I grew up always understanding that the homeless people I seen every day were always, above all else, people.
When I was five-years-old I met my Uncle Ben – homeless by choice. He absolutely could have been a part of society. Just the same that we all strive for and stress over, that same society. But, early on in his life, he realized that wasn’t the life he needed.
I may have grown up “poor,” but I never grew up homeless. My uncle was the pioneer in our family. He seeked out the adventure in life.
Up until April 17, 2017 my family had nothing adventurous to claim. We worked. We payed bills. We tried to relax when possible. Then we went back to work.
Before I knew it my 10 year high school reunion was on the horizon.
WHAT?! Ten years?! You’re sure?!
What did I have to show up with? “Remember me? I used to drive a white car with a ‘White Trash Wagon’ sticker?” “It took me five years to graduate high school!” Or maybe, “This technically isn’t even my 10 year reunion, just the one I should be attending.”
My life hadn’t gone as my grandmother had hoped. I, in fact, never took my schooling seriously and skated by on good looks and a scholarship to Harvard. Just kidding, I nearly failed every year of school I attended.
I knew there was something more. That there was something out there. Something I hadn’t even given half a thought.
Then LIFE happened. I was stuck so deep in a rut that all I knew was work, pay bills, repeat. I barely even noticed the moment the love of my life walked in and stole my heart.
The adventure began.
Three years later we celebrated at a shelter 25 miles Northbound on the Appalachian Trail with a dehydrated apple crisp from Mountain House.
We hiked. We struggled over roots, bottomless mud pits, insane inclines, boulders, rock scrambles, slate slabs, ankle breakers, slick bog bridges, bogs with no bridges, alpine zones, below freezing temperatures, misguiding blazes, no blazes, dry “reliable” water sources, dry sources that were reliable, horrible trail info … seriously, I could keep going.
I set out to prove something not to any of y’all (no offense) but to myself. To my closest loved ones.
I believed taking on this amazingly unrealistic task would be the exact medicine my troubled soul would need. I believed doing this with Madison would strengthen our bond. Make her love me more.
Fellas, just you and me here…THIS IS A HORRIBLE PLAN. ABORT!
It will in fact fuck shit up.
Not tragically or anything, but IT WILL FUCK IT UP.
Thank God in my case it turned out to be for the better.
Turns out, when you live out of a bag, the sleeping arrangements are kind of slim. Carry a double sleeping pad and those options are narrowed down to one: sleep next to her, and hope the bags are still zipped together when try to climb into the tent for the night.
I learned more about Lady in the first two months than I could ever have wished for. I learned even more about myself. I began to realize my fight with my mental illness were futile without her. Without me even noticing she was my rock, and I was hers.
After five and a half months I had been in my highest and lowest points I had ever seen in my life. The only thing that stands out to me is that she was there. Always by my side. I don’t remember the date I summited any of my mountains, but I do know Madison and my boys (Charlie and Bandit) were there. I know without them I wouldn’t have even been there.
The trail will change you. Almost always for the better. It’s the clarity you seek. It’s the peace you long for. It is also the struggle you never thought you’s have the courage to take the first step towards. I was blessed to be able to take this on with my best friend. There were smiles, moments of uncontrolled laughter, fears, and also uncontrolled tears. This is by far the adventure I would choose to never stop living.
Nearly six months in the woods did not prepare me for driving home. Everything is moving too fast and makes too much noise. Previous to the trail my job required me to drive. Now, I’d be happy never to have to deal with traffic ever again. Honestly there are too many cars and the fact that they give driver’s licenses to half of y’all is a miracle (no offense).
Actually having phone service – I haven’t heard my phone ring in so long that strangers keep having to point it out to me. All of your friends and family have no shame in telling you how fat you used to be. Yeah guys… I know… Thanks for nothing.
I honestly can say that I don’t know what the fuck to do with these nine boxes. Seriously, someone is going to have to go through them…
Can I just go back?