what i’m made for

Do you want what I have? What do I have? Who am I? Just got done reading a friend’s blog as she hikes the Pacific Crest Trail. Feelings of jealousy arise. I remember drinking with her one night when I invited some river rats from Canon City, CO to come to Pagosa Springs, CO with the sole purposes of getting out in the 10-foot raft. I may have misled them about my own river knowledge. Typical Jen. We drank whiskey the entire next afternoon and the friend became smitten with the rat. She traveled to see him, gave him books. He just wasn’t ready. I told her over and over she would love this boy I had met with a soithern drawl. They met. They shacked up. She speaks of him every other blog.

Do you want what I have? My best friend hiked the Appalachian Trail around 2004. She met a man on the trail and I picked her up in Rock Springs, WY after they had blown out her car traveling from Arcata, CA where she had gone to school at Humboldt State University. The man was impressed by the novelty of cows. He had never seen cattle on the bumpy dirt roads exclaiming private property. We spent months and months prepping for the trail as she was vegetarian and dehydrated food accordingly. My time in Humboldt was the first time encountering the faux hippie. The kid that doesn’t shower but also doesn’t have to work due to inheritances, trust funds, wealthy family. Dreadies and expensive shoes. The man my friend had met was just another stinky privileged jerk. That’s what she had.

Do you want what I have? I moved to Colorado to be that stinky hippie. But I, too, was pretending. I still have no money, no expensive shoes, and have no stinking clue how to hike or camp for longer than a few days. I collect river rats like trophies and listen as they try to connect with me. I can’t bring myself to tell them I’m in love with old man river. I let myself stink a little but can’t let go of deodorant. I want to dye my hair. Get a pedicure. Wax my dang eyebrows. My hair grows long and gray and I find myself on a 288 mile trip on the Colorado river through the Grand Canyon last summer. I sleep on the boat and sob. For what, I don’t know. The deep sadness ebbs and flows just like the water I seek. I realize my friend may have started her hike with the man that I had, the man that still tries to mess with me. I ignore his messages and move my body like the leaves shaking in streetlights on my nightly walks.

Do you want what I have? I can go anywhere with my job and get paid well. I achieved the thru hike of degrees. Kids will always need help and folks will always project their problems onto the child. I find myself smiling at a small dark haired girl, seeing my own brown eyes in hers. She still has time. She wants so much to be noticed. I get it, girl. I’ve been listening to a Dispatch album over and over finally accepting who I’ve always known I am. A hippie. I regret my degrees but hear my sister say she wishes she had a masters. All I know is I know nothing. I will never mention the names of boys in my blog. They are all just as fleeting as the hike. Life changing, but they won’t stay. I won’t let them.

Do you want what I have? I realize now how hard it was to be in Colorado. I wanted so bad to be a professional and take showers. Live in a house. Scoff at the thru hikers hitching through town. And now I want so bad to be out of my obligations. To get back to that mountain town and wonderfully mess it all up again. To stop shaving my armpits. To let my long hair twirl and twist into dreadies so that I can stop with this shampoo game. I hiked double digits the other day and felt so determined to just keep going with no destination. I get the lure of the hike. I get the lure of the mountain. I headed to Salida to ease my pains and met another river rat who danced with me as old men stared at me in my long dress. Crawling out of the rivers and down from the mountains to ogle and stare. Looks of longing is what they have.

Do you want what I have? I have a cute little home way up north in Wyoming and read studies of children who are affected the long light of summer days in an area where the northern lights can be seen. I feel at home but in a foreign country. I’m nervous to drive my truck sporting stickers of ski resorts and river stuff. I might be stereotyped–they might find me out as an ex-pat-greenie. But as I hang out in Colorado for the weekend I feel safe to show my tattoos. To laugh like a gypsy. To talk conspiracy theories with the German and Argentinian men I meet at the hostel. The German becomes disappointed as I let the river rat into the hostel to shower. So much for the theories in action. I promise he won’t steal anything from the rich white folks with expensive bikes strapped to their Subarus. I would love a nice (nicer) bike and nice car that can drive me right up the mountain. Epic adventures is what they have.

Do you want what I have? Or to pity me for what I don’t? I have no man giving me advice on how to hike, what to pack. I have no man guiding me down a river. I have no nice shoes and blew out a sacred pair of Chacos. I get questioned on any hike in Northern Wyoming: do you have bear spray? Do you have a map? Do you know how far you are going? No. No. And yes. I’ve already come so far. I don’t need a trail name to be apart of a community that I’m observing–just watching and waiting for my time to travel, hike, take six months away from play therapy. Can I be one of you? Would you like to be one of me? Always in two worlds. Straddling states, straddling identities. Brave enough to invite river rats and foreigners into my home. Hosting wild parties on a Tuesday morning when I transition between jobs. Do you want what I have? I don’t have much. I have me. Maybe that’s all I need.

“Be yourself; no base imitator of another, but your best self. There is something which you can do better than another. Listen to the inward voice and bravely obey that. Do the things at which you are great, not what you were never made for.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance and Other Essays