"The man who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The man who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been before.
Creativity in living is not without its attendant difficulties, for peculiarity breeds contempt. And the unfortunate thing about being ahead of your time is that when people finally realize you were right, they’ll say it was obvious all along. You have two choices in your life; you can dissolve into the mainstream, or you can be distinct. To be distinct, you must be different. To be different, you must strive to be what no one else but you can be . . ."
The above passage from the 1970s is attributed to Alan Ashley-Pitt, a pseudonym of Francis Phillip Wernig.
Certainly some have seen the sights I've seen, been where I've been. But that last sentence of the passage resonates with me, the part about being the person that only you can be.
Often the simple approach to life is dismissed as too simple. Without pride, without envy, what's left to motivate you?
Should a question about the trajectory of your life be more complicated?
Walking alone for a thousand miles strips away the pride and the envy that contaminates daily life. There's not many people to impress (or judge for that matter) in the wilderness, and more times than not, there's no one.
Muir said that "In every walk with nature one recieves more than he seeks."
From a less contaminated mental state I've found what motivates me without really seeking that answer.
I want every single day to matter to me, for the years are made of days. Every day must count towards my goals, the goals I set for myself, the goals that will make me into the person that only I can be (a product infinite possibility).
I'll delve deeper into what I mean by "making every day count" because it's a phrase that is often (almost always) misused.
This philosphy has been brewing within me for a thousand miles. And I've given various forms of my pitch to dozens of people over those miles.
Many embrace the message as I intend to convey it. For most people, we're talking >99%, every day doesn't count.
Before this hike, if I showed up to my cubical early, worked really hard, and executed at a high level, I'd get paid the same salary. If I showed up late, slacked all day, I'd get paid the same. And you know what? When I called in sick, I'd still get paid the same.
Every day didn't count.
Now out here on the trail, every day counts. No one is going to walk these miles for me.
On my previous bike trip, if I rode 70 miles, sure enough I was 70 miles closer to my goal. If I rode 0 miles, my goal remained at the same place in the distance.
Now I'll interject some commentary on how the phrase "making every day count" is misused.
While walking down from Cloud's Rest in Yosemite National Park, I had an hour long conversation with two California women of retirement age. When I explained to them why every day at this moment in my life counted (miles towards Canada), one of the women exclaimed that, for teachers, everyday counts!
They're missing the point.
"Making every day count" isn't some profound, abstract thesis. It's a simple distinction:
What can you do today to quantifiably move yourself closer to your goal, whatever that goal maybe, however trivial or profound that goal may seem to anyone else?
The reality for these teachers is the same story as my cubical life. If they call in sick one day, their kids are still going to graduate, they'll still go on to pursue their alleged "potential".
Plain and simple, offensive as is may be percieved to be, every day doesn't count in their lives, most lives.
My standard 8-5 work experience is sandwhiched by the bike trip across America and this trail.
I know what it's like to live deliberately cycling the US, take an extended break through an 8-5 life, and then return to a deliberate life hiking the PCT.
I cannot return to that way of life where my days don't count towards something of my choosing (which in of itself I do not proclaim to be a "right" or "wrong" way to live).
While walking I've devised a plan that will make every day count towards a new goal of my choosing, at least for the next several years.
I'll start there. And I'll tell you all about it soon enough...