10 years ago I was deeply depressed and afraid of life, today I’m halfway through a 2,189 mile hike through the Appalachian Mountains.
I’m hiking solo and started in Georgia a little over three months ago. I’ve been reflecting over the last decade and the unexpected changes which the time has brought forth.
Ten years ago I was 19 years old and in my second year of college. That year I’d transferred from Missouri State to Mizzou in Columbia, MO. I had joined the Navy ROTC with big dreams of becoming a Navy officer and envisioned a bright future at Mizzou.
Very quickly I was overwhelmed. The stress of waking up at 5am for PT combined with the stress of my computer science classes quickly brought on depression. Which I now realize I went through cyclically during my teenage years through my late twenties.
That year I dropped out of ROTC, dropped out of my computer science classes, and changed my major to accounting. I spent all of my time locked in my dorm room playing World of Warcraft(the first expansion, the burning crusade had just come out).
I made zero friends. Did nothing social. I was deeply depressed and had very little hope for the future. I’d just failed at basically everything I set out to do and I knew I was only digging a deeper hole by escaping into WoW.
I had a vision for what I wanted my life to be. I wanted to be fit. I wanted to be successful and happy. I wanted to be rid of this crippling depression and social anxiety. At 19 all of this seemed unattainable.
But something deep down wouldn’t let me quit. The intention to improve was there. The episodes of depression would eventually abate. Each time I tried again. I reached for my dreams anew.
And I failed many more times than I succeeded. I lapsed into depression year after year with each major failure. Seemingly losing every inch of ground I had gained. But each time I would rise up faster. Come back stronger. More determined. With a better understanding of how to take care of myself.
With the perspective of a decade passed I can see now that every “negative” experience and every “failure” was actually an integral block in the foundation of the person that I am today.
My early failures lead directly to my later successes. I dropped out of ROTC after only 7 weeks but I have since successfully completed a six year contract as a US Army Infantryman and an NCO. I failed at computer science and hated my accounting jobs but now I have a successful online business that affords me the time to hike the AT.
It seems to me that fear is the enemy of life. You cannot live if you are consumed by fear. 10 years ago I was so full of fear. I was afraid of failure. Afraid of pain. I was afraid to even leave my room.
Now I’m hiking through 2,189 miles of wilderness solo. Doing things that would have been inconceivable to my younger self
With each step I take through the wild I am less fearful. I’ve hiked through thunderstorms that blew trees down around me. I’ve hiked past 300lb black bears and skirted angry rattlesnakes.
This Appalachian Trail hike feels like a capstone course on a journey I started a decade ago. A journey to find myself. To face my demons. To conquer my fears.
As I step off into the unknown I am certain that our lives are our own. That we are not victims of circumstance. That the story of our life is ours to write. That we are infinitely powerful beings. But only if we so choose.
Only if we take on the mantle of responsibility.
Only if we have the courage to stride forth into the unknown.
Only if we can discard our clinging for security and comfort.
Only then will we find abundant life.
So I finish with this for all those who are lost, hurt, and alone: As long as you draw breath you have the power to change your life. You are more powerful than you could dream. You have everything within you to become the person that you’ve always wanted to be. Face your fears. Get uncomfortable. Embrace pain and failure.
Your life is waiting. Go and claim it.