I just put together a small photo album of places I have explored over the past decade. I didn’t come close to including all the places I have been, and yet, I was so proud of it when I was done. I have been to some pretty amazing localities, and when I look back on those memories I have to smile. Despite my personal struggles with social anxiety and self worth (which loomed large in my vision for a long time) I have lived a happy life. And that was due to having a best friend and a hobby we were both very invested in (hiking).
My photo collection tapers off around three years ago, when I was about to become a parent. It is weird to lose the records there, because soooo much has happened in those past three years. My ex and I became parents, my dog was diagnosed with cancer and struggled with it for eight months before it was time to say goodbye. I was a stay-home parent dealing with sleepless nights, baby food sensitivities and bloody diapers, as well as physical therapy for my kiddo. There was the hazy period of endless failed job applications and there were the road trips to visit my ex during her summer field work. There was the Americorps job I finally took and the long stretch of time before my ex left us that was shadowed by her depression and resentment. There was the first year I spent as a single parent, working through grief and finding peace in my new home. I joined a community garden, took my kid to the pool and parks and trails. I started leading hikes occasionally with local hiking groups, and I made an effort to build connections with the people around me. And I did hike. All through these past three years I continued to hike, because that is what I do. It is what I always have done and likely always will do. But I no longer have the photos and the grand adventures feel far away. Some of the voices around me seem to be telling me that things will be different now. My inner voice says that adventure is still possible. But when I describe myself to people, especially in the context of online dating, I sometimes wonder what person I am describing. Is it the new me or the old me? Do I have the right to claim my hiker title anymore? Who am I going to be going forward? I know I want more adventure. But how much of that want is daydreams? How much of my personal image is based on my past with a partner who was an obsessive and excellent trip planner? Who am I now?