I should have been doing my final preps this week, packing, and stressing over the last details of a well planned thru hike. I've diverged from the plan in the fact I am off the plan, and will not be back on it for I think many years to come. Somehow I planned myself out of going.
So goes another failure to launch in a long string of failures. I've spent a lot of money, educated and prepared myself as best able. Yet when the critical moments of execution come I have discovered the inherent flaws of my ambitions, making it pointless to continue at this time. I so wish I could be like some people who ignore things like that and just blindly push on...
The main problem, one which I find common in many people's lives who find themselves grinding through their routine day after day like Sisyphus up the hill, is lack of meaningful purpose. Not to say people don't have generic purpose of survival like providing themselves with food, water, and shelter. But folks know intuitively when their life is unfulfilled. You have likely seen them, hunched over the steering wheels of their car on the morning commute blankly staring at the car in front of them, or just looking up at nothing in particular standing in the checkout line of the supermarket. Worse yet are the frenetic types who seem like they are constantly busy answering text messages, running about to this errand or that, desperately trying to keep occupied with trivial things because if they stopped for one moment, they might realize what was being done had no intrinsic value and served no meaningful purpose to them.
I sometimes envy those, sometimes I must emphasis, who can dive head first into the shallow pool of organized religion. I think to myself, why can't I just relieve myself of all logic, reason, and free will and let someone else dictate my behavior telling me what I am supposed to think. I get to blame everything bad that happens to me either on God's will or on the evil of the devil, so long as I just do what I'm told. Much easier, and it at least gives people a strong mock sense of purpose. It is what has kept communities glued together for centuries, which I imagine is why the shamans of long ago concocted such things in the first place.
We have unfortunately seen those workings begin to unravel within my lifetime with nothing as strong to replace it. Hence, things have gone to shit with exponential acceleration. So when one of our leaders gets on TV and protests that the world would be a better place with more religion in it, they are technically right in a sense, so long as everyone is drinking the same kool-aid of course. What I fear the most in this regard is religion being replaced with an evil Orwellian nanny government telling everyone which jumpsuit to wear on what day. Keep your friends close, and your high capacity magazine guns closer I guess.
Please don't confuse my disdain for organized religion for anything other than my contempt for certain human behavior and how we treat our fellow humans. It has nothing to do with faith. I'm all about faith. I just despise how some people twist faith to their own ends and watch the sheep follow.
But I digress...
Purpose, as I was saying, is a lacking thing in people's lives, and we all find ourselves looking for something to fill that abysmal hole those old fashioned purposes once filled. For my grandparents, it was God, Country, and Family, and roughly in that order. Everything one did were to those ends. For my parents it was less God, some Country, mostly Family. When I was a teenager, my purpose was Eat, Sleep, TV, oh, and to worry about global thermonuclear war bringing about the end of the world. Nothing serious.
Things steadily declined from there. My simple purpose was eventually co-opted by everyone's notions but mine. I had to go to college, get a car, get a job, get a 401k, get married, have kids, send them to college, spoil some grandkids, retire, find a hobby, and then die. That apparently was what normal folk did to constitute a purposeful life.
Well, I went to college, which I hated and didn't complete to my liking. I got a car, but I have grown to hate driving. I got a job which I hated, then another job, which I hated, and another job...etc, etc. The 401k evaporated into recession oblivion. I got married, which I do not hate, but we did not have kids, which I'm unsure whether I like or not. Grandkids...well that follows logically as well as temporally that I haven't yet, as does retiring and dying. So, here I sit with most of what I was supposed to be accomplishing either undone, or unliked. Why? Because most of it really wasn't the purpose I was seeking. The glass is still mostly empty.
As you may have guessed, since this is a blog about the AT, one of the things I had come up with to give me a sense of purpose was a big adventure. Most people seem to seek out a big adventure in their early lives, usually being some romanticized objective to match what they've read in a book or seen in a movie. Everyone wants to be Bilbo or Indiana at least once in their life. The AT was to be my journey to the Lonely Mountain, minus the dragon and orcs, but perhaps to meet a few dwarves and elves along the way.
Then I grew up.
In growing up I discovered things that distracted me from the big adventure for quite some time, mainly girls, and food, and the newly growing home video game addiction that had only just begun when I was young. My college pursuits did not involve dreaming about trekking through the green forests of the east coast, nor even the three "R's" as I ignored most of my classes at times, but rather the 3 "D's" of dames, Doom, and dessert.
I also discovered, to my dismay, that I liked nearly everything and had at least a workable talent in most of those things, which made it extremely difficult to find a path to follow. So I bounced around, wasting time and money to see which of these things "popped" for me, what truly sparked a passion. I was rather bothered when on close examination many things humans have concocted to pass the time were, like the matter that makes us, mostly empty space. Needless to say I grew very disenfranchised with life for a time, and fell into the trap of pure distraction. Since I couldn't figure my own shit out, I decided to take my mind off of things by piling on the more mundane problems other folk seemed to be having. Their pseudo-trauma became mine, knowing full well most of what they were suffering was self inflicted and rather inconsequential in the grand scheme. Solving other peoples life puzzles kept my mind busy, and my bank account empty, for quite some time. I attempted many times to regain a focus, but something always came along to distract.
The one grand thing that came with helping other was educating me about life and what is truly important, and that what is important can be as unique as the individual. I'm only now refining what things are important to me, and what brings me joy in my existence. At this point in my life, it isn't being cold, wet, tired and hungry for the soul purpose of getting from one place to another so I can boast that I did it.
In another ten years maybe I will decide it is important to me and do it for my own reasons. Right now, I'm still busy finding out what is important, and what my purpose has become. Till then, I wish any who are out there on the trail this year the best of luck, and hope you gain some knowledge of yourself on your big adventure.