A few weeks ago, the deadline for submitting my art project to the Brooklyn Art Library arrived. That deadline was not met. To be completely honest, this turn of events was not a surprise to me. The original deadline had already been extended from August, and by that point in the summer I had made minimal progress on my project’s development. Over the past few months, progress was indeed made on the sketchbook for its inclusion in the library’s permanent collection, but that progress eventually stalled. My friend Stefanie had gifted me this unique project for my birthday, and I was instantly motivated by the ideas that came to mind back in April. The work that has been developed thus far still inspires me, and the curiosity that exists to see the work in its finished form at some point in the near future is genuine. When it is ready to be submitted, parts of the finished sketchbook will likely be shared here on this blog, too.
Right before the soon-to-be-missed submission deadline approached, I went for a hike with a friend in a nearby nature preserve. As we wandered on the paths and trails, we discussed all sorts of topics, including my procrastination and my inability to complete the sketchbook in time. By the time we neared the end of our walk, our conversation turned to our frustrations that we both had in respect to aspects within our own lives. For me, several of my goals and hopes had been derailed by the pandemic and the inability to focus on several projects that once maintained a great deal of my brain space has increased. For my friend, the pandemic uprooted their living situation and created a situation of feeling stalled. In the spirit of sharing, I offered up a quote of perspective that has served me well over the past fifteen years. “There is no one right way to live.”
It’s hard to not feel the pressure of expectations and deadlines society places upon us, especially when perceived disparities between others can appear so evident and seemingly real. Balancing the gifts that we have, along with our burdens, requires patience with ourselves. This is especially true in times of great uncertainty.
After our hike, we decided to grab a bite to eat. While I was waiting for their arrival at the restaurant, I read a message that had just been sent from the “Mindful Moments” group that Stefanie created years ago. She shares these moments of mindfulness from time to time through a digital platform. The bits of wisdom shared always provide a gentle reminder and a spark of inspiration when they arrive. The push notification appeared on my phone while on the hike, but I ignored opening the message in the moment to avoid being rude. For context, the previous “Mindful Moment” message had been sent just over two months earlier. Timing is everything. The winks offered up from the universe continue to amaze me. The message that arrived at the exact moment my friend and I were discussing the current state of our lives was this quote by Morgan Harper Nichols:
Quotes have the unique ability to provide context and clarity in times of reflection. When I traversed the continent in the summer of 2014, a poster presented itself to me in Oregon that spoke out to me. At the time, my living situation was in the midst of a change. Throughout the road trip, I was looking out for art to adorn the walls of my new apartment. Keeping reminders on my walls will always be a mindful act for me. This poster still has a place in my home, even as my living arrangements have changed several times since it was purchased:
Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.-Ralph Waldo Emerson
The pandemic ended a monumental life experience and challenge that I carved out the time in my life to complete. There hasn’t been a day in the past twenty months that I haven’t thought about my disrupted thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. The reasons for heading out to California to attempt a 2,650 mile-long hike from the Mexican border to the Canadian border were numerous and complicated, and they still belong to me. Letting go of the notion of a thru-hike has been a difficult decision to accept. The time required to make another attempt will not realistically be possible for another fifteen years. One can never predict the future, but my fear is that my physical state may not be up for such an endeavor by that point in my life.
An idea that has been playing out in my mind for many months began to take form recently. About a week ago, I booked my flight to California so that I may return to the spot where I made the difficult decision to depart the trail last March. Several of the reasons for originally attempting something so bold will need to be left in the past, as section hiking is a different experience altogether from thru-hiking. When I return to the trail in the near future, the distance ahead of me will be a mere 100 trail miles. The flight home has already been booked, so the time on trail will be defined. The relatively short amount of time on trail in the near future will allow me to continue to make progress towards my goal of completing the Pacific Crest Trail in my lifetime. The timing of the return to the trail beyond that new departure point will become yet another unknown in my life. As you might imagine, the logistics of planning a hike to remote wilderness areas present unique challenges, especially with considerations for climate and accessibility. Nonetheless, the intention is to repeat this process several times in the years ahead.
Deadlines can be a gift. Deadlines can be a burden. Deadlines can certainly be amended.
Embracing a more patient approach to my hopes and goals has been humbling and helpful. Working to see goals come to fruition can be a genuinely rewarding experience. Recognizing that factors beyond my control can impact an envisioned timetable has been frustrating, to say the least. Throughout my life, the pace at which I have always worked tends to be a slower one. Why should the pursuit of my hopes and goals be any different? Naturally, being patient with myself is essential as I trust in the process within every step that lies before me on this journey.