For those who don’t know me personally you may not know my husband and I hiked from Mexico to Canada, twice. Does this define me? No. Yes. Maybe? One of the most difficult things after a really long walk is merging back into society. Everyone is busy, the world is loud and everyone is moving 100mph to do something bigger and to be something better. I remember getting off the trail after hiking the CDT and I felt like I was that person in the movies where they focus on someone sitting still and speed everything up around them. I still feel like that sometimes. Ultimately, in my life, I just want to be still and enjoy my kids and my husband. I want to hike and explore, travel and try new foods, drink a good beer and watch a sunset.
My husband never talked to anyone much about the trail. When we hiked the PCT together it was so life altering for me. I wanted to tell the world, I published my journal and I felt like it was my job to tell anyone and everyone that would listen to me. He said one day, “Do you notice when you talk to people about the trail that most of the time they don’t REALLY listen?” and I realized, yes, it’s true and I felt sad and longed to be back out there away from the rat race. Of course there are the people who do listen and you have my mom and dad who tell perfect strangers about us. I love that. I’ve had friends I’ve known for years that probably don’t really know much about me at all. That’s okay.
It took me a very long time to find myself. I do realize that sounds completely cliche but I have no other words for it. My husband can attest, I can go a mile a minute and have 200 projects going all at once and can be organized and prompt…and in the very same breath, I am making coffee while drinking a mimosa in my mismatched clothes and Muk Luks, swaying to Bob Marley or Hot Buttered Rum (Eric says I have the same dance for every song) and jabbering on and on about the trail. Right now that’s not the season of my life BUT it reminds me to slow down and be still and it makes me smile. Every. Single. Time.
After the trail we would socialize and meet friends of friends because “you will love them!” or “they are just like you!” and every time we would sit and have a drink together utterly exhausted from listening to how busy everyone was or what their plans were to redecorate their kitchen. After awhile we realized that we have each other and that is enough. We don’t need to feel obligated to go and do things that don’t make us happy. We are at our best sitting on top of a mountain together or in our pajamas on a Saturday morning listening to records and watching our kids move about. We have friends across the country and there are definitely times we wish they were right next door. For now, we know who we are, we aren’t defined by a job and we find great comfort in living this beautiful, slow, simple, mediocre life. We spend our time doing things that are meaningful to us. We contribute to community, shop local, do things we enjoy, eat good food, drink good wine, stay up too late on occasion trying to soak up some kid free time and in the grand scheme of things try to avoid that feeling of obligation. There seems to be this inherent need to be busy in our society. I just need to be still.
We still get caught up sometimes and it feels like we’re going in circles and we know ourselves well enough to realize it’s time for a new adventure. Right now on our wall we have 9 different places written in Sharpie that we want to live with an ongoing list of pros and cons. We’ve made big life decisions drinking 40’s of Malt Liquor and rolling “decision dice” and even by throwing darts. I’m not saying this kind of well thought out plan is for everyone but it has taken us on a 3,100 mile walk across the country and to a tiny village in the Dominican Republic. Once, our dartboard held the words “ultimate happiness” on the bullseye as we laughed with friends after way too many drinks long ago working at a lodge in the middle of the woods. So now, when we need to make a big decision, we always aim for “ultimate happiness.”
In the end, it’s important to realize that avoiding unhappiness is not the key to happiness. For some, maybe “busy-ness” is what makes them happy. For me, I want to lead this small and simple life where I find happiness in the space of “in between”. I love our great adventures. I love the feeling of reaching the monument on the Canadian border after hiking 3,100 miles and I love rocking my babies to sleep at night. Both are great adventures. While I can’t wait to see what’s in store, every single day I remind myself that this is my life and right now my greatest adventure is whatever I have right in front of me at this very moment.
So my challenge to you is to find your ultimate happiness and I’m not talking about what everybody else thinks should make you happy. If you can get past that feeling of obligation I’m pretty sure you will experience the freedom to be who you are. That is all.
P.S. I LOVE this journal The Happiness Project. It is a 5-year one sentence journal to record all of those “little things” that happen each day.