“A fingernail moon in a twilight sky
I’m ridin’ in the high grass of the switchback
I shout your name into the canyon
The echo throws it back
The winter snow whites out the plains
‘Til it can turn you blind
The only thing up here I’ve found
Is tryin’ to get you off my mind
Is like chasin’ wild horses, chasin’ wild horses
Chasin’ wild horses, chasin’ wild horses.” ~ Bruce Springsteen, Chasin’ Wild Horses
This is a piece about home.
The place I’ve known for most of my life. My biggest safety blanket. This is about looking honestly at that home and understanding that it is not where I belong any longer.
This is about moving on.
It’s that time of the year that brings holiday cheer, family gatherings of joy, and, of course, the age-old question, “What am I thankful for?” I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, feeling genuine gratitude for this place while at the same time preparing to leave it behind. You see, after the New Year, I’ll find myself on the road. I’m finally leaving Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I have lived for roughly 40 years of my life.
With any big decision in life, there is that moment when you realize it’s time to take the leap and follow through. You spend hours and days, maybe weeks—or years!—mulling it over, knowing in your heart that it’s the right thing but hesitating nonetheless. My moment is now.
This is not a long thru-hike that I’ll return from when completed. It’s not a trip with friends to a wild music festival. I’m not venturing to the family cabin in Maine for a week or two. I don’t have a trail map or a plan for how this will pan out. No job or apartment waiting for me in a fixed destination. What I have is some research, some inklings, and an openness to live in mystery for a while. I also have a good amount of life experience that lets me know I’ll be able to navigate whatever comes my way, and a deepening trust in myself. Something has been pulling my life in this direction for a good long while now, and I’m finally listening.
As I pull off the safety blanket, I reflect on how my home has shaped me. My trials and tribulations are embedded within this city. The trails and mountains I’ve hiked and climbed these last few years have helped me change the narrative of my story, but the root of who I am—my strongest characteristics—was molded in this city just outside of Boston. This has been my home since day one, yet over the last year, this home has been barrelling me with signs that it’s time to root elsewhere. Somewhere that I truly belong. Somewhere that helps fill in the many gaps I still need to fill.
For the last year, there’s been no hike in this hike. I stopped moving, became stagnant, lost my momentum. I felt like a fraud. I got tired of posting photos from months ago that led people to believe that they were recent. I stopped telling my story because I was no longer living a story I wanted to tell.
Sometimes we need to leave who we’ve become in order to become who we are.
The signs are telling me, “Find your community. Find your tribe. Find those places that inspire you to follow through with your dreams. It’s not here.” These signs have been peppering my gut, my instincts. They are telling me that the tank is empty staying put. That the hike is stalling. Just open your eyes, Jesse, take in the now, and realize you need to move along to where the hike is never-ending. Let it lead the way.
The beauty of this is that the trail or winding road will always make its way back home to say hello. To hug those who molded me. Those who believe in me. Those who challenge me and strengthen my resolve through their questioning, forcing me to face my own doubts and align deeper with my choices. I can never forget where I come from, city of lights, paved trails, and traffic. But maybe now it’s time to live in a place with one traffic light in the center of town. A place where bikes and vehicles share the road without needing their own designated lane. A place where people pass one another while strolling and exchange good mornings with neither hesitation nor judgement. A place where other seekers have come to feel inspired and at peace.
I’m headed out to the Southwest. I’ll let this story continue to unfold. I’ll let it tell itself. I know my destinations of interest, but I’ll let the in-between remain a mystery that will reveal itself along the way. I’ll stop in Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico. If those spots ain’t for me, I’ll head to Marfa, Texas. I’ll settle in somewhere. I’ll sling drinks by night, and in the mornings, I’ll pop the back doors to my van open to untouched desert landscapes, where mountains get to be mountains, and I get to be me. I’ll figure it out as I go. I’ll hike wherever and whenever, following the signs to the next trail.
As long as I’m living in alignment with my values, I’m on the right path.
It won’t be easy, but smooth trails contain fewer lessons than their rugged counterparts. And home’s just a phone call away.
Hike the Good Hike.