Stafford, VA - Mile 2189 - Sep 10th, 2015
Well.... It has been a week. A good week. A fast week. The Hokies took a bad loss, but I am convinced they will recover. Most of this trip was about falling, failing, and recovering. Picking yourself up and dusting yourself off. Getting up and getting going in the right direction, again and again. The Hokies will do the same as I did. They will learn from their mistakes, grow, and get better. It will make them stronger. I am sure of it.
Anyways, I made it back to VA, from Maine, in about 16 hours. I got a free ride from my buddy Turbo and his mom. They took me all the way to Charlottesville, VA, my recent stomping grounds. I had a friend pick me up at 1am and have been trying to acclimate to the "real world" ever since. My body still aches a bit. My feet are still numb. Oddly enough, I sort of injured myself while resting. I slept awkwardly on a bed and have a terrible kink in my neck. But I'll pull through. Its in my nature. The "real world" seems faster and bigger than ever. There seem to be twice as many cars and trucks than I remembered. Showers, pillows and beds, while terribly missed, still seem a bit foreign. A bit too domesticated for an outdoorsman like myself. Even the name Jason, seems a bit out of place. This whole process may take awhile...
As I look back at all my photos, my memories, and friends, I still can't put into words what this thing really means. How do I describe the transitions I went through? The effort I put forward, the rewards I have received. The people who changed not only my hike, but my life's direction. The acts of kindness from total strangers. The evolution of my trip from an outdoor adventure to perhaps my finest, proudest moment. My biggest success, my greatest dream-come-true. From changing my perspective to guiding my future, this trip will forever be held in high regard. It signifies the point at which I took my life by the horns. Rode it from Georgia to Maine; and learned to enjoy the simple things in life. I learned to love the tests. The challenges. The struggles. I enjoyed finding myself. Finding and aligning my spirit and mind. Allowing my body to follow suit. Utilizing natures beauty, the positives and negatives, and everything in between to push me forward. Northbound.
On the long trip back from Maine, Turbo's mom had a number of questions. One of which struck a chord. She asked "were there any fears you had going into the trip?"
I remembered immediately, my one concern. What if I suddenly lost interest in the trail? What if I wasn't having fun, if my goals changed and the journey's end no longer mattered? What would I do? Quit? My only concern was losing what had been ever-present in me, since I first heard of the trail some 15 years ago.
It was a legitimate concern, but never once came to fruition. I loved the trail too much. I experienced too great an adventure. There was no way I would lose interest in hiking the AT. It was too much of a good time. It was too motivational, too powerful, too interesting and exciting for the lure to wane. Each day was filled with an electric intensity. In all honesty, it was intoxicating. It grabbed me from the beginning and may forever have a good hold on me.
Now, as the trail is behind me, I have only one concern. I don't want to forget what I learned. I don't want throw this thing in the memory bank and forget about it. I want it to be with me in everything that I do. I want to keep it close to the vest. I want to keep it in my heart until the day I leave this world. It taught me too many valuable lessons. It taught me what LIVING is all about. It showed me how to open my heart. How to wear my heart on my sleeve and to be proud of who I am and where I come from.
I have a confidence now that I have never had. I know so much more about riding the waves of life. I know how to use the lows and highs of life to facilitate my own success. How to push myself and maximize my own potential. How to set a goal for myself and chase it down with every fiber of my being.
The AT reinforced my belief that we are all capable of greatness. That we all have within ourselves the ability to be happy. To live free. To realize long lost dreams. That it is never too late to start truly living.
I look at things through a unique prism these days. I am so happy to have the light shining so brightly within me. The perspective it has given me is what I have always desired. It has provided me a new way to look at the world. It gives me hope and faith in humanity. Something the "real world" had a way of slowly dissolving. I hope these feelings never leave me. I hope to share this with others. To help inspire others. To show everyone that living is a precious gift. That every moment in life is actually an opportunity. That giving back is the way forward. That experiences like Thru-hiking the AT are more rewarding than you could ever imagine. That a rich life has nothing to do with money.
I see it now. I have it. I live it.
For me, for now, thru-hiking the AT is my greatest feat. But there is no time to rest. I will use this journey to inspire my next. Whether the Camino de Santiago or the PCT, I will be on the hunt for a new adventure. I will work hard for the next 6 months, then I will take off on a grand new experience. Allowing each one to inspire the next. It makes perfect sense. What better way to proceed in life?
Anyhow, I will be painting and repairing homes for the next few months. Trying to stockpile some funds. Then, who knows. I try to keep it open... not locked down. I try to allow my own goals to adapt and evolve. I do not want to be stagnant.
So, we'll see how it goes.
I know I am in a better place than when I began. My mind and heart are clear. I am headed in the right direction.
I look forward to catching up with everyone in person. I have plenty of stories to tell and am happy to answer any questions anyone has.
Again, I can't thank you all enough. You folks and this website are what gave my journey special meaning. I am forever indebted.
Thanks for the support, the interest and the motivation. Thanks for joining me. Thanks for hiking the AT with me. I hope to see you all soon. This is not the last of Michelangelo... it is only the beginning.
Stafford, VA - Mile 2189 - Sep 10th, 2015