I had been living in Chicago for about three years. I’d moved there after my college graduation and immediately began working with a financial services firm.
At first, working a 40+ hour week was a big adjustment for me. I would leave the office at the end of the day and be in a daze: who am I, where am I? My mind would be completely fried. And so I would tell family and friends about this, and everyone would say that I would get used to that feeling. And I did.
Then one day I had the terrifying thought, “This is my life. This will be the outline of my life.” Two and a half years later I quit my job to hike the Appalachian Trail, and 5 months later, in September 2013, I completed the journey.
Since the moment I quit to basically live in the woods, the most common question I got was “Why?” and I never really had an answer.
Here is my answer.
It was the hardest reality to ever have hit me – to realize this would be my life, this predictable schedule of monotony.
I would wake up early Monday through Friday. Perhaps go for a run. It would be a dark run, since I would have to be at work by 8am.
And when I arrived at work, I would sit at my desk, send emails, read emails, walk to the bathroom, walk back to my desk, take calls.
I would leave around 5, most likely. Once home I would wearily make dinner. Eat dinner.
Sure, there would be evenings where I went out for drinks. Good drinks with good friends. That would be really living. Really letting loose.
But most nights I would go to sleep at a responsible hour after clicking around online.
If it was a Monday, I would have four more splendid days of this to look forward to. However, should it be a Friday… now this, this would be my chance to live.
And so that reality did hit me; the reality that my life would be this way, the reality that everyone around me was screaming, “This is living! This is happiness!”
The realization that I was not happy was a hard hit. But if happiness was going to knock me to the ground and hope I stay there, flat on my back, eyes shut, ears closed, mouth covered, then it would be a happiness I would never know.
Choosing to quit my job and leave my friends in Chicago, a city I had come to love, to hike the A.T. with pretty much no backpacking experience, was one of the best choices I’ve ever made – as was moving to Chicago and taking that job. Today my happiness stems from these experiences, and it’s taught me a simple truth: what might seemingly make some people happy does not make me happy.
I chose to do something that made me happy – to leap out of my comfort zone with 29 pounds of gear on my back, and enter the woods on the Appalachian Trail.
Carly Moree lives in Asheville, NC, where she spends a lot of time in the woods hiking and trail running. She's a contributor to AppalachianTrials.com and when she isn't thinking about writing or planning her next endurance hiking adventure, she's with the family shih-tzu. She's also left-handed.