So I came home from the Appalachian Trail in October of 2017, and since then I’ve been settling back into the regular rhythm of life.
This is often easier said than done, but it’s gone more smoothly than I might have hoped. I was fortunate enough to find a job quickly, and got plugged into a place to live right away. I was also able to get back into regular volunteering with my local church community which was a huge help. All of these things mean that I didn’t get stuck in the kind of emotional morass that I did when I left the trail the year before. Post trail depression is a common occurrence for a lot of hikers, and different things work for different people. For me, getting back to “normal” as quickly as possible was a huge help.
But that said, there are still some things I’m struggling with. The biggest is staying productive as a writer. My favorite luxury I had on the trail was the ability to write every day, and more importantly have something fun to write about regularly. It’s easy to want to document what you did with your day when you’re living under the stars and spending every day hiking on one of world’s greatest long distance trails with a fantastic community. It’s a far different thing to write while spending every day going to an office to take incredibly repetitive phone calls fixing banal computer issues.
I am fortunate to have my job, it pays relatively well and has a schedule that leaves me open for having a life outside of the office. I don’t deal with an overwhelming amount of stress, and there’s enough stability that I don’t have to regularly worry about getting laid off or fired. But it is also fairly predictable and safe, and that does not contribute well to the writing juices. I was able to get an opportunity to write some small group discussion guides for a local church in the Advent season, which kept me in some small amount of practice, but those had a fairly focused purpose so the audience was not very wide.
I have been working in the last few weeks to find ways to expand my opportunities in the world of volunteering, with a local homeless emergency shelter and the local Democratic party. These are things that let me feel that I am serving a purpose, but don’t yet have any kind of writing outlet for me. I’m struggling to catch my spinning wheels on something as I try to find the right road.
But all is not lost, I do have a few projects I’ll be working on this year, and I want to take this chance to share those with you, as well as set some expectations on what the next year is going to look like on this site.
First, I am working on a short story collection/novella (the exact format isn’t set quite yet) that consists of a retelling of the life of Jesus as set in the modern day. I’ve written about a dozen individual stories for this so far, and am working on fleshing those existing stories out a bit more as well as completing others in the collection. Those will be posted here on a regular basis as I complete the series, hopefully for some kind of publication around the end of the summer.
Second, I am going to be working on some kind of larger project covering my time on the trail. This will likely be taking the form of a book, though I’m still undecided what that book will exactly look like. Possibly a memoir, possibly taking on a different topic but using my hiking experience as a metaphor for personal or spiritual development. I’m honestly not sure. As I try to work through this, what I’m going to do is regularly post here copies of blog updates from when I was hiking. I have rough draft notes that I kept each day of hiking, plus almost three thousand photos taken over the course of two summers. I’m going to try blending these into something a little more meaningful post these “enhanced” blog entries on a semi-weekly basis. Hopefully, this will help me get a firmer grip on what a hiking book written by a chubby IT worker slash armchair theologian would look like, as well as put me further on the path to a rough draft edition.
Finally, this October I am going to be taking part in a trip to Palestine with the Christian Peacemakers Team. We will be visiting Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Al Khalil (Hebron) where we will document violence by the Israeli military against Palestinian civilians and help organize peace work within the community. I plan to spend some time this year documenting why I decided to take this step, what I’m learning as I prepare for it, and hopefully document some of my experiences while there.
All of this will be in addition to the continued work on new recipes, Bible study materials, and my occasional comments on the new of the day. I’m playing around with other ideas that are in even more of a rough draft stage, like a possible podcast, and I’m hoping you will all enjoy the journey along the way!