I've lived two-thirds of my life away from my home town, and it has changed so much that it doesn't really feel like coming home. My home is in the mountains now. But as I hiked the North Country trail, I wondered what kind of person I would be if I had stayed. I would have different hobbies, I decided: with so many lakes, I would be a kayaker for sure. I wouldn't do all the mountain hikes and runs I do now, but I might bike more. Maybe I would have taken up sailing. It's really hard to say. Instead of hiking the entire PCT, maybe I would have wanted to circumnavigate Lake Superior.
I always feel a little uneasy going back to places I have lived. I come face to face with the person I was, and realize all the roads I could have traveled. What if I hadn't decided to take an unpaid internship with the Park Service, which launched me into the work I do today? What if I hadn't copied my dad as he started running? What if I had married the boyfriend I had when I was sixteen? I'm not one of those who believes everything happens for a reason, or that our lives are laid out according to some kind of plan. I can't look at the rivers and the mountains and how they change through entirely random events and believe the same isn't true for us.
My fourth grade teacher came to my reading. How old are you in fourth grade, ten? At the time, she seemed so old, but she probably wasn't, because here she is. The mother of two boys I went to school with was there too. It must be strange to see how former students change into butterflies. I started to run here, and if it hadn't been for those long runs from the arena and around the island, I might never have graduated to marathons. If I hadn't grown up in nature, I wouldn't have been comfortable in the woods from a young age. While there is nothing wrong with it (live your own life), I feel glad I never became one of the people who need fancy stuff and never set a toe in the outdoors.
I found my home town to be lovely and full of things I never remembered: so many trails! So many lakes! I would not want to live here again: I belong in the mountains. But sometimes I think it is good to go back to where you came from, just to see how far you have indeed come.