Numb. Sitting in the office. Staring out the window. Numb.
This was me, a few years ago. Lost in a sea of paperwork, no longer true to myself and in desperate need to feel something. I wanted to feel alive again.
Pain came easy to me as did frustration and anger and it took a little while for me to realise that I had imprisoned myself in doubt.
I doubted myself, I doubted my ability and I doubted that I was capable of achieving anything. I should also mention that I was and still am, about 35 kilograms over my ideal weight. Not ideal.
In one way or another we have all been in this position.
At some point I decided a change was necessary. Not the kind of world changing “quit my job and join a convent” type change, just a change.
I love nature, I love the outdoors and so I decided to hike.
I started small. Easy grade trails, low lying areas just to be out in the sunshine and fresh air. It was glorious. It was quiet and it was all for me.
I soon re-gained some outdoor confidence and started getting properly equipped with mid-rise boots for my dodgy ankle, walking poles to aid my heavy frame up and over boulders and a day pack large enough to carry sufficient water to hydrate a baby elephant and snacks to sustain me.
I was out. But I still wasn’t really feeling anything. Beauty surrounded me but I was still frustrated at myself for being too much of one thing but not enough of something else. But I persisted.
Then one day, I was out hiking the Eagle View Trail in John Forrest National Park- a 15 kilometre, Grade 3 walk designed to challenge hikers with far greater experience than me. There I was looking up at one section where the trail inclines steeply over some tricky rubble, already tired from doing the loop trail in the wrong, more difficult direction and I realised that this was the first time in years I had put myself in a position of ‘needing’ to do something.
We live in a world where at the slightest resistance we can quit and do something else.
Until recent times it had been simple for an employed person, with decent work history to quit one job and move seamlessly into another. If you start cooking an omelette and it turns out you can’t flip that sucker to save your life, you call it scrambled eggs. You commit to a diet and by day 3 your enthusiasm wanes and you give yourself permission to slam a cheeseburger.
You quit, because you can and no one is looking.
Out there, looking at that hill knowing it was 12kms back the way I came or up that hill. I couldn’t quit.
Either path meant pain.
After a quick (read: long) pit-stop for a banana and a litre of water I committed to the incline and I succeeded. Now, to the trained hiker this was no huge success.
To me, this was everything.
Standing at the top surveying the beautiful view; a blister on my right ankle roaring at me for attention, I was feeling something. Something like pride. Something like achievement. Something like triumph.
I felt Something.
Hiking is beautiful. It is an exquisite blend of nature adoration, physical excerption, serene solitude and simplicity appreciation.
I don’t always hike alone. In fact I am often accompanied by The Angry Hiker, The Chatty Hiker and The Restless Hiker; though rarely more than one at the same time.
Hiking can also be a social activity more beneficial than a chat over coffee. Enjoying the presence of another can often amplify the splendour of the hike as you share in the experience of achievement together.
But more than that, hiking is living.
It’s feeling every inch of your body at the same time. It’s heavy breathing and gasping for water. It’s feeling the sun’s rays on your face and the subtle breeze whispering through your neckline. It’s enjoying nature at its finest and it’s committing to something that requires something of you.
Since Eagle View I have taken on more and more demanding trails and while I continue to be a work in progress I can truthfully say that out there, in the bush, is the real me that I always knew rested just below the surface. The me that finds freedom, ultimately, in having no choice but to continue. The me that is satisfied by a tiny water droplet resting on mound of moss. The me that is disconnected from ‘the world’ by being connected to nature.
The me that knows who I am and where I belong.
You’re out there too. The you that wants to test yourself. The you that wants to understand yourself in a deeper way than you do right now.
I challenge you to get out there and find you.
Go on, feel something.