How does someone wrap up eleven months and forty eight peaks and package it with a nice little bow on top for the world to understand exactly what happened? Truth is, you the reader may never understand this journey unless you under take it on your own and if you are able to, I encourage you to do so. It means so many different things to each one of us that sets out on the trails. I’ve tried to capture what each one of these hikes meant to me in these chapters. And yet even through reading my journey, many will draw their own conclusions. While many will simply follow along with me and enjoy the journey for what it appears to be; A walk in the woods or a trek above tree line.
Each of these hikes has meant something different to me and was motivated by different situations and emotions from within me. Whether I was hiking to celebrate a milestone, avoiding some form of responsibility, or trying to figure out some difficult decisions, I was always hiking for me and for me alone. I was my own motivation to keep me moving forward because there was not a single thing that anyone could say to motivate me quite like I could say to myself to keep going. At any given moment during this journey, I could have walked away. I could have given up. But I pushed through, overcame, and otherwise climbed my way into my own record book. I did this because I wanted to. Not because I wanted to find anyone else. I wanted to find myself.
I am forever grateful to all those that have accompanied me on my journey. We had some amazingly memorable hikes with a lot of laughs and some heart breaks along the way. Each one of you that has walked with me has made me grow in one way or another and from where I started to where I am today, that growth has made me a better person. I was angry and bitter when I started. I could not understand how people could be so heartless. I could not understand because I could not get out of my own way. I could not stop personalizing things. All along not realizing that those that needed to, went their own way because it was what was right for them. What was right for me was to go UP and to keep going until I stood tall and strong. This was a journey about me finding a relationship with myself. To be OK with my faults as well as my triumphs. To be OK with my limitations as well as my strengths.
The largest limitation that I would not let stand in my way was of course my Hashimoto’s Disease. The mental fog and lack of clarity, the lack of coordination, the rapid heartbeat and respiratory system, the shaking hands and legs, the cold chills, the muscle weakness that made it feel like my legs would drop out from under me, and the anxiety and depression, and the unending list of symptoms I encountered while walking the trails and off was enough to give me the strength to keep going. Even on my roughest hikes where I could not seem to keep from falling on my ass, I kept going and I didn’t let it stop me. I kept going peak after peak and higher and higher. Where so many just surrender to disease, I like to think I am going in a different direction. I would not surrender to live from doctor to doctor and pill to pill. I would continue to keep this disease with no cure at bay. And even though there were days and trips that I didn’t think I was going to make it. Didn’t think I was going to get out of bed even. I managed to find the strength to get to the summit and claim what I wanted.
I wanted to find a relationship in the beginning. I wanted to find someone to share the trails with. To so many that means a relationship with someone else. What I now realize is that I gained a closer relationship with myself through the original 48 peaks. I became my own best company on the trails and I needed to do this because I needed to know what I was capable of and not capable of. I was the only one that was going to push myself or pull myself back. I knew myself best and what was going on both outwardly and inwardly on the trails. I was the one that listened to my stories and worked through my own emotions. If I was pissed off, I kept walking and talking until I no longer angry. If I was confused, I tried to walk myself to a solution. If I was happy, I tried to show that by sharing it with others and making it more of an outward expression of my journey. While others may have walked with me, I was my own best companion because I came to know who I was in a different way a more intimate way. I had always been an independent person and this journey strengthened that independence. I may have waivered a few times however; I always came back to the journey and reaching my goal. It was never really about anyone else but the relationship that I had with myself.
So, as I sat in the auditorium in Statham NH, and I watched countless others receive their patches and relived their journeys with them, I could not help but be please with myself for all I had done and all I had learned. The people that floated in and out of my life during this time did so for a reason and I cherished what each had brought to me. They made this journey with me even though it was a path that I walked on my own. And as I sat with my mother and my two good friends who watched me complete my 48th peak that weekend on Carrigain, my name was called and I made the walk up to the front of the auditorium to the roar of a small crowd in the back and the applause of many, I could not help but smile just a little. I had been welcomed into a pretty special community and I finally felt completely at home with not only myself but also the world around me. I found peace in the mountains and I am now able to carry that with me in the low places. I had found myself.