” ‘And so it turned out that only a life similar to the life of those around us, merging with it without a ripple, is genuine life, and that an unshared happiness is not happiness…and this was the most vexing of all’, he noted, ‘HAPPINESS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED.’ ” – Jon Krakauer, Into The Wild (With reference to Dr. Zhivago)
I was challenged. I experienced growth. I am ready to put my learning into practice. And I am done.
Yesterday, I came off the trail. I had my mom come pick me up in Mackinac City once I reached the tip of the lower peninsula, and I was done. The last few days of the trail, I began to ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” or “Do I really care about doing this trail?” And those were some really tough questions to confront. I began to look at myself very honestly and realized that I didn’t actually want to finish the trail by myself. I realized there was a difference between wanting to do the entire trail and wanting to do the entire trail completely solo. And the former was my truth. Of course I really want to do the trail. But I am done doing it alone. And the big life conclusion that I feel has finally been beaten into my head through this experience, is that I am ready to stop trying to do everything alone.
For those of you who know me well, you know that I am pretty stubborn and independent and have always been that way. I tend to take things to the extreme, even earning the phrase, “That’s so Gleason” from my good friend Jesse. The past few years out in Colorado, I have been just trying to soak up as much adventure as I can, with whatever means necessary, with relentless pursuit. While I love that about myself, I have slowly realized, and this trail finally beat into my head, that I also equally love community and relationship. I have been operating under the stubborn impression that relationship/ community and adventurous independence are mutually exclusive. That you either have to choose “settling down” and prioritizing relationships or prioritizing epic adventures. I didn’t want to be “one of those girls.” I have realized, for me, this is an absolutely false assumption.
I think the trail really helped to solidify that truth. For an extrovert, 9 days alone under pretty challenging circumstances, was tough. It was definitely a mental and physical challenge. But what began to become more evident, was that the real challenge I need to experience and attempt to overcome in my life was not some massive physical pursuit alone, but the pursuit of relationship and vulnerability. It’s easy for me to be alone and do things on my own. It’s easy to build up walls and not allow people (and for me a lot of times, specifically men) to help or hold my hand. It’s ultimately easy to set up a tent and plan a bike route and bike a bunch of miles. But the challenge is to be vulnerable. The challenge is for me to admit that I don’t need someone to do these things with me, but I WANT someone to do these things with me and that it’s not weakness to want that.
Strength is not me being able to do everything on my own. Strength is realizing that there is beauty and power in doing things together. Strength is allowing someone in and asking for what I really want. And what I really want is to find the balance between epic adventures and relationship. What I really want is to foster those relationships with people who honor that “So Gleason” side of me and are right there by my side for the ride. What I really want is to stop placing more value on the “epic adventure” than the quiet times sitting with good friends.
There are a lot of things I truly want. Now it’s time to actually start listening.