We all have something that we’re passionate about. Work, family, the gym, women’s rights…saving the planet. Something the makes us feel complete—makes us do things that are selfless or irrational. These passions drive us—become a part of who we are. And when it comes down to it we think with our heart and act with our soul. And sometimes our head gets left out of the equation.
It feels weird to write it down (tiny, insignificant), but starting 6 years ago my only passion became a girl. A chance encounter that led to an awkward moment that led to more frequent awkward moments. And before you know it I was with this girl that I never dreamed I could be with. Beautiful, funny…and heart of gold. It should have never taken off, but we connected immediately. This girl quickly became my whole focus, my world. I couldn’t stoop thinking about her. She was my forever person and I was hers. It was only a matter of time before we’d say “I do”. It wasn’t even a question.
But years later she is no longer in the picture. There was no marriage or “I do”. No forever. And still today I think of her constantly. That’s what real love is like I guess. But I tell this story because this is what’s consumed the past 3 years of my life. Waiting, hoping…knowing that she’d be sending me a text any minute and tell me how foolish this time apart has been. That she felt the same as I did. I could not move or sleep or even leave the house. I cut off all friends and became a hermit. Living on fast food and sad songs.
I didn’t know what to do, but I couldn’t live like this. Alone in my own head. Beaten down and depressed. It became my identity. I joked about it at work. But nobody laughed back.
So I turned to the outdoors. The only place where I didn’t need to invite friends. I didn’t have to drink to enjoy it. And I could be out there with my dog, Diesel. Hiking, backpacking, skiing, snowshoeing, hunting, just venturing out…often at night or in bad weather. This is when these wild places were the most quiet. Uninhabited by other humans. I could truly be alone—and it sucked! I was SO alone.
It took awhile, but I started to enjoy the solitude, the quiet and the darkness. And I laid down with the thoughts in my head. I did the hard work…I took no shortcuts. I came to terms with what was going on and before long the outdoors sort of became my new identity. I started doing cleanups to remove litter from wild spaces. I led friends on canoe and camping trips. I began to document my moments in nature and people started to take interest in what I was doing. They wanted to know where these wonderful places where and if they could come with. I was making an impact…not only on nature, but on other people as well.
It’s heartbreak. I get it. It’s not cancer or the death of a close friend or even real depression. And I’m glad I don’t have any of those right now…but it mattered greatly to me and it hurt. My time in the outdoors has helped me to heal. It has helped me to regain my independence. It’s helped me to connect with others and allowed me to give back. I’m removing litter and volunteering on a regular basis now and I don’t see that stopping anytime soon. Giving back has already given me so much more in return. It’s taken this broken soul and given him a fresh outlook. I’ll never forget the heartbreak but I know where to go to cope with it. And more often than not, that’s into the outdoors.