Looking at life, I often wondered what it would be like if I had the time to enjoy the beauty that exists in this world. Unfortunately, too many people work too hard, and by the time that they retire, their health has deteriorated to the point where they cannot enjoy the freedom that they have earned. I yearned to escape.
Every single day of my life (save for the weekends) I awaken to the shrilling sound of my alarm clock, telling me “hey, it’s 6 a.m., time to work”, and I sleepwalk to my coffeepot for a huge dose of “wake up”. I just couldn’t do it anymore. The closer my 50th birthday came, the more I loathed the drudgery that had become my existence. It was time to act.
I didn’t even give notice to my employer or my landlord, I merely walked away. Away from all of the trappings that had become my life. My cell phone, with all of the bells and whistles. My laptop, on which what social time I had leftover at the end of each day I would catch up with friends on Facebook. These were all expendable to me. I packed a sole bag, and walked out of my old life and into a new one.
I have been alone now for 73 days. I sleep fitfully, and breathe fresh air. I see the beauty of the marshmellow clouds in the brilliant blue sky.I have born witness to the black bear fishing for his next meal, and deer, communing in the great valleys. At first, so enticing to be alone with my thoughts. No alarm clocks, no traffic jams, no one telling me what I had to do, nor what I should have done.
It hasn’t all been as easy as it sounds. The first week was miserable. May can still be quite chilly in the mountains. That first day I must have hiked at least 20 miles, and wearing the wrong shoes. My feet were so sore and blistered that it took a lot of effort to get up and walk further the following day. My sleep was fragmented, as I awakened throughout the night to the sounds of creatures unknown. The darkness was incredible, which made the stars shine that much more brightly. At dawn, I was chilled to the bone, and my tent was dripping with condensation. Thankfully, the sun was like a radiant heater, and I warmed quickly. I walked another 20 or so miles, and bedded down next to a clear stream. The sound of the water rushing soothed my soul, and I knew that I could do this.
That night, I fished the stream for my meal, and lazily lounged in the fire light contentedly enjoying my solitude. By the time that I had eaten and lounged, I craved sleep, and climbed into the soft comfort of my sleeping bag. I was so incredibly tired that I had neglected to clean up the remnants of my meal, and had a late night visitor. Unintentionally, my tent was far enough from the fire, and my meal debris, that the grunting from what I can only assume was a bear, didn’t bother me, though I was justifiably afraid.
Soon after that, the days had a way of blending into one, and I became accustomed to the noises, the temperature variances, and my solitude. I bathe in the streams, though I miss warm water. I sleep on the ground in a sleeping bag, and miss cocooning in the sheets of a pillow top bed. It has only been the past few days that I have been questioning my decision. I am becoming lonely, and miss even the brief contact of my Facebook friends.
I realize that it was a radical decision to throw it all away. Perhaps I should have considered an early retirement and kept a home base. It’s only a few years away. Surely I could have hung in there. Maybe I could have saved up for my own mountain cabin, and enjoyed nature through its windows.
We become so ensconced in pursuing the American dream that we don’t realize how much of our lives that we waste in the chase for materiel gains. If only I had slowed down, and enjoyed life daily. If only I had been employed at a job I loved, rather than one that I stayed with because it paid so well. If only I had taken more time to spend being with friends and family whom could make me laugh, instead of over a darn computer in the extra moments that I could manage due to my greedy quest for money.
But here I am in the middle of nowhere. I have hiked so far, I don’t know how to get back. I have no more matches for a warming fire, nor for cooking what little I might forage. I have no phone for emergencies, so calling to get help is not an option.
The tall trees are like sentries guarding my escape. What appeared before to be a lush and beautiful landscape now seem threatening. My heart cries out in loneliness, but no one can hear me, save for the wildlife that I stumble upon through my journey. I am truly alone, and today is my birthday. “Happy Birthday to Me”. I may not have another.