It had been just over a week since I completed the trail. I knew coming into this, that I would have an adjustment in coming back. Most if not all of my friends were home with their families and friends, I on the other hand hadn’t returned yet. Earthling had left for California a day ago and she was in a rough spot. She called, reaching out, as I listened to the pain in her voice as her tears flowed, I knew all to well what was happening. She just like my other friends was lost, adrift in her sea of emotions. The waves of people, questions, outside expections, crashed over the tiny bows of their emotions. Threatening to swallow them up, dragging thier weary souls to the deepest darkest depths of the ocean. Girlscout, Twiggs, Zen, they all were going through the same thing, the were depressed and grieving. I was going through it too.
I knew how much they were suffering, feeling lost in the big world around them. All that had transpired in the past six months was absolutely meaningless to those we would return too. Alienation, the hardest part, made it so very difficult to make any real connection again with the people around us. There was no way to convey the gravity of what we had experienced, we had shed our old skin, only to find we no longer fit in it. The time away had changed us so much that it was impossible to recognize ourselves. I caught myself a few times staring into the mirror, wondering who was looking back at me. I no longer recognized the face before me. I had come across a quote that made so much sense: ” Returning home is the most difficult part of long-distance hiking; You have grown outside the puzzle and your piece no longer fits” – Cindy Ross
We had suffered through harsh weather, unbelievable terrain, and trail conditions, enduring everything mother nature threw at us. All these experiences had shaped us, made us stronger, brought us so very close together. There was no way to convey emotionally what we were going through. Really and truly, everyone had asked me what I felt when I finished. The truth is I was still trying to process it all, let alone what I felt if anything. The constant bombardment of job, house, transportation was too much. We still needed some unstructured time to come back inside. I wasn’t even home and the first four days were already planned out for me.
I kept my emotions off, keeping them at bay, locked in the back of my mind and heart. I needed to compartmentalized the trail and all of its deep flowing emotions, locking them away. We all have our roles to play in this story and mine was to endure. I would have to endure, not for me, but for my friends. They needed a rock, a stable platform to which they could stand back up and hold themselves up with. My role was to support them at the cost of my own suffering. They would have a shoulder as they grieved and when the time was right, long after they were whole again, I would grieve. Until then I would endure all the pain, feeling of loss, displacement, disconnection, uncertainty for them.
Harder still, the thoughts of being lost, out of place, not belonging, couldn’t be shaken. I didn’t want to return to my old home, to my old life, it wasn’t me anymore. I wanted to go, to go anywhere that propelled me forward in my life, not backward. I had left, I had gotten out and now I was on my way back to the last place I cared to be. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to see my friends I did, I just wasn’t ready to. Still, I would endure, knowing my return to Delaware held nothing for me, no home, little family, no safe place to rest my weary heart and body.