Saturday, April 2, 2011

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

One of my supervisors at work asked me the other day if, five years ago, I ever would have dreamed I'd be living in Texas. I thought a minute, and said, "a thousand times, no." We both laughed.

Not that it's so bad here, really. All I mean is that five years ago I never would have dreamed what directions my life would take. Back in 2006, I was living a hopeless life. Stagnant. College dropout, just working at a dead end job which wasn't terrible, but wasn't great by any means. No goals. I had an online journal back in my late teens early 20s, which I'll never post here, but I look at it sometimes, and try to remember what it was like then. I always find it amazing how depressed I was.

That spring, I embarked on a cross-country bicycle trip, my first hope of breaking out of my doldrums, with no plan but to make for the coast. On the ninth morning of the trip, I was creamed by an 83 year old lady driving a Buick in New Ulm, Minnesota, breaking my bike and very nearly me. I wore no helmet, but was lucky; I survived with only some bad contusions and road rash, but had to limp on back home via America's favorite traveling option: a Greyhound bus. Truth is I wasn't enjoying the trip that much anyways. I was trying, and naturally failing, to run from my demons.

After that little changed for a while. I got a second job to fill my hours up, moved out of my parents' house. Tried returning to college, lasted about two weeks. Finally in the winter of 07 I finally decided to hike the Appalachian Trail, which in 2008 would prove to be the catalyst to finally change my life, to teach me what happiness was and to rekindle my spirit. Since then I've been travelling a lot, working seasonally, three times in jobs involving hiking or trails.

I look back at myself, and at myself now. When I was 17 I would have laughed if you said 10 years from now I'd be some kind of hippie-ish*, hiker-trash guy, living in Texas of all places, hiking these long distance trails, working occasionally, and, the kicker, writing a spirituality-laced blog. I was a pure, strict athiest back then, looking towards graduation and college, assuming I'd have a career someday, a stable, normal life. No one would have said I had it in me for living this way. While I've always loved the outdoors, I was the shy kid who didn't go out much, never the risk taker, the adventurer, and certainly don't conform to the "adventure sports guy" persona. I'm not even very athletic, never was the "physical" type. I'm not the type at all to be living this way.

Yet here I am about to go hike the Pacific Crest Trail. And I don't know where I'm going after that. It's a little scary. I find it amazing that a reserved and cautious person like me is at the same time living this totally unsecure life. Very curious.

But it all just goes to show that you never know where life will take you, what it will make of you. Look back 5 or 10 years in your own life, and ask yourself if the path you've since taken was at all obvious back then. It probably wasn't. The raw material of us, our deep-seated loves and likes, those few core personality traits, can find very unforseen expressions as life plays out; the interplay of variables shuffles your life in a new and unexpected arrangement.

Whatever there is to be said of life, at least we can say it's very interesting.

(*I am NOT a hippie.)


  1. I have hiked the AT and hiking the PCT is still my dream hike. When are you going to tackle that most famous trail? I am 56 now and hope to make it a reality before I am 60. So best of luck to you my friend and let me know how it goes.


  2. "(*I am NOT a hippie.)"

    Sure you're not, I believe ya...really I do. Yeah right.

    I don't know why hippies get such a bad rap. "Dirty hippie" and such. Personally I like hippies, though "dirty" hippies not so much. What people often fail to realize is that looking like a hippie doesn't make the hippie, but rather it's a state of mind and attitude...where it is quite possible to dress conservatively, and hold down a "normal" job, and still be a hippie deep down inside.

    Anyways, when does your trip start? This month?

    Just wanted you to know that I have subscribed to your PCT blog, so no matter how infrequent the updates may be, I will be following along, even if I don't comment. I look forward to reading about it.

  3. Cym Great input about what constitutes a Hippie. You are one interesting lady

    Brandon found the PCT blog, I there with you


  4. True, hippies are fine by me. It's just that I don't fit in with a lot of the supposed attributes of hippies, and so it's not entirely appropriate to be called one. As for the original hippies, I think the free love and drugs ruined the real revolution. I'm not against those things, but don't generally practice them myself. I'm only a hippie in the sense Cym alludes to, of being outside the main culture in mindset.

    It's kind of like how I call myself left-leaning, but not really a liberal. I have feelings that go both ways, depends on the issue. I'm more to the right than left on guns, for example.

    I guess no one likes to be pigeon-holed, but I know most people look at me and my lifestyle and say hippie. I guess I'm okay with that, but where I get to have my say, I never prefer to call myself one.

    The hike begins on April 28th at dawn. Color me ecstatic.

  5. See what a little "experience" can do for a fellow!

  6. Best wishes on your trek!

    Don't let anyone pigeon-hole you, and don't do it yourself. You're just fine. I will be watching your progress with interest, although maybe not from China --I'm leaving for the Middle Kingdom on May 9!--it's the time to move on, I guess.

    I was just about to post something on TAO 61, with a title, "Moving Forward, Looking Back" but I guess I will come up with another title. (We really are having a mind-meld?)

    Aloha from your "old-hippie blog-o-pal" (though I didn't do all that much drugs and was kinda stingy with my free love!)