Now that the trail has ended I feel compelled to put some sort of finishing cap on it. How does one put to rest a thing they have worked on everyday for 6 months? Maybe “worked on” is an understatement here, I have lived this journey for a significant period of time. Did this experience change me in some profound way? It’s possible. Did I learn things about myself or life? Perhaps. I find myself wondering how to quantify these findings and am somewhat unable to, in any definitive way. I suppose to try to put these findings in some sort of order I should start with where I was when I began this adventure. So where was I? I was a guy that worked 10-12 hours a day, Monday through Friday (sometimes Saturday and/or Sunday). I identified myself by my job. I saw myself as a hard worker, trying to climb a corporate ladder. After a period of time at this job it became clear I had reached the highest rung I could at my current company. The people who were at higher levels in my department weren’t capable of giving up any more control than they had already. This realization is a bit of a death sentence. I could feel myself at the dead-end of this upward trajectory I had worked so hard to keep myself on. Long story short, things eventually came to a head and I was technically let go from this company. I feel that few situations like this end up feeling as mutual an end as this did, however. I wasn’t sad about leaving, with the exception of not getting to see those friends I had in the office any longer. I knew, though, that I wasn’t being let go because I did bad work. I would have risen to the level I was at in 5 years if I was bad at my job. I knew I was being let go because we had mutually given up on each other, this company and I. Towards the end, I would voice an opinion to a superior that fell on deaf ears, which is a troubling scenario professionally when your ideas are not only ignored but blatantly unwanted. But again, this didn’t feel like commentary on me, or my co-workers in the same position, or our collective work. I wasn’t the only person feeling like this at the time or having issues with some of the managers, I wasn’t even the only person let go on the last day I worked for this company. I wasn’t alone in my professional abusive relationship.
So what is a person to do when they finally get out of an abusive relationship? I think in almost all cases, the answer is to “heal.” Healing is a different process for each individual though. So how could I heal? After some long conversations with my wife, best friend, and biggest supporter, Marissa (She’s been mentioned on the blog numerous times throughout the journey), I (we) came to the conclusion I needed something challenging again. Something creative and vastly different from the last 5 years of my life. Her father, Gary (Pie), had done the Pacific Crest Trail in 1975 and I had heard many fond memories from his trail experience. 2,650 miles certainly seemed challenging as the wheels began to turn in my head about this as a possibility. I again sat down with Marissa and we looked at our finances to determine if we could afford the endeavor. It turned out we could get by and that was the final hurdle. So that’s the story of how I was drawn to the trail in 2015 and how I got to where I am now.
After all that, and after 2,650 miles, what has changed? I still consider myself a hard worker. You can’t complete a thing as long and taxing as the PCT without being such. I believe I can accomplish any goal I set for myself. I have definitely altered my priorities as this journey progressed. No longer does more time working mean a job better done. If you are the kind of person that works all night in the office you either love what you do, or you’re doing it incredibly wrong. I know now there has to be a healthier balance between work life and life. I can’t thank my wife enough for enduring those long nights and weekends that I was away at the office. Putting up with those long 80-hour work weeks that would occasionally keep me from participating in plans with family or friends. I hope my next professional opportunity is more conducive to a balanced way of living and I plan to do my part to make it so.
Speaking of thanking people, I must say that I thought daily about those that helped me achieve this goal. That list is obviously topped by my wife Marissa. There are many others that helped me along the way, however, and that list includes my in-laws (both hiking with Gary and support from Sandy), Gary’s brother Steve and his wife Ann (Ice Cream’s parents), my parents (Brian and Wendy), my aunt and uncle (Veronica and Rob) and the countless trail angels who put us up, fed us, gave us rides in and around town and got us safely back to the trail along the way. I’ve mentioned to a few people who along with being the coolest and craziest thing I’ve ever done, this is also the most selfish thing I’ve ever done. I honestly couldn’t have completed this without the help of all those people.
So, where do I go from here? With no more maps to guide me day in and day out, how do I find my way? The answer to the latter is truthfully, “who knows?” There is no blue print for life, you just live it. That is possibly something I didn’t understand before the trail. I used to think that if I worked hard I would climb some imaginary ladder and be a big “success”. Maybe that’s how it works for some. Then again, maybe I want to focus on truly making a difference in the lives of others. Surely there is success in a fulfilling and enriching career as opposed to one that fills your bank account as much as possible. Whether that is working for a non-profit or a school or just being the best husband, son, brother, friend and someday father that I can be everyday then I think that is the ladder I should be climbing. For now, the answer to the question, “Where do I go from here?” is just “home.”
From here I go home, where I belong.