and went to play in the woods instead.
Last January, I walked away from a job that I initially loved and had worked hard to get. Structural changes trickled down and leadership had a massive turn over. New management came through and the environment became toxic.
I felt lost. I realized that I had wrapped my entire self-image and self-worth into my career. I am not sure, but it might end up being a chip on my shoulder for the rest of my time on this planet. The experience changed me profoundly.
Unfortunately, nearly all of my friendships were work-related. It is rather embarrassing and it hurts to say, but losing the shared atmosphere caused my friendships to dwindle quickly. You know how that goes.
At the same time, I inadvertently pulled my head out of the sand and finally faced some hard truths about my 24-year relationship. That’s a story meant for another rainy day, but I mention it to illustrate the Snowball Effect that seemed to occur when I started to evaluate the world around me.
I took a couple of months off and slept. And felt sick. Really sick. Like not able to look in the mirror sick. And I felt useless and aimless and pointless and was filled with purposeless-ness. I mean, I *was* without purpose. I needed something that I couldn’t name. And I was lonely.
On a cold spring day in April, I went into the woods. To hike, to hide, to feel like I was running away- without actually having to run away. It was a distraction disguised as a positive outlet.
I came up with arbitrary hiking goals that included:
- Twelve Miles A Day Because Every Day is Leg Day
- A Marathon a Week or It Didn’t Happen
- Two-A-Days or Bust (super effective way to avoid being at home)
- Muddy and Rainy: Better for the Brainy
- If You Aren’t Crying Then You Aren’t Trying
To feel a sense of control, I avoided any kind of paved trail and sought to find the more unknown trails. The messier the terrain, the better. The less-traveled, the better. I even made a couple of my own.
Over the course of 4 months, I lost the extra 40 pounds that my “dream” job had gifted me through stress and break-room bakery.
I sprained each ankle no less than 3 times, tore my calf muscle (brutal), tweaked my knee, slipped, fell, bruised, bled, and I might have hit my head a time or two. I worked through each injury, taking a day or two off when absolutely necessary. Basically, there was a lot of ice and kinesiology tape involved.
But I needed to push past my physical and mental limits. The physical struggle was the only thing that offered me release, let me cry, feel alive. Without it, everything remained all bound up somewhere in my head.
The exhaustion made my sleep a little less restless — although my legs would wake me nightly with the dull ache of overtraining. But I preferred it, as it was a physical pain that demanded more attention than the emotional turmoil I felt.
I have no real lesson to share here. But I am still out there. Down to 2–3 x a week because of the winter weather and the nightshift job I have to maintain.
And I’ll never stop. I may move to the mountains and make hiking take over my life. The trees, flowers, and even the bugs. The sun, the ice, the mud, the wind, the warm, and the cold. It is all so beautiful.
Maybe I need a hiking buddy. So if you see me out there, stop and say hi.
If I’m crying, stop and say hi, anyway. It’s a good thing. It means I’m breaking through something.
And I will come out of the woods stronger… or fall down a mountain trying.