All posts by Serial Nomad

Writer & Wanderer

Into the wind

I haven’t written for so long I’m terrified to post anything. But tonight, I found myself idly flipping through some of the blogs I follow, hoping to discover updates from other parts of the world, and realised if someone were to check my blog, they’d be sorely disappointed. My Blog Post page was coming up without content, which goes to show no one’s been reading my posts for a very long time.

On the 7th of October, my seventh anniversary for finishing the PCT came and went. I was on a trip at the time, laughing at the fact I created a schedule to finish my book by this date back in the spring. Thanks to my partner Tom (and I really mean thank you), who moved to my hometown in April, I decided it would be better to spend the summer in my kayak or hiking. So subsequently, I haven’t written a word since. But I’ve also had one of the best summers of my life despite Covid-19, thanks to the fact I live in a lightly populated country and province and have spent most of my free time in the backcountry with the world’s most magical human.

I plan to pick up the manuscript this winter, but the longer I leave it, the less inclined I am to tell my PCT story. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing. I’m leaving the option open to either continue working on it, or as my dear friend Penny suggested, sit on a mountaintop, read it into the wind, and then let it go.

Part of me wants to finish the book, while I’m also glad the manuscript never entered the world. I’m still unclear what the story is about. I wanted to write about the most remarkable six-month period of my life because I still, to this day, relive so many moments with delightful nostalgia. But I’m inclined to leave the past behind. I’m scared I’ll be perceived as some love-struck fool, from what my editor in New York said, who gets into all sorts of stupid situations because of blindly following her heart.

I guess I’m scarred by her comment that my character wasn’t likable. This one hurt the most. If I had so many followers and praise for my blog, why would I want to publish something that makes me look foolish? I used to think it would be the best trail story ever written, and after receiving her feedback more than a year and a half ago now, I was shocked by how far I fell short. She even convinced me to write an entirely different manuscript, which has crippled and confused me. But I’m determined to make one final assessment this fall.

I’m aware I sound like a broken record, so if you’re thinking this post is just another rant about whether or not I’m going to write my book, you’re correct.

Have I been ranting about this topic for the past few years? Yes.

Am I going to continue ranting about this subject? Most likely.

Should you continue reading my blog if this is the case?

I’ll leave that decision to you.

At least I can take this opportunity to say I miss my online community and my faithful PCT followers. You all carried me through the most challenging times of my most recent years, and I’m truly grateful. If I do get back to hashing out the manuscript, it will be because of you. And if I don’t, I hope you’ll sit with me on that mountaintop in spirit as I read the words into the wind and say goodbye.  

Back to the drawing board

I’m either insanely persistent, completely crazy, or everything in between, because today I went back to the drawing board to analyse my memoir. You remember that book I’ve been talking about for the past six years? The one I’ve written five times already? Yeah, that one. It’s back in my life. I’m determined this is the final time I go through it though because as much as I love the PCT and cherish my trail experience, I need to move on from this god-damn manuscript.

The funny thing is, it took deciding to let the memoir go once and for all to reignite my passion for it. I’d finally made the decision the book had run its course and that I’d learned all I needed to through the writing experience. I even held a small ceremony to say goodbye, which I filmed a couple of months ago. (The preview is upside-down but the video is not.)

Then, after sifting through the emails I’d sent myself with notes and ideas, I came across a draft of the ‘Author’s Note’ I had written more recently. I was shocked to discover the writing was actually good, dare I say pleasing to read, and it made me rethink all the other ‘well written’ parts of the memoir I was about to throw away. (Apologies for all the cuss words in this video…)

The crazy thing was I felt immediately energised and motivated to write again. I later decided that instead of writing the book as a memoir, I would just write excerpts from the trail that connected  parts of the story together. But I’ve since realised I’ll never be satisfied if I don’t write this as the memoir I set out to write, so here I am again, six years later, back at the drawing board.

During all these years I planned to buy sticky notes and complete the exercise of planning before starting to write, and for six years I just dove straight into the business of writing and prayed the story would come together by itself. I did a pretty good job considering my naivety. But after having had a year away from it, and a year of growth in-between, I can now see all the pieces that are missing. Basically everything Betsy, the editor I paid in New York, pointed out so clearly last year was correct. It’s just a shame I got knocked down so badly it’s taken me a year to recover.

Even though I know everything that’s wrong with the memoir, I still don’t have all the answers of how to ‘right’ it just yet. That’s where the sticky notes come in, the book Story Genius by Lisa Cron, the Story Grid podcast with Sean Coyne and Tim Grahl, The Creativity Campus created by my dear friend and author Chrissy, AND last but not least, my wonderful editor and friend Heske, who has walked this trail during every single draft beside me.

I wasn’t going to tell anyone I was writing another draft, and I’m not promising a finished product. But all of you have been on this journey from the beginning too, so like it or not, you’re coming with me. Perfectionism, people’s opinions, and generally saying the wrong thing has really stumped my writing these last few months. I’ve felt narcissistic even writing about myself when there is so much going on in the world and so much pain being suffered. But I’ve missed writing and connecting with my online community, so I’m glad to be back here again.

Seven-Year Cycles

Seven years ago today, I set off hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. As this day has been drawing near, I’ve been thinking about the hikers whose 2020 dream of hiking the PCT has been postponed. Those who put their lives on hold, quit their jobs, gave up their apartments, sold their houses, and freed up six months of their life to make space for the trail, only to be told they have to stay at home for an undetermined period of time while parts of the trail remain closed.

Of course, compared to what’s happening around the world right now, missing out on hiking a trail may not be classified as a ‘big deal’. But comparisons aside, hiking the PCT is a lifelong dream that requires an incredible amount of planning and sacrifice to carve out six months of your life to walk those miles. My heart goes out to the ‘should have been’ class of 2020. I hope their dreams will be fulfilled in the coming years.

I’m hesitant to comment about the current state of the world. I’m tired of hearing the same rhetoric repeated. All I can say is how grateful I am to live in Canada, to still have a job, and to live in a small town where I can get outside and not bump into hoards of people.

What I’ve found fascinating is the way my emotions have been shifting over the course of the past few weeks. Like many others, it’s been a rollercoaster journey of ups and downs, with sudden turns and general jerkiness around every uncertain corner.

I’ve caught myself looking too far ahead on many occasions, and the emotional turmoil connected with this reminds me of my months on the trail. At the very beginning of the PCT, it was impossible to imagine how I could hike 2,650 miles over six months. Not only were my feet and shoulders crying out by day two, but the thought of repeating the same daily routine day after day, even after a week, seemed unbearable.

The scenario now is quite different, of course. But imagining the current state of the world, and our limited routines stretching on for months at a time is daunting. For me, being trapped indoors for months is as tough as living outside in the elements. But the way I’m approaching this seemingly endless timeframe is similar to the trail. I’m taking it one day, one week, and one month at a time. At least I’m trying to. Looking ahead is doing me no favours.

I had a really good feeling going into 2020. When I look back over the last fourteen years of my life, there has been a distinct pattern to my seven-year cycles. 2005 was a low year, one of my worst for a variety of reasons. But in 2006, I bounced back, landing my first major event job in Australia and then moving to the Middle East for the Asian Games. Six years later, my entire life seemed to unravel again in 2012. But in 2013, I hiked the PCT, which was, and still is, one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

Six years after the trail, I hit a low again in 2019. But I managed to climb out of that hole over the course of the last twelve months, and at the start of this year, I found myself in one of the most stable and satisfying states of life I’ve ever been in.

I’m still hopeful 2020 will contain some of the same safe gifts that 2006 and 2013 delivered. I have no idea how life will look once we move through this devastating chapter, but there’s always a silver lining. After a year with limited hikers, the PCT will be more beautiful than ever, and if 2020 is anything like 2006 and 2013, there’s sure to be some magic in store.

Praying you and your families are safe and well.

Muk Muk

April 15, 2013 – Southern Terminus of the PCT

Another form of writing

After making a promise to write more at the end of last year, I would say I’ve succeeded in some ways and failed in others. I haven’t touched the memoir. In fact, the word ‘memoir’ makes me shudder every time I hear it. But I did, thanks to the suggestion of my dear friend Dave, decide to adapt the manuscript into a play. It’s still a work in progress, but the idea has finally brought me back to those hundreds of pages I wrote over the past six years, and the new format is helping me to view the story in a different light.

I’ve missed posting on this blog too and communicating with my followers. But I must confess, I’m less willing to spill my heart over the Internet these days. Not because I don’t want strangers reading my deepest, darkest secrets, but more because I don’t want people I know reading my deepest, darkest secrets. It’s an odd concept, but blogging is like therapy to me, and I would never choose my mum or best friend to be my counsellor. That’s the reason we spend hundreds of dollars exposing our worst selves to complete strangers – you don’t need to face them every day, and they’re sworn to secrecy.

I have been writing more though and landed my first paid writing job last week, creating an article around online beauty courses. I never thought I could write on topics I know nothing about, and as expected, it wasn’t easy at first. But what I’ve since discovered is the Internet is full of articles written by writers who know nothing about the topics they’re assigned to. Last night I completed a 1,000-word project on wainscoting, and I can promise you, I had no idea what the hell it was until I surfed the web.

I’ve wanted to be my own boss for a while now, and it’s been a slow start due to lack of confidence and trying to figure out what to offer the world. I’ve been concerned I might lose my passion for writing if I forced myself to make money from it. But I’ve enjoyed exercising these muscles again, and now that I’m getting used to sitting in front of my laptop, I’m discovering that writing inspires writing.

So far, I’ve only worked twelve hours as a freelance writer and have earned a little over $100, so I’m not about to give up my day job. I’m just getting my feet wet, but I’m proud of myself for trying something new and taking a step towards career freedom and independence. I’m also gaining a host of new knowledge from these odd writing jobs, and now that I’m a pseudo expert on online beauty courses and wainscoting, if writing doesn’t pan out, I could always consider becoming a cosmetologist or venture into home décor instead.

Falling off the horse

After taking a break from writing these past few months, it’s been a difficult horse to climb back onto. Falling out of the routine and finding my groove again has been difficult, especially when there’s an 80,000-word manuscript waiting for my attention, and all I want to do is see the back of it.

I’ve had a number of false starts, climbing back into the saddle, getting spooked, and jumping off again. The stubborn side of me refuses to let this project go. The same side that pushed me to finish the Te Araroa Trail in New Zealand when I prayed injury would force me to quit in the first few weeks. But last night, when I opened chapter one of draft six to rework the opening paragraphs, an hour later, I wanted to hit delete on the entire manuscript.

Why did I decide to write a book in the first place? I’ve always enjoyed writing and have often dreamed of having a book to my name. The book gave me purpose, and allowed me to relive, process, and put to bed so many of the events that happened on the trail in 2013. For those who followed my Mexico to Canada blog, you know there was a lot happening behind the scenes that didn’t make it to the page. I wanted to fill in those gaps and tell the full story, but the book lacks the essence of the blog, the innocence of seeing, experiencing, and feeling those emotions for the first time. The blog was unique because of its followers and the community it created. It did the journey justice in a way the book in its current form does not.

The year of 2019 has been a remaking of Rozanne. Rozanne 2.0, as my dear friend Patou would describe, is learning to reconnect to her thoughts, feelings, and intuitions, trust her own judgement and have the confidence to follow her own path. Instead of writing, I’ve rekindled my love for theatre, studied mindfulness, social psychology, and compassionate communication. I’ve reconnected with friends, immersed myself in nature, spent hours in my kayak, slowed life down, and taken stock of these beautiful 37 years of life. It’s been a remarkable journey, and there’s only one thing that’s been missing.

After rekindling my passion for theatre this year, following almost twenty years of dormancy, I wondered what kind of an actor I’d be now if I ignored all the rejections and continued living that passion. I gave away acting after a miserable audition into Sydney’s largest theatre company, and being rejected from Australia’s best-known acting school at the end of high school. I followed a path behind the camera and studied TV production instead, which seems like a ludicrous decision now. But after receiving some pretty harsh feedback on my manuscript earlier this year, I realise how sensitive I can be to criticism, and I’ll be making the same mistake again if I give up on my writing now.

Book or no book, I need to get back on the horse and just write for the love of it. I may never have a memoir to my name, but in 20 years, when I’m version 3.0 or even 4, instead of wondering what kind of writer I would have been if I just kept at it, I’ll know.

Happily Human

I had a major revelation a few nights ago. Not only did I come to terms with the fact I am human, I finally embraced this seemingly obvious fact with open arms.

Both the accepting and appreciating part has been a challenge for me. I’ve spent thirty-six years being socialised to admire people who achieve super-human feats and listening to constant praise for people who do extraordinary things. There’s no wonder I’ve been striving to join the ranks of these heroes standing high above us mere mortals.

This all became apparent when I sat sobbing on the couch of my counsellor last week about something I felt deeply ashamed of.

“Lean into that feeling,” my counsellor told me in her calm, therapeutic way. “Now what is that emotion trying to tell you? What part of you is it touching?”

I did as I was told, closing my eyes with my legs and bare feet crossed on her comfortable linen sofa, attempting to press right against the emotions and thoughts I was experiencing.

“I’m afraid people won’t love me anymore, or they’ll find me disgusting,” I replied, dabbing at the tears that were rolling down my cheeks.

“Do you want to be seen as perfect?” my counsellor offered, striking yet another chord as I reached for a second tissue.

“Probably,” I chocked, taking a moment to recompose. “I guess I’ve always felt the need to be super-human or better than everyone else to feel worthy.”

“Worthy of what?” my counsellor probed.

“Worthy of love and belonging,” I croaked.

My counsellor allowed these words to settle as I sucked in a deep breath of truth.

“And what if the opposite were true?” she offered gently. “What if being human made you more worthy of these things?”

Thanks to the help of my counsellor, I’ve been learning so much about myself over these past few months. I’ve identified my desperate need for love and connection like every other human on this planet, and when I fear rejection and disconnection the most; I tend to run away and isolate myself.

The best example of this was when I decided to hike the PCT in 2012. I felt particularly unworthy of love and belonging at that juncture in my life, so instead of facing rejection or disconnection from the people I love, I fled to a foreign part of the world to reinvent myself. I was also endeavouring to prove myself worthy again by completing an admirable feat like walking from Mexico to Canada. But when the gratification and ego boost of the achievement wore off, I began my search for worthiness all over again.

I’ve been repeating the same patterns of behaviour throughout the past few years of my life, hiking other trails like a hamster on a wheel, running miles without moving forward emotionally. I’ve grown and changed in other ways of course, but earlier this year, amid one of the greatest shame crises I’ve had since 2012, I moved to a small town in British Columbia and isolated myself again.

All I wanted to do was escape to another trail, and wished I hadn’t already completed the PCT so I could hike it over. But deep down, I knew hiking every trail on this continent wouldn’t make me feel differently about myself. I had to stop running and face the underlying issue, open my closet of demons, and fight those bastards head-on.

This has not been an easy journey. On some days I feel I’m moving forward, and on others more like I’ve regressed. Mental healing isn’t tangible like hiking a trail. There’s no delineation of progress, no mile markers, resupply towns, or border crossings. Advancement is subtle, and sometimes so indistinguishable you might not even detect it. But a few nights ago, while brushing my teeth before bed, I was struck by a change in my perception.

I was examining my face in the mirror as I usually do, studying the bags under my eyes, the wrinkles across my forehead, and the unwanted hair above my upper lip. I also noticed with my hair tied into a ponytail, I was exposing a mole I’ve always hated just under my hairline. I’ve spent years of my life adjusting my hair in an attempt to cover that mole, yet at that moment, I didn’t feel the need to do so. In fact, for a brief second, I felt affection for that raised cluster of cells on the fringe of my forehead because it proves that I am human.

That benign pink mole is a part of who I am – the imperfect, human Rozanne who is worthy of love and connection like everyone else. Accepting such a minor flaw may appear insignificant, but admitting I’m human is a major milestone in my healing.

Our fascination with fame

I’ve started a new casual job in a tasting room at a local brewery, discussing, pouring, and cleaning up after people drinking beer. It’s nine hours on my feet, lifting, squatting, stacking, bending, and pacing. I’m basically getting paid to work out and talk about beer. It’s not exactly working for the Olympics, but it’s a pretty sweet gig.

An interesting thing happened to me at work today. A woman I was serving told me with a hint of scepticism I was the fourth Australian she’d met this week. I responded with equal distaste, telling her I thought all Australians had been detained in Whistler and that I was under the assumption I was the only one who’d escaped. The woman squinted at me through her red-rimmed spectacles, dismissing my joke as she tucked her cherry-coloured bob behind both ears.

“So what brought you to Canada in the first place?” she probed suspiciously.

“The Winter Olympics in Vancouver,” I responded with a sense of pride.

“Oh,” she said, her tone and body language shifting. “Were you an athlete?”

I paused in the glow of her admiration, gaining the attention of both my colleague and the customer behind her.

“No, I only worked on the games,” I responded, leaving out the details of the two and a half years I spent planning the torch relay across Canada.

“Oh,” she said with obvious disappointment. “I was going to ask you to sign this napkin.”

The woman set the napkin down beside her and pulled out a shiny black wallet from her handbag instead, and without another word paid for her beer and left without leaving a tip.

It wasn’t until this evening, sitting on the couch in my quiet little cabin thinking about my unfinished memoir, I wondered what the hell our obsession with fame is. Would being an athlete or an author make me a better person, more deserving of love, respect, and belonging? Was I more deserving of these things when I worked for the Olympics rather than for a brewery? And how about walking the length of three countries, climbing mountains and paddling 715km down a river? Do any of these things make me better than anyone else?

Thankfully, due to my recent weeks of counselling and acute introspection, I have reinforced the notion that what we do is not who we are. Our achievements don’t alter what’s at the core of our being, our characteristics, or our values. It’s just if we’re not standing at the top of a podium, our positive traits often go unpraised. But even if our efforts go unrecognised, it doesn’t make them any less worthy of attention. Much like a tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear it. In my opinion, the tree still makes a sound.

I used to think having a published book would make me more deserving of love, belonging and respect, and that the success of my book would define my worthiness as a human being. I sometimes still believe this because I’m imperfect and I can’t help but attach my worthiness to my achievements. But neither the book nor finishing the PCT or other trails changes who I am as a person. Sure, I would have loved to sign that woman’s napkin at the brewery today as much as I would like to have a published memoir sitting on my bookshelf. But even if I were a best-selling author, I’d still be the exact same person sitting here alone on my couch tapping away at my laptop at eleven p.m. in the evening.

It’s hard to believe what we bring to the world is enough when the people being recognised are the record holders, the prize winners, the first-time creators, or the influencers with thousands of followers. But the real winners are the people who don’t need recognition to feel worthy, or praise to recognise their unique contribution to this planet. Perhaps we need to take away the medals and podiums to have a better chance of believing this, and maybe in addition to banning plastic bags, we should remove all napkins from the workplace as well.

The hurdle of truth

Everything in my life seems to be moving and changing so rapidly at the moment it’s been hard to communicate where I’m at. When people ask how I am, it’s an hour-long conversation minimum and one that requires me to dig into the nitty-gritty and go deep.

I’ve been opening up so much lately, crying over the phone to friends and family, meeting a counsellor each week, and conducting my own emotional analysis, I feel both mentally and physically fatigued. I’m attempting to break through the walls I’ve built up over thirty-six years to uncover the truth, and in the process, emotions are leaking and spilling all over the place. Without my protective shield, I feel about as vulnerable and naked as ever. But I’m convinced to rebuild myself authentically, I have to break down the original foundations first.

Just as my injury slowed me down two months ago, recent events have pulled the mental rug out from under my feet too. I was desperate to secure somewhere to live when I returned to BC and ended up renting a cottage in the woods for the summer despite several red flags. The dream turned sour fast (thanks to the mentally abusive landlords and countless rodents), and eight days later, my friend Dave had to intervene and move me out.

Moving to an isolated cottage was an example of my extreme behaviour, choosing something out of the ordinary like hiking the length of America, paddling wild distances, or hopping from place to place to find or distract myself from whatever’s missing in my life. When I asked my counsellor why crazy shit always happens to me, she told me about people who perpetuate their own shame cycles by putting themselves in unfavourable situations. Oh my god, I thought to myself. I’m one of those people. I’ve been doing this to myself.

This revelation coincided with receiving feedback from my editor Betsy in New York regarding draft five of my manuscript. She had a lot to say, sixteen pages in fact, pointing out not only what was missing from my story, but all of the red flags I’d ignored during my hike along the PCT. It was an expensive counselling session, and although I was horrified by her feedback, she was absolutely right. She’d highlighted everything that was missing from those 300 pages, which I’d been unable or unwilling to admit.

What’s missing from my manuscript is the ‘why’. Why I was on the trail in the first place, why it was so crucial for me to reach the finish, and what motivated my decisions along the way. I know I have a compelling plot, neither Betsy nor anyone who read my blog would argue that. But the external plot isn’t enough. The story lies within the internal struggle, the belief I had going into the trail that was either proved or disproved. I haven’t allowed the reader into my head enough, and it’s because I didn’t know the answers to all of those questions until now.

Once the horror of writing a memoir for five years without a story subsided, I felt little regret. Memoir or not, Betsy’s feedback has allowed me to uncover the whys of not only the trail but the reasons behind so many major decisions in my life that led me to the trail in the first place.

So over the past two weeks, I’ve been reading a book called Story Genius recommended by my friend Sue, immersing myself in Betsy’s feedback, talking to my counsellor, and reading Brené Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection. I’m on an introspective acid trip, rummaging through all sorts of emotional baggage to see things from a different perspective.

What I’ve uncovered has been immensely rewarding, and without the memoir, it might have taken me months or even years of therapy to reveal this much. If I’m going to rewrite my story, I’ve got a long road ahead. But after sifting through the rubble of draft five, I’ll see what I can salvage before deciding if I’m going to return to mile zero and start hiking again from page one.

For those following my writing journey on YouTube (apologies for my recent tardiness), this video captures my initial reaction minutes after reading Betsy’s sixteen-page editorial letter.

Learning to be kind

Since I wrote my last post, I feel like a different person. I was in the midst of a mini breakdown, and until I fully self-destructed, I wasn’t able to identify the turmoil I was in and why I was acting so desperately.

The challenges over the past few weeks have been a blessing. I would never wish to repeat them, but I’ve learned so much about taking care of myself physically and mentally, I’m grateful for all the dark places I’ve been.

I was aware that landing back in Vancouver after a year and a half without a plan was irresponsible to my wellbeing. But I had no idea how cruel I could be or how much pressure I would put on myself until I beat my body into the ground and was forced to stop everything.

Thank goodness my hips revolted the way they did. It brought me to a grinding halt, and there was no way my mind could overpower what was happening. I could barely walk five blocks, so pulling out of the marathon was a given. I wouldn’t have even made it to the start line, which made the decision a little easier to swallow.

I learned a great deal about how we control the way situations affect us. The moment I pulled out of the race was a perfect example. I’d made such a song and dance about it in my head and sat with my mouse poised over the submit button of the form for at least five minutes before I caught myself over-dramatising. I was attributing so many emotions to this action, which had nothing to do with my desire to run a 42km race at all, and upon realising this, I pressed the button and immediately moved on.

I don’t think I ever really wanted to run the marathon, but I needed a focussed distraction and something to boast while determining the aspects of my life I didn’t have answers for. The marathon gave me a concrete response to the dreaded question of ‘what now?’ which I felt I needed because I was ashamed to have nothing I deemed as ‘impressive’ to report. I’ve spent so much of my life overachieving in my career and physical pursuits to quieten that frightened part of me that never feels good enough, I continually forget I don’t need to prove myself to anyone.

It’s taken a while to understand what slowing down means and to stop feeling guilty, worthless, or pathetic for doing so. At the beginning, I was terrified I was simply lazy, and if I allowed myself a week of respite, I’d get so used to doing nothing I’d never want to do anything productive again. These thoughts sound ludicrous when you write them down on paper, but they’re legitimate, and I beat myself up over them constantly.

Thankfully my mother helped me recognise I needed to restore my energy, repair my body, and reduce my anxiety before I could even begin planning for my future. I received so much great advice over the past few weeks through comment and emails, but it wasn’t until I called my mum in a fit of tears that I recognised something had gone wrong and I started to actually listen. She told me there was no way I could make any big decisions in the state I was in, and that my first priority was to find somewhere to live that made me happy and slowly build from there.

All the comments and advice I received gave me the permission I needed to rest. I’ve spent the last few weeks walking slower, noticing details of my environment and people I’ve never paid attention to before. I’ve taken the time to speak to strangers on the bus, in the supermarket, and along the street. I stop at every crosswalk before the light turns red, so I don’t have to race across the road in an unnecessary hurry. I take naps, I journal, I eat good food, I go to bed early, take baths, and admit that I need help.

In the process, I’ve started breaking down the overtly strong, powerful, independent persona I’ve created for myself over the years. No matter what I’ve achieved I’ve always felt there was something fundamental missing, and I think part of the answer is that I’ve disconnected so far from my needs and desires, I’ve been searching for something that was inside me all along.

The kinder I am to myself, the greater my capacity is to be kind to others. I can share and celebrate achievements, support my friends when they seek advice, and be present in conversations with the people I care about. I haven’t fully mastered any of this just yet, but I’ve caught a glimpse of how joyful a life without self-torture can be, and if all I need to do is be a little kinder to myself, I’m excited to explore this new path of self-discovery.

Accepting Defeat

The subject of this post is not something I’m well versed in. Once I’m driven to accomplish a task, the more challenges I face, the more determined I’m likely to become. This can work in my favour in times when I need to dig deep and find the strength to continue. But it can also be detrimental to my health because my mind tends to push my body further than it can or wants to go.

On the PCT, I was so determined to finish the trail I pushed through injury, pain, and weather conditions I’d never face again to cross the border. On the Yukon River Quest, when the foot pedal of my kayak snapped off, and I lost steering for half the race, determination saw me through to the finish line.

My latest challenge has been training to run a marathon, despite the fact I don’t actually like running. The furthest I’ve ever run was 21km when I was at the peak of my fitness in 2016. But after listening to a very inspiring interview with ultra-marathon runner David Goggins, I signed up to run the Vancouver Marathon on May 5th, believing not only could I finish with only two months lead time, but after listening to this powerful podcast, I was confident I could win the race on mind power alone.

This is where reality and my ambition began to collide.

On my first training run, I decided I would go for an hour and push as far as I could. One of Goggin’s quotes that struck me was that people often quit at 40%. So every time I started to feel tired I would ask myself what percentage I was at, and if it weren’t 100%, I’d keep going. Basically, I was convinced if I hadn’t vomited by the end of the run I wasn’t pushing hard enough, a statement that horrified my poor mother!

On that first day I ran 11km, sprinting up the last hill to pass another runner across my make believe finish line. I did almost vomit, but I was elated, grinning triumphantly because I’d successfully pushed past my 40%.

However, the next day I ran, I started to feel pain in my hips. Over the next four days, I continued training, but afterwards, I was struggling to walk and found staircases excruciating. I saw a physio back in Australia who prescribed me orthotics because my left leg is shorter than my right, and according to him, was the cause for throwing my pelvis off balance. He told me to take a week off running, get used to the new insoles and take it from there.

Cut to a week later, after paying an exorbitant amount of money I ran 8km and experienced even worse pain in my hips within the first few minutes. I was crushed, but assuming it might be the last time I would ever run, I ran the full 8km I’d intended, tearing up my feet on the useless orthotics in the process and limping home in defeat.

I spent the next two weeks on an exercise bike attempting to maintain some kind of fitness until I arrived back in Vancouver to visit my trusty chiropractor, Dr. Sam. I essentially went straight from the airport to his practice and after a descent readjustment, he told me to take two days off with no running before seeing him again.

On the second visit a week ago, he gave me the all clear to run, so naturally, I went straight to the gym, signed up with a personal trainer, invested in a concoction of protein powders, supplements, and electrolytes and hit the treadmill.

Kyle my trainer told me what I was attempting was ambitious, to say the least, but for the first few days, I think I had us both fooled. I transformed my diet, went to the gym for at least three hours each day, and walked out with a huge grin knowing I was moving one step closer towards my goal.

Then yesterday I did my first 10km run since my initial training, and within the first few minutes my hips flared up again. Of course, I ran the entire 10km, but I went straight back to my chiropractor who merely shook his head and asked if there was any way I could get a refund for the race.

Somehow I was not prepared for this response and had to hold back tears while Dr. Sam completed his treatment. At the end, he told me to rest for the weekend and see him next week, and by the time I left his practice I was an emotional wreck, crying the entire way back to my friend Sue’s house while biking through Vancouver’s persistent rain.

At that point, I had to question why this race is so important to me.

The truthful answer is something far deeper than my conscience drives me. Whether it comes from a place of fear or insecurity or a desire for attention, I don’t know, but it’s in my nature to follow through on things I say I’m going to do. It’s a part of an identity I pride myself on, and when something goes against the grain, it throws my entire sense of character into chaos.

The other answer is the marathon is the only concrete element in my life right now. I’m homeless, jobless, and have just moved back to a city I’m not even sure I want to make my home in. I want to be self-employed and set up a business in one of the most expensive cities in the world, and in the midst of searching for accommodation, considering living out of a van, and debating part-time dog walking jobs, I’m spending my savings on personal trainers and protein powder, trying to gauge whether I’ve completely lost my mind.

Compared to my other objectives, the marathon is a rather straightforward affair. It has a specific date, a set distance, a defined course, a cut-off time, and I have a nutrition and training plan to follow. It would almost seem ‘easy’ if my body would just cooperate.

So as I sit here with an icepack on my hip having waddled up the staircase of Sue’s apartment, I’m still holding onto a small thread of hope that somehow in twenty-four days I’ll be ready to run 42km. Though it seems unlikely as I can barely scuttle across the road to beat traffic, if I do have to accept defeat on this particular challenge, at least I’ll be satisfied I didn’t quit at 40%.