Over the course of one’s life, short term and long term goals are bound to come and go. Some may be fleeting and only exist for a few days, some may be a through line echoing connections to a deep rooted purpose.
Over the past three months, I have been chipping away at some of the goals that have entered into my life at various points. It has recently dawned on me that this yearlong leave of absence from teaching is an opportunity to focus on working towards a variety of goals that would benefit from more of my attention.
As I haven’t posted on this blog in awhile, here’s what I’ve been working on:
- Several years ago, I began to imagine myself as a mostly nomadic person in early retirement. The decision of packing everything up and traveling by car has been a test run to see if that is truly an idea to plan for over the next sixteen years or so. (It is.)
- As of September, I have now visited 49 of the 50 States after traveling through the deep South. (Alaska will serve as the last hold out for the foreseeable future.)
- Since the end of the school year, I have been able to visit five new National Parks, bringing my new total to 36 of the 61 official Parks.
- The major goal that has emerged in the past few years is to write more frequently. There are several projects that have been in development for some time, and will one day see the day of the light in some shape or form. That is a promise that I made to myself not long ago. Slowly but surely, more ideas are finding their way to my journals and computer.
Are all goals arbitrary?
Does it truly matter if I do not get to visit all fifty states?
Does it truly matter if I do not get to wander through trails in all 61 National Parks?
Does it truly matter if I do not get to have my writing published in some form one day?
Obviously, we all know the common answer to these questions.
Perhaps it just matters to have goals to work towards, whether or not they are actually achieved.
One goal that seems almost absurd and beyond arbitrary is one that has become slightly more real as of last week.
Barring some major glitch in the online permitting system, I will attempt a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail in March having secured an official starting date. If successful, by this time next year I will be able to say that I have hiked approximately 2,650 trail miles from the border of Mexico to the border of Canada. This is the most daring and challenging goal that I have ever attempted to pursue. As I prepare physically, mentally, and practically for the potential thru-hike over the next four months, many new goals are bound to emerge as a result.
The pursuit of any goal is unbelievably personal.
At its core exists a hope to be a better person.
Perhaps visiting all fifty States will allow me to understand our country better.
Perhaps visiting all of the National Parks will help me see more clearly the beauty of this planet.
Perhaps being nomadic will erode some of the feeling of confinement inherent in any civilization.
Perhaps the act of writing will help provide some clarity in the navigating and articulation of complex thoughts.
Perhaps walking 2,650 miles will help me reframe my perceptions of a need and a want.
Perhaps none of this will happen.
Perhaps all of the mental effort put towards our goals is truly arbitrary.
Perhaps every goal merely exists to provide the opportunity and the space for the very idea of the perhaps.
(Blogger’s Note: Backpacking is new to me. I have been hiking and camping separately for many years now. Although there is some trepidation in undertaking such an arduous task, I am not the first novice to attempt a thru-hike. There are many lessons and skills to be explored before March, and some that will need to take place in the moment of the hike. For my family and friends, the trade-offs were examined quite meticulously on my part. The hope is to find success in this goal, but I will not willingly jeopardize my safety or well-being in this pursuit. If it means that I need to bypass some sections of the trail due to unsafe conditions, that is okay. Those sections of the trail can always be revisited in future years. I look forward to sharing my experiences in preparation for the thru-hike, and for the actual thru-hike when the time comes.)