I’ve been putting off writing this post for as long as possible. I think I had somehow convinced myself that if I don’t write the blog, then it’s not really over. That I’m still on the trail. That I’ve just taken 17 zero days in a row. I wish that were the truth. It used to feel like being on the trail was this long dream that I was going to wake up from. Now I just keep hoping that soon I’ll wake up from “real life” and be back in the woods. I had been told from my first week on the trail that readjusting to life without it is much harder than adjusting to life on it, but it’s hard to understand that until you’re going through it. Even in my last week before Springer I was sad that it was all coming to an end, but didn’t think I’d be one to have “post-trail depression”.
Readjusting is weird. The other day Allison and I were in the car and I was shivering from the cold. Suddenly I remembered that if you’re cold in real life, you can change the weather with a turn of a dial. How cool is that! I rediscovered that I can control the temperature.
There are many other perks like that that I’ve rediscovered, like light bulbs and purses, but most of the readjustment hasn’t been in concrete things. I was honestly shocked at how easily I slipped right back into my daily routine of checking my phone, having the ability to drive, and having a daily schedule. I think that may have been the scariest part. I’ve worked so hard for the last five months to make changes within myself and within a matter of days I’ve already seen some of those things slipping. It’s so easy to distract myself in the “real world” with technology that many of my old habits are already coming back. Don’t get me wrong, it has been amazing to reconnect with old friends and have immediate access to the news, but it does come with a cost.
I, along with the rest of the world, was shocked and devastated to hear about the attacks in Paris, as well as in Beirut and across Israel. It makes me want to run back to the woods where I can so easily be blissfully ignorant. Life is simple out there. You worry about basic necessities, like food and water. Beyond that, your mind is open to focus on personal growth, connecting with others, connecting with nature, and spreading love. On the trail I was used to smiling at and talking to every person I pass. I miss that. It’s amazing what a little smile and “hello” can do. Not that it will do anything to change the atrocities that have already happened, but I challenge you to spread a little kindness this week by making a conscious effort to genuinely connect with those around you, even if just in passing. I think a lot of people need it right now.
It has also been a particularly tough week at Project Canaan, the home base of Heart For Africa. They caught a serial rapist, lost the life of one of the children’s caretakers in an auto-related accident, had a fire deliberately started by locals on their property, had two babies rushed to the hospital, and two babies in surgery. With so much sadness going on in the world it’s hard to see the light, but I truly believe it’s there. It’s only through love that we can rise from such devastation.
This past week I had a meeting with Beth Blaisdell, Executive Director and Head of Fundraising at Heart For Africa. We talked for a while, discussed our options, and eventually decided where to focus the money we’ve raised over the last six months. Because of the donations you’ve all so generously given, we are going to be able to fully furnish the entire first grade classroom. I could not be more thrilled! Together we have been able to raise nearly $3,800. It’s this kind of love that gives me hope. Your generosity will directly contribute to the education of children for years to come. In addition to all of the furnishings, they will put up a commemorative plaque recognizing this journey and your dedication to these beautiful children. I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I cannot thank you enough.
I will keep the Go Fund Me up for one more week. Any more donations we’re able to raise will go to furnishing the first grade teacher’s office. We are only a few hundred dollars from making that happen. It’s this kind of love that gives me hope for the future. It’s amazing to know that, at least in this classroom, built through love, that these kids will be filled with love and hope. This is the future.
On October 29, 2015, I finished my journey on the Appalachian Trail. I walked 2,189.2 miles, crossed through fourteen states, saw thirteen bears, one moose, one rattlesnake, countless other wildlife, took two trips to New York City, a trip to Washington D.C., a trip to Portland, Maine, a trip to urgent care, saw seven plays, was given nearly $400 by complete strangers, had five complete breakdowns, made friends with some of the most selfless people I’ve ever met, and learned more about myself than I could’ve ever imagined. I learned that I am smart, strong, and brave, and that there are no limits to what I’m able to achieve.
It’s funny how the most common question you get asked on the trail is also the most difficult to answer—What made you want to do this? What could possibly make someone want to do this? It’s crazy. It really is. I am reminded this anytime I look at a map of the trail. I walked a stupid amount. Before I started the trail I really had no idea why I wanted to do it. Yes, it sounded interesting and like something I’d enjoy, but why? Despite not knowing, I felt with certainty that this was something I needed to do and, for some reason, listened to that voice. I think that maybe, just maybe, I’ve figured it out. Through my trip I’ve proven to myself time and time again that I am limitless. There are no bounds if you don’t impose them on yourself. I was told nearly everyday on my trip that I should be scared, that it would be safer just to go home. I was constantly told that I was asking for trouble by embarking on this journey. I had a choice to either listen to this fear or to make the decision not to be scared. I chose the later. After all, there’s no point in giving in to fear. I realized that if I was as scared as everyone told me I should be, then I never would have taken the first step out my front door. Every single day I chose strength, and in doing that have gained an unprecedented amount of confidence.
After summiting Springer, the boys and I took our pictures and headed down the mountain to meet our families. The sun had just popped its head through the clouds and the birds were singing a song of celebration. I stopped for a minute to take one last picture and realized that I was the only person there. I stood on the summit and took in the world around me. I accomplished this because I decided I could. I did not do it alone. I had my family supporting me, my friends cheering me on, other hikers looking out, and God lifting me up. I am so thankful for all of these people in my life. It was your support that helped me get here. It was also on that summit that I realized why I did this. And when I realized that I’ve actually always known. I decided that I am boundless. I realized that I can do anything. Can you?
I encourage anyone to also check out Janine Maxwell’s books, “It’s Not Okay With Me” and “Is It Okay With You?”. They’re both phenomenal!
Heart For Africa Blog