Reframing Defeat

Summer is here, and last week, the day before the solstice, I stepped away from my job of eight years.

I've been wondering how to write a post that accurately captures the flipping of switches in my emotional centers since I got off of my Pacific Crest Trail section hike last August and immediately turning 30 afterward, but all words until now have been hard to find. The chapter of my life that was my entry into adulthood has closed. I lost loved ones and rediscovered what close friends and family really means to me, I pushed myself emotionally, intellectually, physically beyond my perceived limits, I was the primary financial support in my household for years, and I advanced myself professionally and became a katamari ball spinning out of control picking up skills at super-speed as life rolled me along.

Days before I turned 30, on the tail end of our Pacific Crest Trail Hike. Photo credit 📷: @charmedneedle.

Days before I turned 30, on the tail end of our Pacific Crest Trail Hike. Photo credit 📷: @charmedneedle.

I sustained another series of injuries last fall that I ignored and tried to train for another race in the winter anyway. After a disastrous long run day that caused me to quit, it became incredibly apparent that I was ignoring my physical pain and attempting to use running as the solution to ALL of my problems. I chased the tasks that I felt I could control and poured all of myself into them, ignoring my own needs and wants. And I stopped running for a few months, and honestly couldn't tell you accurately what happened between the winter snowstorm in Seattle this February and mid-April.

In April, my husband and I celebrated 10 years of marriage together in Hawai'i. We'd never been able to afford a "real" trip before, and I found myself cramming work in the airport terminal and our hotel room late at night immediately after we landed, determined to feel closure that I'd somehow "finished." I resolved to not open my laptop after I crawled into bed with my eyes burning from exhaustion.

From the following morning and through the next week I rediscovered my best friend, making memory after memory as we ventured from Kona to Naalehu to Volcano to Hilo and back. The ocean knocked me over and took my glasses early in the trip, and I experienced the island through the bleary lenses of my husband's backup pair for almost 6 days. I was covered in red dirt from a ride in a truck bed through the southernmost beaches in the US, sweat from hiking across lava rock and humid tropical forests, and the biggest stupid smile I couldn't wipe off of my face. We talked through my anxieties, I came up with a plan, and when I returned, I was determined to undo the course of self-destruction I'd put myself on.

One of the best sunsets of my life, taken by my husband. We chased rainclouds and stopped along the highway so I could take as many pictures as I could. We had dinner in Kona, listened to a ridiculous podcast on the way back to our home base, and I got to see the clearest midnight sky filled with so many, many stars.

One of the best sunsets of my life, taken by my husband. We chased rainclouds and stopped along the highway so I could take as many pictures as I could. We had dinner in Kona, listened to a ridiculous podcast on the way back to our home base, and I got to see the clearest midnight sky filled with so many, many stars.

It took nearly a month for me to figure out how to start, but I eventually gave 4 weeks notice to the job that had pushed me to grow in many ways and allowed me to make and work with amazing friends. The decision wrecked me and I am still letting go of the guilt I feel surrounding the idea that I somehow “gave up.”

It's been a week since I packed the trunk of my car with my office possessions, turned in my key card, and drove to away with tears rolling down my face to spend the evening with my friends eating burnt hotdogs and filling my clothes and hair with the cleansing summer scent of campfire smoke. Everyone keeps asking about my immediate plans with my summer off, and I'm not particularly driven to provide an answer, because they all seem hollow or cliche.

I guess the most accurate response that I can give (beyond the parts about what I’m going to start studying in fall and what I’ll do for work in the interim) is that I'm going to be continuing on. This morning I laced up my running shoes, started a favorite podcast, and jogged for 2 miles at the park. I ate a big salad. I'm sitting in one of my favorite cafes finishing a latte. Later this afternoon I'm going to take care of my houseplants and play a videogame with my husband before he leaves to visit family next week.

Whatever I end up doing “with my life,” I hope it continues to bring me outside and to the wonderful, glorious dirt-and-sweat-covered-luke-warm-coffee-fueled state that I feel most myself in.