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<editorsnote> Hi, I'm Jen Friel, and we here at TNTML examine the lives of nerds outside of the basements and into the social media, and dating world.  We have over 75 peeps that write about their life in real time. (Real nerds, real time, real deal.) Sit back, relax, and enjoy some of the stories!! </editorsnote>



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#NerdsUnite: Hello me? (a nerd's moment of reflection after hiking the appalachian trail)

<editorsnote> I cried reading this. I am so UNBELIEVABLY proud of Zach - there are no words. There really doesn't need to even be an editors note in this post, but I just wanted to grab you by the collar AND MAKE SURE YOU READ THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! k, love you ... bye. HIT IT ZACH!!! </editorsnote>

It was just a little over six months ago when I said goodbye to me.

I wasn't attempting suicide.  I was attempting transformation, or more accurately put, I was expecting transformation as a byproduct of the journey I was about to embark upon.  With almost no camping experience, I was leaving everything behind and attempting to complete a backpacking trip extending from Georgia to Maine (more commonly known as thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail).

Five months and one day later, I accomplished my goal.  In the process of encountering black bears, copperheads and rattlesnakes, spiders the size of grapefruit, Lyme Disease carrying deer ticks, West Nile Virus carrying mosquitoes (I learned this one the hard way), multiple hospital visits, sub-freezing to triple digit temperatures, and intense hail and lightning storms, I was able to accomplish something way, way, way, beyond myself.

And yet, still, here I am.

I didn't lose me.  I now realize that was the wrong approach.  I was running away from an unfulfilling lifestyle.  What I needed was to clear my head and re-ogranize my priorities.  I've done that.

Here are some of the conclusions I've come to:


Five months in the woods has taught me that happiness isn't earned.   Happiness isn't a car.  Happiness isn't a byproduct of social status.  Happiness is a decision.  Much like our favorite nerd, I was able to strip myself of all excess (except my iPhone, of course) and live a lifestyle based on deprivation.  Nights on the trail consisted of handfuls of trail mix, beef jerky, and chemically treated stream water.  I didn't have my laptop.  I didn't have a bed.  I didn't have running water.  I didn't have a pile of books.  What I did have was happiness.

I had enough clothing to keep me warm, enough food to fill my belly, and enough companionship to keep me entertained.   I had the sense that I was living in perfect unison with the moment.  Jaw dropping sunsets over mountain ridges, waking up to the song of birds, and taking a cleanse in a 10 ft waterfall has a way of revealing that the chase for wealth, recognition, and power is a bridge to dissatisfaction.

Life's Purpose

I have always been intrigued (see: obsessed) with finding and carving out the right path for my life.  "What is my life's purpose?"  "I need to be doing more." "What is the next step?" Ultimately, the stress that came along with trying to achieve some future ideal took me away from what I was doing presently.  Five months without the constant input of media stimuli, removing myself from my normal hyper-connectedness, and the normal productivity concerns, taught me the importance of presence.  Living in a state of awareness doesn't allow your brain to stress, and ultimately you end up always making the right decision.  As Jen says of her decision making process in life, "If it feels good, keep going ... if it stops feeling good, stop."  If you're not going to take my word for it, take hers.  Live in the now and the future will take care of itself.  Promise

My biggest personal realization is to be a good person.  Doing good deeds for the sake of doing good deeds feels really good.  I believe in the deepest part of my heart that we are programmed to evolve into cooperative beings (we are a ways off, but moving in the right direction).  Doing something for someone else is the cheapest ecstasy you can find. 

Don't Fucking Settle

The potty-mouth-ness is meant to express emphasis.  Don't settle (to the power of fuck).  Life is way too short.  You don't know when you're going to bite the dust.  It happens to good people every minute of every day.  You, me, your neighbor, a loved one, can die at any moment.  Keep this in mind.  Too many people settle, or live in a state of mediocrity, because they are making the safe move.  YOU CAN DIE AT ANY MOMENT, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A SAFE MOVE.  The least safe thing you can do is dedicate 75% of your life towards a pension that you may very well never bear the fruit of. 

To clarify, just because you're not hiking the length of the country or life-casting your life's events, doesn't imply that you're settling.  A janitor may be in the exact right line of work and not settling one iota.  The continual smile on his/her face will indicate this.  Only you know if you're doing yourself the disservice of settling.  If you get the feeling that you're short changing yourself in life, stop it, stop it right now.  Close this window right now and start planning your   first step for dream chasing.

But back to the point - Five months in the woods...and I'm still here (now with more ManBeard).  I didn't need to lose me. And for the first time in a long time, I'm good with that. 

Side note: A big thank you to Jen Friel for being a super awesome inspiration to live life as the adventure roller coaster that it's meant to be.  I have taken your bait, and enjoyed every minute along the way.  I sincerely hope that others follow suit.  

<editorsnote> FUCK YEAH ZACH!!!! SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SOOOO PROUD!!! SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN NERDS UNITE!! YEEEHHHAAAAAWWWW Okay, I'm going to stop yelling now. </editorsnote>


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