Above the World but Mindful of Me
The Hike that Made Me Aware of Some Problems
You will never read this unless some miracle happens and we get back together, but I do not see that happening. I bought this journal to fill its pages with everything I want to say to you. I find myself wanting to tell you everything. I always have, you brought new ideas into my world and I am working on being a better person because of you. I hoped that you would have chosen me over your ex because I always pushed you to be a better version of yourself and toward your dreams. I hoped that there were more reasons to choose me but I guess there wasn’t, so here I am alone. Alone and reminded me that I am too broken, that I am writing in a journal because I am too much and too emotional. That I finally broke down that barrier too late and now spread open with no defenses and my feelings bleeding all over the place…
That was the beginning paragraph of a journal that I started two years ago after a messy breakup with my ex-partner. Even though I destroyed those pages I still remember clear as day that passage and when I wrote it. I was laying on my stomach in a tent, writing in a journal that said I need more space with a pen from where we worked. I was trying not to cry because I wanted to make sure I got everything onto the page before I completely broke down. I felt like everything in my head, every thought needed to be said even if it was just to the universe. So in that tent, I did just that. I wrote about how much they meant to me but also how angry and hurt I was. I also wrote about my hopes and dreams for them, by the time I was finished I was exhausted emotionally but not ready to go to bed. I was also incredibly anxious about camping by myself and even though a good portion of my feelings were on paper the rest were keeping me up.
I had realized that I had spent the last almost nine months frozen in fear. Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of untapped potential haunted me. I was almost paralyzed by it and it started like most people. See, a year previous to this I had graduated from college and like most recent college graduates I was optimistic about getting a job and starting my life off. I did okay in college, had a degree I was passionate about and I had spent every waking moment applying for jobs. When I graduated I was lucky enough to have a choice I could go home or my parents would help me get an apartment in Florida where I went to school. I decided it was more economical for me to go home. After all, I had been to several conferences and won a writing competition, so it shouldn’t take that long for me to get a job, right? Wrong.
Three months after moving home went by, I had gone back to work at my old summer job and I was hating it. I still had no interviews, no job prospects and I was going nowhere. That once optimistic college graduate was fading and fading fast. I decided to get a new temporary job, something that I would enjoy in the short term, and that led me to the place where I would later meet Carleigh. I also decided to go back to school to get my Masters Degree. In one year, I would be on my way to bigger and brighter things.
The problem was things got tough. A lot of people close to me didn’t think I should have gone back to school to get a master’s degree and spent a significant amount of time telling me that it was a waste of money or that my bachelors degree was a waste of money. What made it worse was knowing that I had switched my bachelor’s degree from engineering into my current degree of commercial space operations. I began to doubt myself and my abilities. Even though it was a temporary job I had stopped applying to other jobs. I also had no northern friends and my temporary job was more emotionally draining than I had ever expected.
Then the first love of my life committed suicide. It was in that moment where it felt like my childhood and innocence were all lost like I was officially an adult. From that moment on it was like everything had to be serious and that floundering was no longer acceptable. It was also at that moment where it seemed more like a viable option and that is terrifying.
Shortly thereafter is when I met Carleigh at work and we had talked about representation, books, therapy, and doing things outside our comfort zone. The more we talked the closer we got and well you know the rest. I wanted to be better for her and I started to get the courage to baby steps outside my comfort zone, like ordering through drive-throughs.
When we broke up I knew I needed to get away but I also wanted to challenge myself and prove to myself that I don’t need to be dependant on anybody else. So, I decided that I was going to take a three-day camping trip just for me. Some time alone to get my head on straight, to stop obsessing over my electronics, take a break from my degree, do something that I’ve always wanted to do but was too afraid and maybe find some peace.
After writing the first of many journal entries to Carleigh and the subsequent train to cry town, I researched local hikes in the area. I love hiking but I am always afraid that people are going to judge the fat girl on the trail or that I will hike too slowly for the people I go with. So I spent some time researching and I found the Table Rock hike in Dixville Notch, NH. When I saw the views and the low traffic rating I knew it was the perfect hike.
I drove by it several times before I got up the courage to park at the trailhead. Then I started hiking. I looked at the trees and all the leaves and thought about how they grow and change. I started thinking about the person I wanted to become and the goals I wanted to set for myself. I was really out of shape, so I had to keep taking breaks. At each break I kept doubting myself thinking that I couldn’t do it or doubting my reasons to continue moving forward. I would look at the trail back down and I knew that it was more of the same and I saw the trail that I left to complete as the trail to something new. The trail that would bring me back to me.I would spend a few moments trying to catch my breath, praying that no one would come by to see the out of shape fat girl on the trail who had to take a break every several feet.
When I reached the top I cried. I did it. I did something for me. Not because anyone expected me to, but because I wanted to. I don’t know how long I spent at the summit looking around and taking photos.I got lost in the moment of being up there. Knowing that for the first time in a long time I did something for me. Time seemed to stand still. Even thinking about it now I get lost in that feeling. I didn’t want to leave, it was calm and peaceful. It was me looking out at the world below and for the first time in a long time not thinking about what I had to do or what people thought of me. I could just listen to the sounds of nature, feel the rocks, and relax. I was no longer in the world but above it.
When I was about to leave I realized that it was the longest time I had gone without thinking about Carleigh in the weeks since we broke up and that let me know that I was going to be okay. That as much as I loved them they did not choose me and my feelings for them were going to face because it was just as much love as dependency. Many people choose to leave our lives and sometimes we keep them alive through our own memories and feelings. I did my best to leave my love for them at that summit and just take the memories. I know that they did not value me the way I needed. That everything with them leading up to this moment just left me battered and hurt. I didn’t realize how much my need to be the best or my need to have someone led me to gravitate to those who took what little I had. It was at that summit that I realized how used I was and how I needed to be mindful of my future relationships because I didn’t need that. It was up to me to make sure that I survived and make the choices that lead into tomorrow. It is also up to me to take the time to identify my feelings before it is too late for me to act on them and I miss out on a potentially great partner like Carleigh was.
As I was leaving the summit I looked back one last time to make a mental image of that place. So that way I can go visit there when I need to remind myself to create some peace or new goals or to reflect on one of the darkest places in my past. It was important to me to remind myself that I created my dark place by listening to everyones expectations and allowing myself to be used. So having that reminder was important to me, it was important to know that I could build my own cage or I could continue to be mindful and walk away from it.
It is strange to me that I completed that hike almost two years ago. I had, even more, to learn since I left that mountain then I could ever imagine. I think about what it would be like standing up there and talking to that old version of myself telling them about the person I am now. I am not sure that they would recognize me. I have spent more time dedicated to my health and well being. I have more self-worth and a lot fewer expectations. I also appreciate the little things more like taking the moment to look at a leaf because it is unique, sitting on a bench and listening to the birds because you have the time. I have completed my master’s degree and even though it did not get me to where I want I have a feeling that I am closer.
The greatest difference and the biggest thing I ever did was to choose myself first. I quit my job last December without another one lined up because my last one was affecting my mental health. Finances have been tight and I have moments where I have regretted that choice but then I remember that girl standing on that rock who was willing to give everything to a job and to another person who didn’t value her. I remember feeling used and abused. I remember those first moments that I took for myself on that trip and I have even more faith in making the right choice about leaving my last job.
It is in our choices and in those small moments that define who we are. I am strong, resilient, worthy, and valuable. One day both another human and a company will see that I will have the life that I picture when I am on the top of that mountain.
(I wanted to take a quick moment to say that my experience is different then most and if you know anyone is battling with Suicidal ideation please help them get help or call the sucide hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Also, do not be embarrassed or ashamed to seek help for mental health issues.)
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