I spent decades of my life avoiding… Nature. And I was good at it- nay, I was amazing! My skin was an actively cultivated pasty color, I had a plethora of indoorsy activities I excelled at such as reading and taking BuzzFeed quizzes to find out what color 90’s scrunchy I am.
But the day finally came. The day when I ventured Out. Of. Doors. *sirens in the distance, children crying, mothers clutching their wee babes to their chest in fear*. And like a million other women in the world, my newfound change in my outlook on life came because I was just too damn busy.
I was 29 years old and had lived in Phoenix, Arizona for a couple of years by this point. I had grown to appreciate the many different hues of brown, the glare of the sun, and found that I actually loved the mountains. From a distance. And in my formative years of living in Maryland I might have dabbled in the yearly hour hike in the woods with some friends in an effort to take an epic profile pic for my Facebook, but I was not a hiker. I wasn’t outdoorsy. I grew up in Ocean City, Maryland and I hated being at the beach. It was hot and sweating was gross.
But at the tender age of 29 I decided to go back to school. That’s right I got accepted into a full time Masters program at ASU and I was excited!! Only problem was I also worked full time. (Insert internet meme of Zach Galifianakis poker scene in The Hangover. God, I’m too lazy to upload the actual meme…). But not to worry, world, I had a solution! Not only was I going to work full time AND go to school full time; I was ALSO going to take this same time to get in shape. Yep, that was my solution: add more stuff to do.
Now hear me out: I worked Monday through Friday. So I could do some school-work after work- work, but most of it would be done on the weekends. But how to motivate myself to get up early (I loved sleeping in at that time of my life, my default mode could best be described as “coma”)? The answer to my dilemma was hiking! I had been hearing for years how that is all anyone in Arizona loved to do. I had a group of friends that were interested in starting this adventure with me (they will here on in be known as my Hiking Posse). The weather was great for it half the year, and the other half I would have to get up super early to beat the heat, so that would give me even more time to study afterwards! Perfect solution!
I soon realized my error. One, I was NOT in shape. The aching, soreness, and stabbing pain was horrendous. And that was just my lungs. The rest of my body suffered as well. I had no endurance to speak of. I am only 5 feet tall, so every small hike made me feel like Spider-Man repelling from building to building. The ground in Phoenix is all dirt and gravel, so super sturdy to walk in. I have extreme anxiety, so the heights and steep inclines are awesome for that. My skin burned in the sun and the SWEAT was naaaasty. But at least I was done early and able to do my school work, right?
NOPE. I was so damn tired after those first hikes I went home, ate, showered, opened my laptop to do work and fell right the hell to sleep.
But eventually things changed. I mean, all the stuff about my lungs, body, and general grossness stayed the same. But I loved it and cut to 2 years later. I hike at least once if not twice a week, and plan my vacations around trails. If I don’t get to hike at least once a week, I am sad. I have explored more of Arizona in the last 2 years than I ever did of the North East in decades. I can now no longer sleep past 7 am, I am a morning person. WHAT IN THE ACTUAL HELL?!
But there it is. Don’t get me wrong, I complain every second that I am hiking. My poor Hiking Posse have heard more grumbling and moaning than a pug farm. They have to literally trick me into doing more strenuous hikes (“just one more switchback then we’ll turn around”, “let’s just see what the view is around the bend”, “this hike only has two peaks to climb”). LIARS! But when I get to the top of the mountain, vista, view, whatever, and see the distance I traveled and think of how far I have come, both literally and metaphorically, I know I will be right back out on the trails the following week. Dammit.