I wrote this last summer when I found myself single for the first time in 7 years. I was living in a city I didn’t love and felt constantly stressed. At this point I was spending most of my weekends eating Ben & Jerry’s, watching Dawson’s Creek on Netflix (not recommended post-breakup), and having in-depth conversations with my dog who is a surprisingly good listener. In an attempt to get myself out of this self-destructive spiral I challenged myself to complete at least one big, uncomfortable solo mission each weekend. Sometimes that meant going to the movies by myself and trying to ignore the guy who chose to sit directly next to me in a mostly empty theater and literally knee slap and audibly laugh through the entire film. I should mention that the movie we saw was Boyhood and it honestly just wasn’t that funny. Sometimes my challenge was going on a hike in a part of town I hadn’t been to before. This was my experience on one of those hikes.
1. In the beginning you will feel liberated like the lady who wrote “Wild.” You will yell out, “I don’t need no man,” fling one arm into the air in celebration, and use the other arm to simultaneously pat yourself on the back for your bravery. You will scare your dog in the process but it will be worth it.
2. You will probably trip a lot and think about a plan of action if you really hurt yourself. A couple of topics to consider: does my phone have service up here? Will an animal eat me? How I am still so clumsy this late into my 20’s? How much does a medical helicopter flight cost? Will the EMT’s be single? Will my insurance cover a medical helicopter? Can we make out in the medical helicopter if said EMT’s are in fact single?
3. You will encounter two guys on the path and realize how easy it would be for them to take advantage of you. Fear will creep in until they say hello and show you a turtle and duck they found hanging out next to each other. You will vow to watch less Law & Order: SVU.
4. You will run into a couple who is obviously trying to have sex on a picnic table and despite the awkwardness, you will sit at a table 15 feet away because you are about to throw up from the heat. They will not be happy. You probably saved them from a lifetime of splinters so technically you’re a hero.
5. You will remember an email that went around about rattlesnake training for your dog. Then you will remember when your friend Lauren said she was hiking at Runyon and saw a rattlesnake two weeks ago. Then every single stick, leaf, rock, and twig will resemble a rattlesnake and you will vow to google “rattlesnake escape” as soon as you get off this damn mountain.
6. At some point you’ll reach the peak of the hike and get a rush of adrenaline. It will inspire you to do squats (30), lunges (30), and some weird arm lift a fitness trainer you saw two times and never called back taught you to do (30).
7. During your descent you will curse yourself for doing the squats (30), lunges (30), and weird arm lifts (30) in the middle of the hike and not at the end when jello legs would be much less of an issue. Each step is a little too baby-deer-right-out-the-womb but still, you hike on.
8. You will dry heave for 10 seconds from the heat and the general lack of fitness and feel ok about the fact that it’s happening. Normally all heaves, both wet and dry, would be reserved for a less public place but you are one with nature and you will heave as much as you want.
9. Your dog will give up about half way in. No amount of water, excited coercing, or rest in the shade of a tree will make him move. He weighs nine pounds and will soon be cradled in your incredibly sweaty left arm.
10. You will be romanced by the trees, and the flowers, and the foliage, and Mother Nature and take a wrong turn and walk 45 minutes in the wrong direction while still carrying your nine pound dog. At some point you’ll look at the map on your phone and thank the sweet, sweet powers above that Waze makes a note of where you parked and even though it’s completely in the other direction you will only cry a tiny bit and then you’ll slowly start the long walk back to your car. You did it.