It’s been 2 and a half weeks since I completed the journey. I’m having a really hard time putting into words how I feel. It’s been very strange to spend so much time in a vehicle. To watch the miles and states roll by. I somehow felt like this was erasing my hard work. Like I spent months winding up a ball of yarn, and all at once, it unraveled.
It was sad when I stopped noticing the sun going down. Losing that light was such a significant part of my day, and it certainly never went unnoticed. Sadder still, is how it all seems like a wild, fanciful dream. Thankfully, there are things I have gained from this experience that have deeply, though it may appear subtly, changed me. I’m such a feeler now. I feel closer to all of my loved ones, and in fact, closer to people I don’t even know. As though every exchange has become more significant.
On the road trip back from the A.T., I felt many things. Sore, for one, from my lack of butt padding (an issue I’ve never experienced before), and from sitting still, after many months of moving forward. I also felt sad to be driving away from New England, and the trail itself. It felt like the end of a good relationship. As if the trail was a friend of mine, that I may never see again. When I got to Pitsburg, to visit my brother, Mitch, I felt like I had never seen a big city before. I stood on the roof of his apartment, close to an impressive back drop of shiny buildings all lit up at night. I marveled, much in the same way I had in my aunt Lu and uncle Dave’s car the first time I got a good look at downtown Minneapolis. Thinking, “Wow, I can’t believe humans can make this!” And my brother pointed out how strange that was, since I’d lived in Manhattan before.
I went for a short morning walk and looked all around me. At the buildings, the people, the cars, the trees, and I felt in tune. Like my eyes were good and open. I noticed my heart beating in my chest and my tired feet, aching slightly against the pavement. And I started grinning at each person that walked by. A Mona Lisa smile, “I know something you don’t know.” Feeling like the luckiest person alive for my beating heart and own two feet. What a gift!
It’s hard to accept how quickly the A.T. has melted out of my life, though not completely. I was sad when my final scabs rubbed off my shins. And though the weight gain is a good thing, I’ll miss my bones. I’ve never been so well acquainted with them. Plus, that was the body of a thru-hiker. Direct proof that I had to give it all I’ve got. Representation of the struggle and commitment and longevity and sacrifice. I lost 18% of my body!
Driving back to Montana was almost too easy. I didn’t get bored or tired, and I think it’s because I’ve gotten so accustomed to being alone with my thoughts. Even as I write this, I feel so glad to have time again to be reminiscing and paying respect to my own achievement. Like my conscience is my best buddy, and I haven’t spent much time with her lately.
I learned so much. The biggest thing being about bravery. Which I think means having faith. It means believing that you can go on, even if you’re scared out of your mind. Even when you think you’ve got nothing left. It’s approaching the world with an open heart and wide-spread arms, not because you’re fearless, and not because you’re naive, but because you chose to believe that life is good. That people are good. And that you’ve got everything you need right there with you.
Things always work out in the end. And as my mom has taught me, “if it hasn’t worked out, then it’s not the end.”