Hibernation

Winter is still going strong in Massachusetts. There has barely been a day above freezing, which means I have not gone outside except for the brief walk to get a coffee. After I finished writing my PCT journal in early January, I suddenly felt like I was three months behind in life. Mentally, I had just finished (re)hiking the trail. It wasn’t the best feeling. The holidays are always super hard and extraordinarily lonely for me, and this year was no exception. And then, it was time to start searching for a job. Nothing has come to fruition yet, or even close to it, actually. I’ve spent hours and hours scrolling through job postings every day and occasionally submitting cover letters and resumes. It seems that all biotech jobs want people who are experienced in cell culture and mouse handling, which I can’t say I am interested in. Ideally, I would like to teach yoga, give presentations on my PCT hike, and have time to write, but it is becoming increasingly clear that it will be nearly impossible to support myself by teaching yoga. I wrote a four page proposal to send to companies in the area, along with my resume and a flier, offering to teach on-site yoga classes as part of a wellness program. I’ve sent off 25 of them so far, with 20 more ready to send out tomorrow. I have only heard back from one of them, telling me that they already have several instructors. I have had a few interviews to teach yoga, but nothing has come out of them. One was at a brand new facility centered around acupuncture and tai-chi. The man interviewing me knew nothing about yoga and didn’t ask me to audition. I asked him how they were going to select their teachers. He said he didn’t know when they would be ready to offer classes. I also interviewed at a pilates and barre studio, where I did give a demonstration. She said that what I taught felt good and that she would get back to me in a day or two, but I never anything from her again. My third interview was with a town recreation department (all of these places are over 30 minutes away from where I live). It was the easiest interview of all. The director loved my resume and hiking experience, and said that I have a lot to offer! They would want me to teach three classes per week at a very minimal pay rate. However, nearly a week later, they still haven’t contacted my reference, and I have no idea if they are actually going to hire me and when the sessions would start! Finally, I have an opportunity to begin teaching a few classes at another brand new studio (also over 30 minutes away), but the pay is insulting! After taxes are taken out, as well as the expense of gas money to get there, I will make essentially nothing to teach a 75 minute class, with at least an hour of preparation, an hour of driving, and being there before and after class. Essentially, I will be paying them to teach there! And I will have to drive an hour north next Saturday to audition for this! If I get these last two jobs, I will be teaching 7 classes a week, all in different directions from my apartment, and will barely scrape together enough money to pay my rent. I still will not be able to afford any groceries, pay my bills, or save even a penny for a future hike!
Sometimes, I think I should just go back to work in a lab, even though the commute itself will exhaust me, and my soul will be sucked out of me. At least I will have medical and dental insurance for awhile, and although I will take a drastic pay cut, I will at least be able to save a little bit for a hike. However, I have yet to get an interview for one of these jobs!
I’ve felt like a huge ball of confusion these past few months. I really don’t think I can take one more winter here. I’m not strong enough for it. All I want to do is stay in my bed when it’s dark and cold out. I feel that if I move to a place with more sun and moderate temperatures, I will be much more productive, and at least I will be able to get outside for a little walk! I went on a total of one three mile road walk this winter!
I am so envious of the people who are hiking the PCT again this year! UB has already been on the trail for several weeks (he never got a job and I have no idea how he is supporting himself). Another hiker who was the best writer of last year’s class has decided to hike the trail again. She is currently working on transforming her journal into a book, which she hopes to publish this year (as well as running 10-18 miles a day!). And Muk Muk is currently hiking the Camino del Norte!
My intestines are still not healthy, so I don’t think hiking would be ideal for me at the moment. Some days are awful and the pain won’t subside. I also don’t have a resupply person, so that is a huge issue as well. I figure that I need to find a way to earn some income before I can hike another long trail.
When I mentioned that I couldn’t believe I’ve been off the trail for more months than I was on it to a girl at my yoga studio, she responded, “You’re still thinking about that?!”. Of course I am! There isn’t a day when I don’t think about it and wonder when I can get out there again. My existence off-trail is completely opposite to my life on trail. The loneliness, the winter weather, the lack of productivity, and the lack of movement have made me feel awful! There were several times when I was going to write an update here and then decided against it because I didn’t want people to receive an e-mail in which I essentially was telling them I’ve been depressed. It doesn’t feel good to feel like this in the first place. I was very thankful when my friend Weeds published this post on post-trail depression: http://thenewnomads.com/?p=2014
It helps to know that I am not alone in how I have been feeling! And because I don’t have a support system around me, it has made the process even more difficult.
Other than job searching, I have been sorting through my 8,200 photos that I took during my hike in an attempt to make a slideshow. It took me about 7 weeks to get the number of pictures down to about 3,400, after which, the struggle to choose was becoming even more difficult. I asked one of my yoga teachers how many photos she would like to see if she came to a talk and she said 60-100 (!!). Really?? Then, she asked me how many days I was on the trail and then said I could pick one picture for every day I was out there that represented that day. I asked her how long the slideshow would be and she said six minutes! To me, one picture per day does not represent my journey at all. That would be more of a random collection of nice images. And a six minute slideshow is something I could just post on my facebook page. The following day, when I started to go through my pictures again, I decided I would try to select five per day of my hike. However, even that was extremely difficult. By the time I got to the Sierras, I was feeling more and more angry! Five pictures for my Mt. Whitney summit? For Forrester and Kearsarge Pass, which I hiked in one day?! I hiked close to a marathon in miles many days out there and saw an incredible amount of scenery that can not be represented by one or even five photos! No wonder I have been feeling so miserable- stuck inside, not moving at all, and living without a purpose! It makes complete sense!
In the past few days, I finally put together a 34 minute slideshow, representing the entire length of my journey, and made a soundtrack to go along with it. This is the length that I originally intended it to be! It will be my first slideshow with an embedded track! (My previous ones had a separate track, requiring me to manually click each photo, trying to stay in sync with the music!). The program did chop off a lot of my very carefully cropped photos, but having them in this format makes me feel like I did not entirely waste the last two and a half months… Now, it is time to start putting together the talk to go along with it! (The scary part!).
While these winter months were not exactly happy ones, I did have a chance to do a lot of self-observation. I have now been able to witness myself in a job that brought me no fulfillment over the course of many, many years, how I am during a thru-hike with all of its stresses and demands, and now jobless. It’s clear that life is stressful no matter what position you are in. The reasons for the stress are just different. And it is clear that many of my personality traits and moods are consistent in the different situations.
In the next few weeks, I have to make a clear list of what I want out of my life and formulate a plan on how to obtain these things and how I can release the blockages that are holding me back. Should I move and where would I move? (I feel like I would have the most friends in Portland, but how would I make a living there and do I want to be in a place where it rains most of the time?). Do I follow my heart and pursue teaching yoga even if I know I can’t support myself, or resign my existence to working in a company until my next thru-hike? (At least I would be able to take yoga classes and earn some income). And how do I market my talk to companies? (as well as find teaching jobs in those places?) I feel like I have the most to offer through writing, teaching yoga, and giving talks about what I have learned from my long hikes.
It’s been difficult living a minimum of 45 minutes away from the city (or sometimes 2 hours with traffic!) because no one wants to make the drive to visit me and because it’s hard to justify spending more time (and money) to drive to a yoga class than the actual class itself. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be able to afford my own apartment in Boston and I prefer to live in a quieter place. So many quandaries…
Time to start waking myself up and gaining some clarity!

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