Below is a letter I wrote to myself shortly before I left to start my hike on the Appalachian Trail.
A letter to this guy:
By now you have completed the AT. You have summited Mt. Katahdin and while I have no idea how you’ve accomplished this endeavor and I haven’t the faintest clue yet of all the trials and tribulations that you’ve had to conquer to get there, I imagine you have come out stronger than you were before…even if your body may not feel like it. I hope this letter finds you in great spirits, as I’m sure it should, but I wanted to take a minute to discuss what happens now and remind you of where you were.
It was a little over a year ago you decided to do this trek, along with the following PanAm trip. I guess there were a number of factors that lead up to that decision but primarily you didn’t want to be that person, the one talking about all the things they would do when they retire, putting your life on hold, pinching pennies for a day that may never arrive or you may be in no condition to do the things you wish when the day does arrive. You need to remember this as you go forward. Don’t be foolish and squander what you’ve worked hard for but at the same time remember to enjoy your life now and not put off living. You need to find a happy medium between saving for the future and enjoying the moment now.
So, how can you enjoy the moment now? Well, what do you love? 30 years from now will you remember the time you watched an episode of some show you liked, will you remember the funny youtube videos watched in a good way or will you remember those moments as time lost and wasted, never to be returned.
I hope the lessons you learned on the trail you see as an allegory for life. On the trail, I imagine there were some very hard days, some days when the combination of pain, monotony and weather made you think of quitting yet you somehow managed to strive forward and take that next step and another and another until you walked away from those dark negative thoughts. Life is really no different. You will have bad days, plenty of them, but just like the trail you just have to keep moving forward. Don’t focus on the end, don’t focus on what’s left of the journey because unlike the trail, which had a definite terminus, the end of your journey in life is unknown. All you can do is focus on putting all your strength into taking that next step and then finding some more strength to take another one and so on and so forth until you are no longer given the option.
The monotony can also be seen as an allegory for life as well. I’m sure at points on the trail you might have been bored with every day seeming to mesh together since they were all pretty much the same. Wake up and take stock of your injuries, stretch a bit, eat some food, break camp and pack your bag, ensure you have enough water, place that heavy pack on your back, hike through some trees for hours, find a place to set up camp, stretch and take stock of injuries, cook, read/write and sleep…wake up and repeat. It seems monotonous yes, yet still every single day on that trail you were somewhere you had never been before and were guaranteed to see something that you had never seen before. The same is true of life. The routine may seem different at first but it’s pretty much the same, the heavy pack is simply replaced with the burdens, responsibilities and baggage of life, while roads driven on or trains ridden replace the trees hiked through. The routes may be the same every day yet still the magic of a life unknown lives on in that if you pay attention, every day you will see something you have never seen before and might never see again. Whether that be the people you come across, an art display, or a musical performance, pay attention because something magical is guaranteed to happen if you just pay attention.
Now, before you began this journey you, on most days, lost the ability to see this magic, you were taking life and your time with it for granted. You kept stepping forward like a good hiker but were only focused on the goal of finishing that you didn’t really observe what was going on around you. You did that a great deal on the pilgrimage as well, there it was more necessary as the monotony allowed you to delve deeper into the recesses of your mind but it is time to step forward and become more of a part of this world and experience all the wonders it has to offer. Look up towards the horizon and step forward, trust your feet to find sure footing as they have done already millions of times already.
The only way you will truly be allowed to experience the magic of the world however will be to embrace it and allow it to enter into every crevice of your being. There is no need to sever yourself from the world anymore, you are strong enough to walk this world and face all it can burden you and all those around you with, so why continue to hide behind walls of stone and barbed wire. Be free, be loose and have some fun with what is left of your life.
I truly hope as pretrail Jason, being only moments from stepping out that door, that you have learned these lessons and returned victorious and better and stronger than you ever were.
Sincerely this guy: