Hey there! Long time no post!
While I’ve thought about posting a few times, I’ve been told recently that “sayin’ and doin’ are two different things”. It’s been a helluva summer. Let me fill you in…
My summer was full in many ways: adventuring, dating, learning new skills at work. But there was also an underlying sense of sadness. At first, I couldn’t put my finger on what was making me feel restless and irritable. I kept telling myself that it was because I was watching other people’s thru hikes unfold on social media, and oh how I longed to be out there. But it took me until pretty recently to realize that I was just lonely. It was hard to even say the word. Lonely. But there it was, and I was faced with a personal mental health challenge: wallow in it, or figure it out.
I spent the first part of the summer getting away from the city at every opportunity. If you follow my Instagram (Smidge_does_stuff), you’ll know that I went to Colorado a couple times to hike/camp in the San Luis Valley and the San Juans, backcountry camped at White Sands National Monument during a full moon (😍), explored parts of New Mexico I’d not been to, and basically lived my life outdoors as much as possible. I had been seeing a man for the first half of the year, but was single again in June, and started dating again in July. There were a couple of nice guys, but there were also a couple of strange ones. But guess what…that’s dating, and I enjoy it. Meeting new people can be a lot of fun if you’re open minded and ok with general weirdness.
Later in the summer I was stoked to learn that my part time job at REI was sending me to ski tech training, and I was over the moon. I love to work with my hands, and I love task oriented work (the operating room fed this need as well). I had been previously trained by REI as a bike mechanic, but they had not yet scheduled me to work in the shop. Now, shop shifts were inevitable, and I couldn’t be happier! To have a skill that is NOT nursing related is huge to me. If they keep me on in the bike shop after snow sports season is over, and let me hone my bike-wrenching, then I’ll have year round skills that I can take anywhere! I am so happy that I am able to produce tangible work in an environment that allows me to be me. This has been the best development in my life recently.
But back to loneliness. About six weeks ago I was faced with a decision that would’ve disrupted my life in so many ways had I chosen to accept an invitation. I will admit that I romanticized the idea of “what-could-be”, and caught myself doing logistics in my head to see if the possibilities existed. But then I was transported back to reality and remembered that I was not in the mood to work that hard at something that wasn’t working that hard for me. Guess what- I made the right choice. But it really forced me to examine where my mindset was. What was I seeking in life right now? Why was I letting myself believe that a relationship is what I wanted? I didn’t want to be married again, but I also didn’t want to be alone forever. I love where I live but I don’t know if it’s where I’m meant to be? Ugh.
Admitting that you are lonely is, well, lonely. It feels like you’re the only person without a someone. And while I’ve lived on my own for far more years than I’ve spent living with men, it would be great to have someone to smush spiders that creep into my bedroom for me, and someone who knew exactly how I like my toast. But then I think about sharing my space with another human, and I start to get weirded out. Do I really want someone around ALL THE TIME? No, I definitely do not. Wow- how easy that was to answer. But where was the middle ground? Oh yeah- dating. Dating is a fun way to learn more about yourself than anyone else. And if you can’t find fun in meeting new people, then I feel a little sorry for you. Get outside of your comfort zone!
I tend to let myself slide in the winter (see post “There are two types of hikers- Part 1” about my anxiety slides), and I wasn’t going to let myself wallow in loneliness another minute. It was time to use some tools in my mental health toolbox. Winter is coming, and months of premature daily darkness could feed my anxious brain equally dark tales if I let it. So I started making a plan for next year. One that I would have to work on all winter long, and well into the spring. If my brain wants tasks to complete, then I’ll provide tasks. I’ve started running regularly again, and I’m running with others which keeps me accountable. Goal #1: complete the American River 50 miler (again) next April. And Goal #2: hike the Pacific Crest Trail southbound.
I sat down over the last few days and really hammered out some logistics, and I can say with 95% certainty that I’ll be starting a sobo PCT hike in/around July 1 next year. It will be an entirely different adventure than my time on the Appalachian Trail last year, but I expect to see quite a few familiar faces heading north as I make my way towards Mexico from Canada. And I know that over this winter, maybe I’ll sometimes wish for a companion to share my plans and my excitement. That will be 100% ok, but I will remind myself that loving me (unconditionally, even when I’m being difficult to myself) is the best I can do for anyone around me. I’m proud of myself for allowing time to grow and evolve and recognize behaviors. I’m turning into exactly who I want to be, and that’s what matters.
Allowing ourselves to feel the emotions that our society historically doesn’t embrace takes courage. Being publicly vulnerable is scary, but the honesty of it ultimately is what’s rewarding. It’s been a fun but tough summer. I experienced a good lesson in self-reflection by giving myself time to process what I was feeling and figuring out how to adjust. I’m sure most of you reading this have been lonely at some point in your life. And I recognize that loneliness doesn’t have to be the result of not having a significant other in your life. It could mean many things. Loneliness can be crippling if you let it. Understanding that it doesn’t have to dictate your life, though, is key.
So this is me sayin’ that I’m lonely, but this is me doin’ something about it. Kick ass out there, everyone.