Hiking With The Inner Demons

When you try your best but you don’t succeed
When you get what you want but not what you need
When you feel so tired but you can’t sleep
Stuck in reverse

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You know that feeling when you get to participate in a hobby that you love, that you’re obsessed with, but you find yourself kind of bored and annoyed about it? Or is it just me?

I had that experience with hiking earlier this year when I went through a pretty unexpected bout of depression that came out of nowhere. I really should’ve expected that episode to arrive because it had been a long time coming. I was going uphill from the middle of 2016 and all of 2017 then it just fucking hit me so hard. I think it was because things had calmed down for me. Things were calm and my brain translated that as, “things are bad now.”

I was going on these hikes and finding myself frustrated. Still not sure if I was frustrated with the hikes or frustrated with myself or what. I just wasn’t finding the joy that I had become so accustomed to finding when frolicking amongst the trees and woodland creatures. But it was really scaring me.

I would occasionally see a little spot during one of my travels and think, just for a brief moment,

“Hmmm, that would be an easy and quick place to jump off of if I ever decided to do it.”

Then I’d shake my head of such stupid fucking thoughts. Because that’s all they are; thoughts. I just hate that I have this thing in the back of my head that has never left and decides to pay a visit out of fucking nowhere. But, my most ideal scenario is to find some place as remote as possible and live there until I perish. Kind of like that dude, Christopher Knight, in Maine who lived in the woods away from society for 20+ years. He’s still around because he got caught stealing food from a camp. I just wouldn’t want to see myself reduced to such a state, you know? But this shit makes me realize I can wholly and completely understand the phrase “battling personal demons”.

Among other things, hiking has and will continue to save my life. And I hope, I so hope, that you’ll read these words and find something to fall in love with if you’re feeling lost, if you’re feeling like you’re in a bad place. It’s not a cure, but it sure as hell helps. It doesn’t have to be the outdoors, although I’m biased and think it’s a great avenue to collect yourself. Just find something and I am so lucky I found it and can be a testament to how important that can be.

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Here’s the thing, while those demons tried to affect something that is extremely important and valuable to me, they didn’t win. And they never will. I still remember when I was doing a pretty normal loop hike up in North Cheyenne Cañon that I love to do. I say it’s a normal loop as I’ve done it at least a couple dozen times. Anyway, I turned around a corner and could see Garden of the Gods far below me, then a few miles away I could see the Waldo Canyon area, of which the fire there is what triggered many changes in my life. And I smiled so big and felt so happy because that’s what hiking does to me and it dawned on me that it went away and I was ecstatic. These episodes will continue, likely forever, but getting that moment of reprieve and realizing it was actually going away gave me so much hope. And I have been drastically better since that moment. Sort of, actually, but the down periods are becoming shorter and the up periods are becoming much longer. My hikes have gotten bigger and grander, and I’m allowed to fully experience all of that now and I am absolutely addicted to those moments I get during hikes where I feel giddy and goofy and just goddamn happy. Even when I plan to do a 28 mile hike but read the map wrong and accidentally do 45 miles, I can still get to my car and smile about how much fun that journey was.

Another thing that I keep being reminded of, is that I can’t help but feel like I can be a positive force for good in this world. Wait, wait, stop! I swear I don’t mean that as thinking I’m super important and have a massive ego. But more so I want to keep doing whatever I can to maintain a sense of what I started years ago; #DeathToCynicism.

This whole “death to cynicism” is something I started pursuing many years ago and it has evolved greatly in the time since. I think being cynical is lazy. It’s not the same as being realistic and it’s absolutely not productive. At the end of the day, what keeps me going is I know what hope feels like. I know what happiness feels like. If I gave into cynicism, I would’ve been gone a long time ago. I know I am okay and that is good enough for me. Just because my life has slowed down, doesn’t mean it’s not going well or that I am a failure and a fraud.

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That’s what keeps me from ever making a choice that I could never reverse.

Even though my dad hasn’t been around for over nine years now, I know he would be deeply disappointed in me. And, my mom, whoooooo boy, just the idea of the hell I’d put her through is enough to immediately scare me away from any dumb ideas I might form. Then my friends, they’re all starting or growing their families. I really love being “Uncle Kevin” to their kids and I want to see my friends grow old and continue to be such incredible human beings and I want to see them raise their kids to be such huge badasses that I know will change the world. I want to model myself after examples my friends have set and I want to continue doing what I can to make my mom proud of me. I want to continue celebrating my loved ones and their lives and creating and cherishing memories because every moment is holy and every moment is just so beautiful.

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I want to continue going on these hikes, these journeys, and reaching a ridge, or a pass, or the top of a mountain, or the coast of an alpine lake, or brushing up against a tree, or smelling the uniquely scented forest air, and continue quite literally having my breath taken away by the journey and the moment where my soul feels so grateful that I am actually experiencing this moment right before my eyes. Every single one of those moments is one-of-a-kind and I would be a goddamn idiot to force myself to stop having those moments.

Living is hard, dying is harder.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. jessjcromley says:

    I’ve started this comment about seven times, wanting to write something as authentic & raw as your post—but gratitude isn’t about measuring up, it’s about simply acknowledging how something, or someone, made you feel. Thank you for sharing the purity of your heartbeat that echoes the steps across the miles!! I for one am thankful you stay on the path and find beauty in the view ahead, rather than choosing to fall. Be blessed

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