It was 27 degrees when I left my house this morning for this week’s hike and I found only one other person willing to go with me. I live in Maryland, and had planned to go out to Harper’s Ferry to hike along part of the Appalachian Trail, as well as hike the Maryland Heights Overlook trail (a new one for me). Being a New Englander I find Maryland winters fairly temperate, with some exceptions to that norm here and there. A handful of friends told me I was crazy to go out in this cold weather and asked me why I was doing this. Why didn’t I wait for a better weekend? If I am going to hike a decent stretch of the Appalachian trail, I won’t get to cherry pick the weather. I’m not waiting for better weather, I’m going now. I threw on a 22.4 pound backpack, and layered myself in enough clothing to stay warm. Despite my convictions, I began to reflect upon my willingness to do what most others won’t as I first set out on today’s hike and thought, what is the fucking point of doing this to myself? How did I get here and where am I going?
Reason Number 1: Personal and Mental Growth
Grit and Growth Mindset were buzz words in the teaching world a few years ago, but I recognized these concepts from before the district PD, back when I was first introduced to CrossFit. I promise not to blog about it too much, but like any intense workout (whatever floats your boat, gets your heart rate up and leaves you feeling taxed), many of my workouts leave me drained, and I know that I worked really hard to get through them. It’s the quasi-masochist in us, those who enjoy taxing workouts, that keeps us coming back for more. There is a sweet spot for mental and physical growth, and that is just outside your comfort zone. I can’t say I enjoy being pushed outside of my comfort zone in the moment, but I can recognize the discomfort, acknowledge it, and thank it because it allows me to dig deep and know that something good is coming from it. The weather today was fine, in fact I was sweating for a lot of the hike because I had dressed myself warmly enough. At some point during this training, it will be wickedly humid, or pouring down rain, and I will be way past my comfort zone, and I know it will help prepare me for a variety of situations I might find myself in. Many people, myself included, spend so much of our life inside, working around the weather, and avoiding the weather unless it’s to our liking. Monet’s haystacks come to mind, how he painted the same subject in different seasons, different times a day and the abundance of beauty was not limited to when it was convenient for Monet to get himself outside to paint. As I continue to train in less than desirable weather conditions, I know that I will be improving myself physically and mentally.
Reason Number 2: The Suck Will Pass
Ok, so maybe reason 2 is just reason 1 rebranded. When shit gets tough, you either fold and quit, or dig deep and succeed. You can’t do both. One friend often reminds me, when I complain, that this too shall pass. The fact that my calves burned on the first ascent that was about two miles long was a physical reminder that I was working hard. My quads burned walking up rock steps at the end of the trek, and I thought about all the times I’ve felt that sensation before and didn’t stop my workout and walk out of the gym. I decided to take my ruminations from what I do for fun to what I do for a living. Teaching online is depressing. My fellow Aquarian and I spent a lot of time talking about this today. The magic, the spark, the theatrical performance you put on as a teacher in a classroom is lost in virtually teaching. A handful of students never attend the virtual synchronous classes, and for those that do, a small handful will actually turn their cameras on. We spend hours a day talking to computer screens and knowing we have lost their engagement and it is hard to keep showing up to this computer screen each day. Plus parents hate us, district leaders hate us and no one is happy. My biggest enemy right now is a combination of ennuie and apathy for teaching. If I am an adult who understands self care, journals, meditates, works out, eats decently and isn’t going through emotional and hormonal shifts and I am struggling, I know it has to be worse for my students. I have to keep showing up for them and putting on whatever kind of show I can, even if most of them aren’t even watching me, because my frontal lobe fully developed years ago and I understand consequences. The best lesson I can teach them right now is that the suck will pass. This will end. Find the beauty along the way, and when you can’t do that, being a light for others will help you ignite one for yourself.
Reason Number 3: I Don’t Actually Know What I’m Doing
I’ve been referred to a leader and I uncomfortably laughed in response. I have hiked from downtown Harper’s Ferry up to the Visitor’s Center twice before and yet I got lost on the way today. I am Googling some stuff about hiking the Appalachian Trail, but mostly I’m doing what I do best and just diving head first in and being willing to learn from my mistakes, and hopefully having some successes along the way. Transcendentalism captured my attention and imagination in high school, and I understand now why I was drawn to it. I’m going into the forest, climbing mountains, and embracing various weather conditions, to find myself.