When the alarm rings early for a hike and I’m struggling to get out of bed, I always find myself asking: What is it about the outdoors that makes me keep coming back? All I can think about is how I’d like to stay comfortable and watch Netflix all weekend, about how hot and stinky I’ll be, how sore I’ll feel afterwards…
As a woman, and particularly as an Asian-American woman from an immigrant family, I think we often find ourselves defining who we are in relation to something or someone else. Whether you @ your boyfriend or spouse on your Insta profile, say you graduated from X university, have a career in X field… How do you define yourself in the face of societal expectations, beauty standards, and cultural beliefs?
What draws me back is not necessarily something that comes easily for me, at least not yet. I’ve only just now started to re-embrace my need for unpredictability. Most of my life so far has mostly followed along a path of 1) do well in school 2) do well in your activities 3) get a degree 4) start a great career in science, medicine, engineering, or law and 5) marry a scientist, doctor, engineer, or lawyer. For Asian people, this is the ultimate wish for their children. Although it comes from a loving and well-intentioned place, these kinds of expectations limit our choices and puts pressure to perform to a certain standard at the cost of individuality, opportunity, and perhaps even happiness.
Don’t get me wrong though.
Many of my ethnic peers feel very fulfilled and are brilliant in their careers. For their own personal reasons, they stuck through it to the end. Yet some of us who stuck it to the end, like myself, still question whether I would’ve been happier had I been courageous enough to develop my personal interests. Would I have been happier trying to balance different sides of me as I do now? Or would I have felt more fulfilled if I had followed down that creative road, no matter where it led me? These kinds of insecurities both drive me and also keep me up at night.
But when my feet are on the trail, wind in my hair, and dog by my side, none of those things matter.
It doesn’t matter that I feel stuck at a boring “resume building” job … I’m young, I have time, and I have this hill to conquer.
It doesn’t matter that I’m bare faced … the wildflowers never had to have someone tell them they are beautiful.
It doesn’t matter that my boyfriend (who is an engineer heh) isn’t on the trail with me … when he is, he can cheer me on as much as he can, but it is I who must push myself to the top.
Out here, I am not my shortcomings or my family’s values; I’m not the girl who wonders whether I’m doing life “right”; I’m not the girl who was too insecure to be alone.
Out here, there is only me and no one or any worries can touch me, even if only for a moment. Deadlines don’t matter and all I have to fight is my own resistance to simply be and to breathe.
Out here, I am enough.
I am me.
And that has made all the difference.
“…we may appear unchanged outwardly, but inwardly we have reclaimed a vast and womanly wildness. On the surface we are still friendly, but beneath the skin, we are most definitely no longer tame.”
Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D
Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype