I felt compelled this morning to write today's post. This topic has been on my mind for awhile, but I hadn't set out the time to write my thoughts down.
Last night before I went to bed, I had seen on a hiker I knew from last year's FB page that he had passed. I didn't believe it. I texted his hiking partner to confirm, and I woke up this morning to hear that it was in fact true. I was devastated. Even though I had only known him for a short amount of time on trail, he was a huge part of my story. I sat in tears as I thought about every encounter I had with him. His good spirit and kind heart were apparent to everyone around him. He was different and not like the others. I later learned that he was a believer, and it all made sense to me. He was my brother in Christ.
LAST YEAR COMING HOME AFTER INJURY
When I got home in 2016, it was still early in the season, but my body was broken. Somehow, I wasn't worried or anxious about anything though. I had a temporary place to live with my sister indefinitely. I also immediately started working full time and commuting downtown with Girlfriend, and I was so busy with so many PCT side projects that I was working on. Life was busy, and I almost immediately got back into the swing of normal life so quickly. The only thing that was a bit sad was that it was technically still summer in late August and I couldn't do outdoor things, but it didn't really matter because I was in a boot and couldn't really do much. So having a steady job, a place to live and seeing my friends were great. I adjusted back to "normal" life just fine. I wasn't like those other people who were scared of cars, city lights and traffic when they got back. Except I noticed that city folk were rude, impatient and got mad about things that didn't matter.
WHY COMING HOME THE SECOND TIME AROUND IS HARD
This year, I made it to Canada, and I finally finished what I started. The goal I was working towards since I made the decision to go back in early 2017 was completed. I came home immediately the day after I reached the border. I was in Canada for less than 24 hours before heading back to the states. When I got home, I needed to find a new place to live ASAP. I wanted to move out of the Bied's by Oct 1, I told myself. I know that I wasn't technically rushed to be out, but I just wanted to get out of their hair during the remodel. It literally felt like I was dropped back into the city from Middle-earth and had to quickly get my shit together.
First of all, trying to find a place to live with no income is not ideal. I obviously couldn't apply to live on my own because I wasn't able to show proof of employment nor income. I had contacted a few prospects while I was hiking, but they were mostly looking for a Sept move in, but I was clearly still hiking and had no idea when I was really going to finish. When I got to Stevens, I had no service for 10 days, so it seemed like I dropped the ball on some leads. When I got home, I met up with some potential rooms to rent in some houses, but they all ended up going with someone else or I was too late. I'm pretty sure it's because they didn't trust that I would pay rent without a steady income. I was feeling so rejected and discouraged with housing. It was really sad. Then I met up with a mutual friend, and she ended up trusting me and letting me move into her condo. I also was presented with my own bedroom AND bathroom, I was completely sold. I haven't had this since I lived by myself in Eastlake, pre PCT the first time. Also, the rent in Seattle is CRAZY right now. You basically can't get a decent place to live for under $800, and this is just for a room to rent in a house with like four roommates. Once I got everything moved and unpacked, I finally felt settled. My new place felt so warm and cozy for the winter. I even got to put all my old wall decor up! Okay, so I got one thing I was stressing about done and crossed off my list.
Now it was the job hunt part. As always, applying for jobs is very daunting. Perfecting your resume, writing cover letters, updating references and lots of clicking on the interwebs, feeling insecure about my lack of skills and experience. As of now, I've been unemployed for a little over four weeks. I've never had this before, especially with not having a "purpose." Except that my purpose right now is to find a stable job that's full time with benefits. But waking up every day, with no schedule, nowhere to be or be responsible for is hard. I like routine, and it helps me get motivated for day-to-day things. I mean, each day I wake up knowing I need to apply for jobs, but the process is daunting. It's like I know exactly what type of organization I want to be part of it, but making the steps towards it is really difficult. Especially in a place where the job market is SO competitive. I also felt a loss in direction. I am open to basically anything right now which makes it harder for me to make decisions. I get paranoid that I will choose the wrong thing and regret it later. But I do know that I came back to live my life differently than I did prior to the PCT. I'm trying to exercise, but it's extremely unmotivating because the weather is cold/rainy, it's so dark in the mornings and I have no money to join the gym. Running just hurts my joints now. I've gone on a few weekend trips, but the mountains are all rainy/snow now, and I told myself I never wanted to do anything cold anymore (not really). I also haven't made much effort to see people besides the normal ones. I feel guilty when I'm not constantly job searching. I don't personally have experience dealing with depression, but I do know that coming home this second time has been much harder. A loss of direction, motivation and seasons changing. I'm starting to see that post-trail depression is real. I hope and pray that those struggling post-trail are seeking the help they need and have loved ones to support them. I don't want to lose another friend.
WHY I DON'T WANT TO THRU-HIKE EVERY YEAR
Okay so I love the PCT, I love the trail, any trail and I will always be a hiker, but everyone is always asking, "What's your next big hike, etc?" and honestly, nothing. I don't want to thru-hike every year and be one of those people who live "nomadic" lives. I don't care about living in a van and climbing. I don't care about traveling all the time. And I sure as hell don't care about triple crowning anything. If you do, then that's awesome and no judgment there, but it's not for me. I have so many friends who do hike every year, and I wish I was like them. I'm like pushing 31, and I want to be stable and have a home. I want a place to store my things. I like having a bed and feeling comfy. I like being able to go grocery shopping and roast vegetables. Most of all, I love my friends, family and community I have at home. I have people that I love here and I know that these people love me, and it's not because I hiked the PCT. They all have known me for so many years prior to my "outdoor" life, and they know things about me that my trail friends don't. Hiking is temporary, the people in your life are not. Pick and choose the things that you want to prioritize and take value in them whole-heartedly. The trail isn't real life (for most). I want to continue building roots in my community, buy a small house a very long time down the road and maybe have a family someday. Sounds like the American (Asian) dream, right?
I felt like I had been so selfish for the last 2 years because I had set my heart on hiking the PCT, successfully. Even the last 11 months when I was prepping for round two, I felt like such a moocher. I was working randomly to break even in my expenses, paying for cheap rent for a place I clearly didn't deserve and feeling stingy with being generous towards others. I like being stable and working to support myself with no help. Maybe that's just how I was raised, but I just hate mooching and having people see me like I'm struggling to make ends meet (when I'm not). I mean yes, the PCT was absolutely amazing and the best thing I did for myself, for my soul and my well-being. But honestly, I believe that thru-hiking doesn't really benefit anyone except myself. I've had friends tell me I've inspired so many people by doing what I love. Yes, I think that is incredibly amazing and encouraging to me, but I want to make a difference and directly benefit the trail and community itself and it doesn't help that I trample on more trails. Whether that's working with at-risk youth, coordinating programs for various groups to experience the outdoors, leading women, trail maintenance, helping people with disabilities with opportunities in employment, etc. They also ask, "Don't you think you can hike and also help people?" Sure, I think that's totally possible, but how? And will it be that be long term? I know I am capable of so much more than just knowing how to walk long days and take pretty pictures.
So that brings me to job stuff. I want to part of something that helps people, whatever it is. I've been really drawn to a few non-profits here in WA and applied for some entry-level positions. Who knows where I'll end up, but I do know I came back from the PCT wanting to do something more meaningful with my life. I want to be around my friends and famlies who are all having babies and growing their family. Not that I felt like I was not doing that before, but I am more driven now and know what I want. I just have to be patient and make baby steps to get there.