Tag Archives: thinking

The Appalachian Trail

Hills. The Georgia portion of the Appalachian Trail is a hill – both ways – always going up. Except when you’re going down. Going up or going down – uncomfortably down.  Trails that go up hills, then sharply down them. At least that’s what it feels like after 31 miles of them.

Beauty. There are beautiful views – views that make it clear why they call them the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are streams that run along most of the valleys that are equally as beautiful. It’s a great hike.

Appalachian Trail - 26

Thinking. At about 15 miles in my hiking partner and I stopped talking. The combination of exhaustion and spending the last 12 hours together left us without much to stay. That’s when most of the thinking begins. The valuable part of hiking. You start to think about a lot of stuff. Shower thoughts. Like:

  • It’s weird that we can drink filtered sewer water, but we’re supposed to boil fresh mountain spring water.
  • It seems strange that I spend 10 hours a day in a small room looking at a screen when there is so much outside.
  • I wonder when the last person to step here was. And here. And here. And here…
  • If I’m so happy hiking – with almost nothing – why do I feel like I need so much stuff?
  • I could eat so much right now.

Why does my brain have so much to tell me at One in the morning?

What is it about trying to fall asleep that instantly sends my brain into hyper-drive. My thoughts rush through my brain at a million miles a second as I come to realizations, have brilliant epiphanies, and relive memories I haven’t thought about in years.

I cam to the realization that I am a dying species. I am the last of the human race that is likely to remember what it is like to write a research paper by hand and to have done said research from an encyclopedia.

I grew up in a house that didn’t have a computer until I was in high school. Since I didn’t have much experience or desire to use the computer I wrote all of my papers by hand. It was obviously inefficient, but we didn’t have a printer and something about hand written papers just felt right.

My senior year of high school literature my teacher assigned us a 10 page paper.  I remember writing several drafts, starting over, and starting over again. I must have written 100 pages. I doubt anyone younger than me will ever know what that’s like. They will take the delete button for granted.

These thoughts quickly lead me down the rabbit whole of my consciousness…

I remember my high school computer class. I remember making power point presentations that forced us to use every feature. I remember spending hours carefully crafting a power point about a car I thought was cool – huge rims and all. Just reliving little moments like that remind me how immature I was when I was 16.

Then I think of moments of adversity. Like the effort I put into sports and making good grades. I see the moments that built character and the tough spots that in retrospect probably shaped my thinking for life. I remember being a leader on the wrestling mat, I remember going another minute when I didn’t think I could. I remember beating a guy no one thought I could.

Still can’t sleep…

What kind of man do I want to be? I read an article today that said that a 75 year Harvard research study showed that relationships were the key to happiness. Good relationships. Do I have that?

Maybe I should work harder on having better relationships. I’m going hiking with Holden tomorrow. That’s good. I need to maintain that relationship. I haven’t spoken to my Mom in almost a month. I need to do better there. I haven’t spoken to a lot of people. Maybe I should make a list of people to call or email every week – just to maintain those relationships.

I’m getting older and I don’t know what’s really important anymore. I used to be so sure. When I was in middle school starting on the football team was all that mattered. In high school it was more of the same. Good grades, good athlete, wrestling, football, college, girls…pretty straight-forward.

College was easy enough. Get a degree, get a job, drink a lot of beer. Pretend to know more than you do. Check, check, and double check.

Now here I am approaching five years into full-blown adulthood and I have no idea what I’m doing. I don’t believe in any personal God to throw my problems to. I am starting to understand the importance of family, but I’m not sure I have family worth investing the energy on. I have a great wife, a few great friends, and a career.

To be honest everything is great. Great – accept – I have that unsatisfied feeling in my gut sometimes. I don’t know what it is – maybe it’s just that I always set my expectations so, so high. So high, in fact, that I’m not even sure where to go. I don’t know what’s next. Hints a guy blogging at 1 o’clock in the morning instead of sleeping.

Thoughts on Family and Happiness

Family, for me, is a conundrum.

On one hand I am fairly positive that family – if you dedicate yourself to it – is probably the most rewarding and fulfilling thing about life. On the other hand – opening yourself up to a group of people takes a lot of work and effort. There is love and belonging, but you are also subject to heartache, anger, and betrayal. There is unparalleled love and comfort- then there is your mom committing suicide and your dad’s methamphetamine addiction.

Family is Good

For example, some of my best memories are of when I was a chubby kid running around with my cousins during the holidays. I remember going to my Grandmother’s house and the entire family circled around the table for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

I remember the butterflies in my stomach the night before because I couldn’t wait to eat serving after serving of home-cooked-southern-fried-everything. I remember the turkey and dressing, the potato salad, the sweet tea, the laughs, and the feeling of belonging. I remember my chubby face and bowl cut – never happier. There was no place on earth I belonged more.

Family can be a real bitch

In contrast I know all too well the feelings of betrayal and anger by those same bastards I call family. I remember the stressful Christmas’s when all I wanted is for my parents to get along. I remember the shit my childhood turned into. I think of the blame I lay on my Grandmother. I think of all the things that have resulted in long rants on this very blog.

Dichotomy

Then my thoughts turn to my wife. I see the amazing, almost disgusting, family she has. I feel such an awkward appreciation toward what they have. I see all the makings of true happiness and I am simultaneously annoyed by it.  Too many emotions my body has built no mechanism to deal with.

Dichotomy.

The most important thing in life and also the most painful – family. The decision to accept and forgive or to avoid and create new. Not knowing what to do – it makes you realize just how human you are, how fragile, even when you want to seem tough.

I’m not sure what makes a person truly happy in life, but the older I become the more I realize that family is an inevitable and necessary part of the equation. So in the end the only option is to embrace it. Embrace family.

But as smart as I think I am sometimes – I still have no idea how to go about it.