The first three National Parks I visited on my #journeyman trek all liberally used a "one moment in time" theme (cue the Whitney Houston).
Each park - Zion, Grand Canyon, and Arches - sit on the Colorado Plateau. Each park was made of ancient layers of sediment that was pressed down into sandstone and then elevated by plate tectonics. Millions of years later a river rolled through or the rain and wind raged, and the landscape changed. They are all still changing today in fact, as rocks fall and sands move. I know all of this because I diligently watched the visitors center movie at each park.
It's like the 1970's "be here now" movement. These parks are here right now, but in a hundred or a thousand years, mere seconds in their history, they'll be completely different.
Like the parks, we are also find ourselves in a unique one moment in time. Unique to each of us. Unique to our pressed down layers of experience. Unique to the storms of tumult that weather our mountains of knowledge. Unique to the winding river of life that cuts through our personal landscape.
We will all change. We will grow taller, delve deeper, shift in one direction or the other, and lose things along the way. But through it all we gain experience, uniqueness, and beauty. We really aren't so different from the Grand Canyon, the Balanced Rock, or the Virgin River Narrows. We are unique.
All we really have and all we can control is this one moment in time. Your past layers of experience got you here and future erosion cannot be predicted, so all that really matters is... now.
Now we have a choice: lament the past and stress about the future, or be here now to marvel in the beauty of this one moment in time.
I say we choose to be here now, because like these national parks your unique moment in time is a pretty magnificent place to be.
"Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." ~Dr. Suess
In case you didn't already get this from the sad, lament of a poem I posted few weeks back, I'm not good with goodbyes.
It can be anything from the end of a long vacation to the end of a dinner, and my heart sinks a little. I'd like to think it's because I love people so much and want to hold on to the good times as long as possible. I definitely know part of me is anticipating the melancholy I'll feel as I look back on it. Alas, I've already written on the topic.
Either way, I‘m acutely aware that this mournful pre-nostalgia isn't very mindful.
As I sat in my tent at Yosemite on the penultimate day of my journeyman trip, I was waiting for it. I always get bowled over in the waning days. I'm so aware of it at this point that my brain now sends out an early emotional-tsunami warning. Time to prepare for the coming tidal wave of nostalgia.
But the wave never came.
Out of all 7 national parks I visited, Yosemite is the only one for which I was already familiar. I've been there more than a few times. Growing up and now, it’s always been close to my heart.
For most of the rest of the trip though, each park, forest, trail and camp felt foreign and unfamiliar. Some literally felt otherworldly - Arches is like Mars, Zion is Venus, Yellowstone a wooded Neptune, Mount Hood like Pandora from Avatar, and Redwood is definitely Endor.
But as I arrived at Yosemite I was welcomed home with familiarity. The trees, the mountains, the view of valley itself, the smell of the woods, even the freeways and truck stops on the way, all familiar. Yosemite, to me, isn't another world, it's California. It's home.
So I knew the end of my journey was nigh - I could feel it. I should have been upset by this. I waited to turn the corner on a trail and have it suddenly jump out and attack me, like the bears they warn you about.
But the bear never growled.
Maybe my journey was just long enough to make me home sick. Maybe I subconsciously planned it so I felt more comfortable as I got close to home. Maybe absence really did make the heart grow fonder and I missed the loved ones I'd left behind.
Maybe, just maybe, I finally learned to be present and stop giving a shit about the past and the future, which was one of the intentions of the journey in the first place.
I don't have an answer to this, my new reality. I was on this journey, primarily alone, for 19 days...it was the most time I've spent with only myself, ever...it was profoundly different than every other trip I've been on...it taught me a million things and it continues to teach me now that I’m home...I'm still sorting through it in my mind and will for god knows how long.
But there are already two glaringly apparent lessons:
Right now is the only time that matters. Your right now could be the beginning of an amazing adventure or a the end of a difficult road, but no matter what, living in it with gusto is empowering.
Somehow, someway, on these pages I will attempt to explain this and all the other millions of thoughts this journey inspired. My new assignment is to contort my mind around the profound rather than the trivial.
This journey has changed me for the better. Hopefully by writing this all down, my journey can help change you for the better too, at least a little bit.
It's been over a week since I headed out on my journey. Now I sit here, thousands of miles down the road. But not days ago, and every day leading up to it, I doubted if I could make it this far.
Doubt is a tricky beast. He whispers half-truths of safety and sanity, telling you to rethink your decisions, convincing you that half-assing it is still somewhat of an achievement.
But he's almost always wrong.
Sometimes in life we need to do scary things, because that's how we learn to do great things.
I considered ending my trip in Utah and heading home. I had explored some, I got away. I completed some of the journey at least. The next leg of the trip, Yellowstone, was so far away from home, I thought. I was still struggling to get a fire going. I didn't want to deal with freezing cold weather. I'm a bit of a neat freak so I couldn't go four days without a shower. Basically, I could just dial it in, like I seem to do so often in life.
But I charged forward. I received encouraging words from my boo. More encouraging words from Cheryl Strayed as I listened to Wild on the drive. And I self-encouraged, willing myself forward, willing myself into strength.
And here I am, in Montana on day ten of this journey. I was able to get a raging fire going. I now know I can handle cold and rainy weather. I also know I can handle a *slight* lack of cleanliness. I can travel long distances and not go crazy. I actually enjoy solitude, turns out. And I LOVE being at a campsite with no phone service, disconnected from all of you, at least momentarily.
In other words, I've got this.
In my normal life, I have a tendency to doubt myself - what I can really handle, how far out of my comfort zone I can get, how strong I really am in life.
But I also know we humans are powerful, adaptable animals. We can do much more in life than we imagine. We just have to charge forward with determination. We have to prove doubt wrong.
I'm putting my doubt to the test, and quite frankly, doubt is failing.
Maybe you don't need to test yourself by going into the woods, or maybe you do. Sometimes we just need a reminder. Sometimes we just need practice to keep reminding ourselves. We're all at different places in life. Some of us already got it. Some of us need a kick in the pants to show ourselves we already got it.
Doubt leaves us feeling alone, vulnerable, and weak. But it's all a sham. The doubt is only in your mind. I'm living proof.
I am a strong and powerful human being. I can brave all sorts of elements. I can learn and prosper. I'm so over doubt.
I'm on a trip all alone, so why do I still care what others think?
A lot of us have this monster inside us. It tells us we need to impress, have it together, look good, get the right haircut, the perfect body, the nicest car, the sweetest setup.
When we're out in public the monster growls at us. It tells that us we just said something stupid...or our lives are a mess...or they're hotter...and younger...and tanner.
I have the monster sometimes. He's a bitch.
I see him laugh at me when someone takes my picture and I look goofy. I hear him criticize me when I look at a mirror and see my little belly. I feel his eyes judge as I walk past anonymous people on the trail, even though I don't know them and will assuredly never see them again.
But what difference does it make? What difference do they make. What difference does the monster make?
He makes us self-conscious. He stresses us out. He takes us out of the present moment and throws us into doubt.
One thing that I've started to appreciate about being alone is that I'm in charge. Everything I do on a given day - if I sleep-in or wake up early...if I take one too many hikes or just laze at my camp...if I watch every nerd movie at the National Parks visitors center, and I always do, trust - that is all up to me.
So on this trip, who cares what some random person on the trail thinks of me?
Being alone is helping me let it go. I can wear what I want, look how I want, do what I want, be whoever I want. They don't know the real me. So what difference does it make? Monster be damned.
Back in the real world, I could use more of this. Less vanity and more being me. Less concern of what I could be doing, or could have done, and more actual doing.
Less foolishness and more mindfulness.
Might as well face it, you're addicted to like." ~Robert Palmer & Jason Wise
Hi. My name is Jason Wise and I'm a likeaholic. With my addiction, likes come in two forms.
There's the digital Facebook kind of like. This one is pretty basic - the excessive liking of posts, the posts seemingly crafted to generate likes, and that saccharine high you feel when you get a lot of attention on something you share. We've all seen it. We've all been there.
But there's also a more anthropological type of like. It comes from the comradery of our shared experience. Not just liking something yourself, but liking something together. And by sharing that moment with someone you actually end up liking that person even more.
This is the basis of friendship. It's a way we bond with one another. As social beings, it's part of our DNA. It's why we created language. It's why Facebook became a thing.
Yesterday I arrived at my first #journeyman destination: Zion National Park. I set up camp in the morning and quickly hit the trails.
Out there in nature I saw so many beautiful things. 10,000 beautiful things to be precise (a reference within a reference from Wild by Cheryl Strayed, which I'm currently reading). Every time I saw a beautiful thing I smiled. I mean, how could you not?
But now and then, one of those beautiful things was more than just beautiful, it was spectacular. It was awesome, like I'm literally in awe.
I tried to take pictures, but when I look at the picture on my phone I scoff, because it's not quite the same. It's like those old ditto copies we had in elementary school: faded, blurry, distorted. No matter how many filters or boosts I use, it doesn't capture it. It can't be captured.
So I put down my phone and just marvel.
I'm feeling all the feels and it feels wonderful, but in a flash my next thought is...I wish I could share this with someone. Not with an Instagram post, not even in a text, but share it for real, in person.
Sure there are other people on the trail. Friendly chatty people, way-too-slow people, smelly German people, feeding the aggressive squirrels people. But I miss having someone I know. I'm miss sharing that view with a friend.
I knew going on a solo journey would be lonely. That was one of the reasons I did it.
We as a society, and I myself, are so used to leaning on the kind shoulder and shared experience of others. That's good and bad - good because sometimes you need that shoulder to lean on, and bad because sometimes you need to stand on your own.
As I stood gazing at the stunning Angels Landing tower in Zion (seriously, Google it) I felt a wave of melancholy. I realized I couldn't nudge a friend next to me and say, "wtf, do you see that amazingness?!" I realized I could never share that particular experience.
So you see, this is my affliction. I'm addicted. I've been conditioned to need the attention, the connection, the comradery. I get a little hit when you double tap on my Instagram pic. It feels so good when you like my Facebook mood. But the real good stuff, the sticky-icky, that's when we hang in person, I get a hug, and we clink a beer.
This was my first day out on a hike alone, so these are withdrawals. It was tough at times but I made it through. I'm already getting better. Day-one likers anonymous chip in the pocket.
I'm learning that I can't share everything with everyone. Some things are for me and me alone. And that's OK.
The hardest goodbye isn't enforced.
It isn't expected or coerced.
Its not like the end of high school,
Where the path's been chosen for you.
It's nothing like leaving your family home,
When you're longing to be on your own.
No, the hardest goodbye comes by choice.
When you need to go find your voice.
When you're leaving something you enjoy.
When you know goodbye will disappoint.
You leave because staying is dishonest.
You leave even though it's totally the harshest.
The hardest goodbye is what you have to do
When standing still keeps you too...
Hoping it'll all just come to you.
Now it's time to see a different view.
With the pain of goodbye comes redemption.
Starting anew, a mini rebellion.
Leaving is an act of bravery,
Because it's not safe to be,
Never alone with only me.
Even though it feels like hell,
When I say goodbye I'll find myself.
By return I know I'll have harnessed,
All the reasons that home is the fondest.
The hardest goodbye is a choice I've made.
But let's stay strong, 'cause the hello's gonna be great.
I'm feeling pretty anxious lately about the unknowns of my upcoming path, but I'm interrupting that anxiety right now to talk about the many people for which I'm grateful.
I have my dog...he's entirely stubborn and bossy, but his zeal, his unconditional love, his simplicity, and his life lived in the moment all help me get out of my head.
I have friends...they've counseled me, given me job advice, loaned me camping supplies for my journey, recommended books, offered a shoulder to lean on, and made me laugh when I was over-thinking it.
I have my mother...she's always been my biggest fan, cheering and encouraging me along through every step in life. And she's helped me prepare for this trip by being my voice of reason and caution (as every good mother should).
I have my boo...he's my partner, my fiance, my rock through all the ups and downs, and my best friend. For over 12 years now, he’s pushed me towards my better self. He has made me more confident in my decisions by getting me to take the extra time to really think through them. And even now as I leave him for an entirely selfish endeavor alone in the woods, he has supported me, loved me, encouraged me, provided for me, and hugged me.
In my mind I can run through a million different scenarios of how terrible my future might be. How risky it is to quit my job. How dangerous it could be to hike and camp alone. How lonely being alone just might feel.
I can allow my mind to be overrun with anxiety about the future...doubt over my decisions...predictions of impending regret. Or I can interrupt that anxiety with gratitude.
I remember that I have so many people to be grateful for. I remember that I’m blessed. I remember that no matter what happens, no matter where my path takes me, it's all going to be OK...because of all of them.