That’s the thing about fear; it never goes away, you just find ways to overcome it by becoming tougher and then lie to yourself till you face it again.
So many people chase their fears hoping they would vanish. I did too. Appalachian Trail, as much as it felt like a calling, a part of me knew I was walking into everything that frightened my soul to the bone. A month or two to pass seamlessly on mountains, I thought would be nothing heavy. But it was, and so were our bags. We only made it through a week, and with bodies full of bruises. To many, just seven days, but to us, a beginning of a beautiful little eternity.
My soul sister Jessica and I spent a few days on this magnificent trail that runs through the East Coast of the US from Georgia in the South to Maine in the North. We did a mere portion of Virginia. For her, an honor to her dad who had hiked huge chunks of the trail in the past, and for me, well, the first time I was ever going to camp or stay without showering for more than a day. They said we were too brave to just pick up our bags and hiking boots and set off on a journey through the wilderness. But I don’t think I had ever been more certain of any decision.
A mile in and I felt alive. We started with what is said to be the most beautiful spot on the trail – The McAfee knob. We let our fears summon the worse. A teenage black bear welcomed us two miles in and it stared at us as we at it and yes, I was thrilled as much as I was scared to death. Whistles and sticks, we made some ugly noises to escape from the bear slow and study. Jessica and I stole a brief glance; we were in for an adventure, the kind you do not know whether you come out alive from. But hell no, we continued. Up and down with our sturdy bags, feeble minds, and hungry souls, we climbed mountains.
Come sunset, we found spots each day to pitch our tent. The darkness at 7 pm stole my breath away. It almost felt like I was blind even with eyes wide open. Nothing was visible yet nothing had ever been clearer. I didn’t just hear the noises that nature made to celebrate the nightfall, I felt them. Every little rain drop that touched the ground and every leaf that swayed due to the cold breeze; every howl that coyotes sung and every chirp that crickets flaunted; sniff and snore; the clearing skies giving in to the glittering stars above; everything that was in the night of the nature was so heavenly to inhale. All I had to do, keep my arms open.
A big lesson that got me was how much of happiness there is in the little things that one doesn’t otherwise see. Yeah, I mean little things like peanut butter. I hated it; until AT happened. Undercooked rice as we ate before rain gobbled us up, we stared at each other and laughed our stomachs off; “five-star hotel food, Jess!” “Oh yeah, Arushi, I have never had food this well-cooked!”. 90% of our comments passed were sarcastic and only to keep ourselves optimistic and alive.
But heights, I dread heights. It is one thing to say you can do it and another to actually do it. I was on the edge of at least four or five pointed cliffs. Nothing felt more like freedom to me than the moment of absolute fear when I looked down at the world which wasn’t even visible because we were above clouds. I realized, how liberating having no voices in my head can be. I was filled with wonder up to the brim. No cell service, no snapchat, IG or Facebook, no phone calls, text or music; I felt home. Drifting away from the world is like drifting toward your own self. I used it to the fullest and screamt in the middle of the jungle for as long and as loud as I could, and let everything unprocessed within me out.
Back to where I said, ‘the beginning of a beautiful little eternity’, that’s what every sunrise felt like. Jessica and I were able to clearly process a lot of what lay beneath in our chests. But mostly, I just realized how good of a friend she is to be able to be with the most stinky version of me who poops and pees in front of her. I knew soon after a ten-mile dehydration drill that we would not make it in how less we had prepared. But I was nevertheless so proud of us. I knew that I wasn’t done with the trail when I left it. I sit here tonight wondering whether the snake, wild turkey or the deer that we saw miss me. I know, random, but that’s where my blogs come from, so I am just grateful for my weird brain.
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Until next time,