition, looking back, it was a trip that needed to happen. I needed the growing pains as I learned a lot about myself, about what I want out of life, and my limits physically and emotionally. In the end, the trip wasn’t as perfect as I had expected it to be, but such is life, imperfect. It is the imperfections that keeps life interesting. Here’s to more life experiences full of imperfections, mistakes and the knowledge, strength and courage to overcome them!

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My Dreams, The Catch; My Fears, The Cage

Don’t live your life out of fear,” I whisper to myself quietly.

“Don’t live your life out of fear,” I repeat again trying to convince myself of its meaning while wrapped in my cozy blanket, protecting myself from the penetrating cold and darkness that is this November morning.

“Don’t live your life out of fear,” I now speak firmly to myself, one last time with conviction, providing enough energy to get myself out of bed, a real struggle this particular day.

Don’t live your life out of fear is a mantra I have written on my mirror, where I can read it and repeat it when in desperate need.  Lately thought, it’s been used much like a whore, repeatedly and often.

Why is this relevant to my blog post? You may find yourself inquiring. The relevance is that this mantra is what has inspired me to start blogging.

“Oh great, another [insert expletive here] blogger!” you say.

Yea, for the longest time, I agreed with you. Why does the world need another blogger who wants to interject their cynical views on the wide world of the internet explorers?

“Who would want to read my posts? Who cares what I have to say?” the fear continued to keep these conversations alive in my head. For the longest time I believed my inner critics. There is nothing relevant that I have to say. No one will read my blogs. People will judge me. It will be an absolute failure. Then I started to realize that my reason for blogging isn’t for other people. It’s actually just for me.

The finished magazine, Citizen Philadelphia

Back in my undergrad at Philadelphia University, for my graduation project, I created a magazine and website called Citizen Philadelphia, a media source to spotlight local, national and global philanthropic projects and the inspiring people behind them. From concept development to a finalized, published magazine and website took four months of non-stop design, writing, photographing, tinkering, thinking, living, breathing, dreaming Citizen Philadelphia. I enjoyed the whole process, the development of the brand, the conceptual design of each aspect of the magazine and website, interviewing the people around which I wrote the stories and compiling it all into one finished product. It was the culmination of everything I learned at Philadelphia University.

It. Was. My. Baby.

A spread of a map of Philadelphia and pull out graphics/captions for different neighborhoods featured in the magazine.

After graduation, I tried to keep it going, yet found myself stuck. Stuck financially, and halted by the fear of failure, the fear of not making it a success. Looking back I question my idea of success. Was success defined as people reading my posts, creating articles that were relevant in the current place and time, or getting notoriety for capturing inspiring projects and the minds behind them?  What defines success? Who defines it?

These are the questions now,  in hindsight, of which I feel I have a better grasp on, an understanding.  It is all me. Literally, me. I define my success, my failures, my lessons learned. I can make it positive, negative or neutral. It is all in how I want to define it.

This blogging that I will be working on, it is all for me. It is to extend, and redefine my vision of Citizen Philadelphia and establish a basis for which to start a travel blog.

So in essence, fuck you.

Fuck your opinions, your criticisms, your praise, anything having to do with you. You can read it. You may wish to not read it. I don’t give a fuck. All I know is, I am chronicling my adventures, my connections with people, places and things— all for me.

Looking back, this has been a work in progress for years, with all of my explorations, travelings, adventures and mishaps. Now it has a place and a purpose.

Financially, yea, I still don’t have any money, but that won’t stop me. I have my camera, my words and my vision— my vision of bringing my adventures and pictures to life and give it some kind of purpose.

If you continue to keep reading my blogs, enjoy. If you don’t, no worries. It wasn’t meant for you anyways.

I’m finally putting an end to living my life out of fear and listening to my inner critics, especially in terms of making my travel writing dreams a reality.

“Don’t live your life out of fear,” reassuring myself softly, while hovering the mouse over the PUBLISH button. One last gasp as I settle with the idea. “Don’t live your life out of —