To Quack or to Soar? That is the question.

I woke up, pulled my eyes open and took a deep breath. “Beds are just…bleh,” I thought to myself.

The last four weeks that I spent on the Appalachian Trail were some of the most social of my life. Everyone talks to everyone almost all of the time. Fellow hikers want to know where you have been, what you thought of the terrain, where you are headed and what kind of person you are.

So instead of unzipping my sleeping bag, caterpillaring my way out of the material, removing my headlamp, packing my journal and book into my night bag, and swinging my legs over the side of my backpacking hammock. Instead of unzipping the bug net, inching my feet to the ground to wiggle my feet into my camp shoes, rezipping my bug net and crouching until I could escape the low set rain tarp…I just..stood up. Weird.

I threw on some clothes for a quick run along the bay of Avalon in New Jersey. Other runners of varying ages and fitness levels trotted past and it made me think…. “if real life were like the Appalachian Trail, every runner would stop to talk to the other runners.” I knew, of course, that off of the trail it wasn’t socially acceptable or time efficient to talk to every person you pass on the street, but I yearned for the open, comfortable interaction and tried to suppress the desperate urge to give everyone who passed me a high five.

The next morning was similar, but I awoke after a night of excessive partying and felt anxious. I had an itch to get up—I felt out of place. After a month of feeling so small in this world, suddenly, my silly puddy insides had filled the room and were seeping through the cracks in the windows and doors.

Avett Brother’s in my ears. Shoe’s laced. A deep, unsatisfying breath and a tear welled in each eye. The bliss and positivity I acquired on the trail slipped away. My legs, tired from a month of walking, screamed at the newfound pace of running.

Recently, a friend of mine told me that you can either quack like a duck or soar like an eagle. You can either choose to complain about the things that bother you or you can soar over them and see positivity. At that moment, I decided soar. As each person passed me, I waved to get their attention, pointed to my raised hand and offered it for a slap. The question was obvious and almost everyone was receptive. I wish I could say I was doing it for their benefit–maybe my high-five fueled them for one more mile! No, it was selfish–I cured my own black blaze…one high five at a time.

6 comments

  1. This is awesome! I grew up in MA close to the AT and as a kid always admired the hikers I met. They were all so friendly and seemed to be at peace with the world. What a great experience- and something that will always be a part of you. It was great meeting you – we should definitely hike together soon!

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