On the last full day I was camping, I went for a hike. I’m pretty sure this was the day after the loon incident because it was cool enough for me to wear a sweatshirt that morning and not want to put on my swimsuit and hang out by the beach. Hiking seemed like something worthwhile and therapeutic. As a kid, I remember hiking with my parents and then later with my cousins. We always seemed to spend hours and hours on the trails, and when we decided to return for pizza pudgie pies, it seemed to take hours. So I prepared by double knotting my tennis shoes, filling my nalgene with water, stashing two granola bars, a two-way radio (walkie talkie doesn’t seem like a legitmate device), my ipod, camera, and finally hooking Jack on a leash. I was pretty sure I would be gone for three or four hours, and I figured I was prepared with 32 ounces of water and two granola bars.
The hike was beautiful. I let Jack off the leash and he walked ahead, sniffing and pausing every now and then for me to catch up. I don’t spend much time in nature. You might think this would make me savor every experience in which I’m surrounded by foliage and chirping birds, but I don’t. It’s not that I was bored by the hike, I just kept wondering if other people walked the same trail in awe of the trees and creatures that inhabited them.
I was hoping that the trail would lead me far away from the campground, where I would actually be in danger of being lost. I’m not sure what part of that I was craving – the isolation, the powerlessness, or the twisted sort of lack of responsibility that comes with either of those. Part of me was thinking this would be a way to escape, if only for a few hours. But I’m not sure what I was escaping from. My phone hadn’t been on for days, I wasn’t arguing with anyone in my family, I certainly wasn’t stressed by life at camp. Maybe I was thinking that if I escaped (got lost in the woods), I wouldn’t have to return to my normal life. My normal life that consists of monotonous office work, a wavering desire to be active and healthy, a useless Netflix queue, a virtually nonexistent love life, and a sort of sick gut feeling of needing to do more with my life.
But I didn’t want to really do that. I didn’t want to live alone in the woods with my dog. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m comfortable on my own. I’ve started to appreciate the fine art of being alone. I like having the freedom of creating my own adventures. Right now they might not be the most exciting adventures, but they’re more than what I had over the last year or so. The long distance thing with Bill sort of clipped my wings (sorry for the cliche). It’s not that I was unhappy with it – I was comfortable. I liked my routine of work, read/write, text and videochat with Bill. But I didn’t see my friends much because I was often waiting for him to be done with class or rehearsal so we could talk or hangout via videochat. When I did hang out with my friends, I was alert to the vibration of my phone when he would text. I missed him terribly when I was out. I missed the coupledom even though I was part of one. Of course that’s something you sign up for when you’re in a long distance relationship, but I didn’t realize the repercussions. What I’m really getting to is that what I saw as my being loyal to my boyfriend was really just me being complacent with my life. I didn’t really challenge myself to meet new people. I didn’t push myself to write more. I didn’t explore my own creativity. I didn’t enjoy my immediate life.
But I’m starting to do those things. I’ve met several new people in the last few weeks. I’ve gone places without the security blanket of a friend to force myself to meet new people. I’ve rediscovered my itunes library and made Pandora stations that inspire me to create things (Santigold & St. Vincent are particularly good). I’m truly enjoying my friendships again. I hesitate to say that I sacrificed those things while I was in the relationship because Bill enriched my life in many ways. Also, admitting you sacrificed things while in a relationship is essentially admitting that you’re a dependent romantic who can’t even feign independence. And I don’t really like how that sounds. “I was just a really dedicated girlfriend” sounds a lot better than “I used my relationship as an excuse to become complacent and dependent on one person for my happiness.”
I think that’s what I was hoping to escape from. It was something I had learned over the previous few weeks but had been reluctant to articulate. I considered just leaving this revelation to myself, but I’m a bit of an exhibitionist (And Other Reasons to Have a Blog, a book by Ashley Otto) because there’s always been a part of me that doesn’t truly admit the truth of a statement until I write it down. When I was in elementary school, I didn’t officially have a crush on someone until I wrote it in my journal. What does that say about me? Whatever it is, it’s probably something pathetic. Maybe that’s why I’ve waited over a week since returning from my vacation to write this post: I’m not exactly eager to admit I’ve made mistakes and have weaknesses.
Anyway, I kept getting annoyed when I would pass a campsite or see that I was near a road. It was further proof that I couldn’t just escape reality – physical or psychological. Finally, I resigned to the fact that as long as I stayed on the trail, I would be close to camp and wouldn’t be left to die of starvation or dehydration. It was around then that I put on my headphones and listened to Bon Iver while I traipsed back to the campsite. For a while, I had pretended to be enchanted by the natural state of my surroundings. And it had kind of worked. It was beautiful and picturesque in the way that a camera is never able to capture (though not for lack of trying), but what I really wanted was a soundtrack to help me imprint the afternoon in my memory.
And anyway, what could be more Wisconsin than hiking up north with Justin Vernon crooning in your ears?