If I could actually go back and talk to myself from ten years ago (not the fictionalized, demonized, and, far too little, romanticized version of myself my memory keeps alive), I wonder if I actually knew how ambiguous my life seemed. I spent most of my time off of work indoors and on the couch. And, although I still read books, would often be staring blankly at whatever the TV had on that was mildly entertaining. I think I know I wanted more, but I can’t really remember when that thought actually popped into existence.
The most relevant time that I can come too would be May 2010. After a hard first year in a new state, my wife and I wanted to treat ourselves to a getaway for our anniversary. We had little money, and less experience with travel, so we wound up in a Bed and Breakfast not even a half hour from our apartment. There was nothing extravagant in the home. There were no magnificent attractions that drew us to it. It was just a farm house in the middle of a field.
After taking the first day to drive back to the side of town we knew to eat at the same restaurants and walk the same familiar malls, we decided to avoid that the second day. The next morning, unsure of what to do and hungry, we crept into the awkward breakfast situation that accompanies a B&B and began talking to the couple who owned and operated the home. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing me gracelessly meander my way through social interactions, then you know it was not a memorable, or enjoyable conversation when I was at my height of anxiety around new people.
To the credit of the couple who housed us for a long weekend in their guest room with the 1980’s trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s house décor, they quickly ushered us out of the home with directions to a local park. Neither one of us were dressed for a hike because it had been years since either one of us had gone on a hike. In the three years we had been married I had managed to put on almost thirty pounds by munching on cookies and downing them with multiple sodas. I was a home body that enjoyed the air conditioner and a good set of blinds to block out the sun. It was the good life, until it wasn’t.
I don’t know why the short walk in the woods sparked such a fascination in my mind. I hadn’t had any desire to spend time in the woods since the ninth grade when I ran cross country, but just a couple quick hours of walking through the trees brought back a non-stop cavalcade of memories. I started picturing my friends and I making our own trails to each other’s houses, walking the railroad until we knew we had to turn back to get home before dark, and charging into a pine wood with no concern for how to get back because we knew we’d reach a road somewhere.
I really don’t know why I let that feeling slip away as I got older. There’s a plethora of choices that are made in high school about how we want to see ourselves as well as how we want the outside world to see us. Trapped somewhere in that scared kid’s head was something against the youthful joy of running aimlessly in the woods.
After that short hike, I’ve been finding myself walking through pine wood forests, hiking up snow covered mountains, and running miles and miles on end for no reason other than to be in the woods with other people who want to do the same. I sincerely hope that in another ten years I will only have dived deeper into myself to reignite and inspire the passions that lay beneath the years of doubt and insecurity. I really feel like I’m getting a chance to live a good life, but I’m certainly open to it getting better.