Goals are important. Duh. We need direction to make us feel productive. I've found it's easy to become lost, especially at my age. I have never been one of those people to focus all of my energy on one thing. I loved baseball growing up, but I played basketball almost everyday or tried to ride my bike over the dirt jumps at the lake, or threw the football to myself (yes, I did this a lot and it probably looked pretty pathetic to passing cars, but I perfected the art and actually made it fun and somewhat challenging). I majored in Psychology, but only after I majored in Advertising and History Education. I took a major course in English - black poetry in American Literature. I took French History and American Foreign Policy and Foundations of Social Science Education and Psychology in the Classroom and Advertising/Public Relations - all of which didn't count towards anything really. Some asked why I wasted all of that time - I didn't, I was genuinely interested in all of it. But my education was never directed like my pre-med/nursing/enter direct path here friends were. The thing is, I don't want to do one thing for the rest of my life, I love way too many different things, but I still need goals. It's easy to be overwhelmed by the options of life when you have so many choices, but I'm thankful that I even have those choices in the first place.
My goal since I graduated has been to hike the Appalachian Trail. I didn't know why, I could just feel every cell in my body screaming for it, my brain consumed by it. Very quickly (and I mean when I was on the Approach Trail, before even reaching the official start on Springer), I realized this ultimate goal of finishing the Appalachian Trail could not be pursued directly, but rather accomplished through a very long string of smaller goals. My thighs were cramping up so bad in the heat on March 19th, that my goal was just to make it to the shelter, 7.5 miles in. The next day my goals were to pass my first whiteblaze, and make it through the first night in my tent, and hang my bear bag successfully, and not get injured. Goals take the form of destinations a lot - getting to the next state, the next town, the next shelter, the next peak. I climb mountains like they are the last one I'm going to have to climb - extremely hard and fast, without stopping until I get to the top. And then the terrain levels and my leg muscles relax, and my heart rate slows, and the sweat stops flowing as a breeze runs through the fibers in my shirt. And then, I repeat the process all over again.
Some daily goals of mine have been to change my attitude, or appreciate the moment, or walk more quietly to see more animals. I have been motivated to make the best meal yet or just simply to make a meal. I have walked to get away from creeps or to find flatter ground, or to a place with cell service. I have kept going solely for a cold beer, or a hot shower, or a warm blackberry cobbler. Sometimes I have my mind set on just making it to the next road crossing. On my third day I was so excited to get to Woody Gap, I told someone we only had about a mile left as if we would be reaching our final destination at Woody Gap. It didn't matter that I had 10 miles left in my day, Woody Gap was my ultimate goal in that moment (Iced cold Cokes and candy bars at Woody Gap definitely made that goal worthwhile).
When I get back on the trail, I'm not going to know anyone. It feels like I'm starting back all over again. I got a text the other day from my friend Mayo, wishing Pauline a speedy recovery, and telling me he still hopes to summit with me. He's a probably going to be a good 250 miles or more ahead of me when I start back, but I want to add "catching Mayo by Katahdin" to my list of goals. At the Nantahala Outdoor Center, a group of us were 4 or 5 beers in (way more than enough for me to feel it in my constant state of near dehydration), and we started talking foolishly about what we were going to do when we summit Katahdin like we didn't have to hike 2,000 more miles to get there. Our ideas weren't really creative in our state - getting naked, popping champagne, getting naked, getting drunk, getting naked, I don't really remember. But I do remember Mayo, always the sober one, promising me we'd drink beers together if we summit together. Not a huge incentive haha, but after hiking with him through the first 500 miles or so, I hope to have those beers with him at the end.