Sitting on an Amtrak train in Charlotte, NC, in the middle of the night, I find myself awash with unexpected feelings that I find hard to articulate.
I got a beautiful note the other day from an old friend. She has been reading my blog and wanted to express her support for my AT thru-hike, even though she’s not in a position to contribute money.
I replied, of course, that her thoughts mean far more than a donation would, and I meant it. There are parallels between her situation and mine that bring tears to my eyes. She is going through some terrible times right now and it seems she is drawing some comfort from my writings.
I can’t begin to describe how odd this feels to me. A motivator in trying to be open about my struggles with depression is certainly the hope that my story can help others. Still, somehow it feels very strange to know how strongly my words are resonating with people, and how much hope they seem already to be bringing to their lives. How much hope I seem to be bringing to these people who are themselves so wonderful, so caring.
I find it a little uncomfortable to see this evidence that I actually do have an impact on others’ lives, far beyond a level of which I feel worthy. It sits strangely to know I am, in many ways, already accomplishing exactly what I set out to do, but on some level never really believed was possible.
I’m not talking about the physical journey of the hike so much as the emotional one.
I hadn’t realized, when I posted a few links to a fundraising page, that doing so would completely transform the nature of my hike. The generous response from friends, acquaintances, and people I have never even met has taken what is, at its core, a fundamentally very selfish thing and morphed it into something imbued with all these levels of meaning beyond just my own happiness.
I now feel a tremendous obligation to the many kind people who have shown support that I make it all the way to Katahdin, whereas before
–just a week ago!–this trip was just something I was doing for me, with no consequences beyond personal satisfaction.
Over the next six months, I will be hiking the 2,185-mile length of the Appalachian Trail. I am dedicating my journey to HIKE for Mental Health, an organization that directs donor contributions to mental health research and the preservation of wilderness trails. At the time of this posting, I am 89% of the way to my dollar-a-mile fundraising goal. Learn more and help me get there.