I did not look up. I kept my eyes cast down, not wanting it to end. I stepped mechanically, my mind no longer worked to keep my feet moving. It was simple to walk — one foot found its place amongst the rock, then the other. Five months prior, I began a two thousand mile hike that would change my life. The end now stood in sight, the final stretch of trail running out before me over the massive tabletop of Mount Katahdin.
I thought of what it meant to be who I am. I thought of what I had learned over the past months, and about what it means to be alive in the universe. All these thoughts whirled through my head as I took my final steps toward the signboard, one foot finding its place amongst the rock, then the other. I breathed in, closed my eyes, and extended my hand. I reached out and touched the weathered wood scripted in pale white paint — “Mount Katahdin, northern terminus of the AT.” My journey was over. There was nothing left to do but descend the massive upheaval of earth and begin the next part of my life.
Before my trip, I was always focused on “becoming” something. I always wanted to get a new title, make more money, and have more responsibility. I pursued my future at the expense of the present. But during my thru hike of the Appalachian Trail, I discovered that life isn’t about “becoming” anything — it’s about being what you are.
Knowledge is perhaps the most valuable thing we collect in our lives. Knowledge breeds curiosity and the urge to discover and create. New ideas shape the way we interact with the world. They create new frames of reference through which we organize the immense amount of data we receive every day. And through this attainment of knowledge, something amazing happens: we begin to create on our own.
I know of no higher calling than to learn and create. That is my goal in life. I do not care for the title of writer or teacher — they are only tags connected to me. I care for the will that is inside of me to gather and understand, and then create that which is not yet created. The work may be an essay, a work of fiction, or a blog post. Or perhaps it is the unfolding mind of a child who finally realizes the power of a word they have just come to understand. That creation is wholly new, never before seen in the universe — and it is something awesome.
When I walked off of Mount Katahdin, I took with me a new point of reference from which I viewed the world as a whole. I saw myself not as a person struggling through life on the Earth, seeking to reach some fulfilling endpoint. I saw myself as a manifestation of the universe itself, with the capability and potential to learn, create, live, and love. At the time, I did not know specifically what I wanted to do — all I knew was that I wanted to do something worthy of me.
I set out on a new path in life. No longer would I search for something to “become.” I would relish that which I already am. I would collect knowledge and create new things. The knowledge I seek is all around me. It is in books, nature, people, and understanding. There is so much of it that I will never be able to grasp it all, but I will try. And with the knowledge I do attain, I will create. My creations will become new pieces of knowledge, perfectly manifested pieces of myself, ready to be absorbed by those who seek it.
I seek to attain the titles of writer and teacher. But those are not who I am. During my time on earth, I will further who I already know myself to be — a collector of knowledge, a spirit of creation, and a manifestation of the universe itself.