I was raised to be afraid.
Growing up female, my culture showed me that I should be wary of pretty much everything: risk, failure, urban areas, heights, men, my intuition, and traveling alone pretty much anywhere. I was taught that if I didn’t think absolutely every situation through and prepare so I could avoid the worst case scenario, I was pretty much responsible when things didn’t go as planned, if my relationships didn’t work out or even if I was a victim of unwanted sexual attention or violence. The older I got, the stronger these messages became and the more precarious and unfair it felt to be female. The louder these external messages got, the more I felt disconnected from everything, like I had to cram down my ambitions and who I really was into this tiny little box of what was acceptable and safe.
Over time, I developed some pretty intense anxiety. I had begun to feel trapped by society because of my gender and sexuality. Life felt pretty hopeless and pointless. I started to feel afraid of others because I couldn’t bear the idea of being inauthentic anymore, but I also was afraid to feel judged or rejected. There were days when it seemed easier just not to leave my house or bed and have to deal with it all. The sad truth was that, despite all I was proud of, had dreamed of and knew I could accomplish with my life, I’d slowly let myself become the victim I was encouraged to be as I grew up.
But I also began to notice something else about myself. Every time I felt overwhelmed or depressed or crawling-out-of-my-skin anxious, if I went into the woods or sat by a stream somewhere in silence for a little bit by myself, I started to feel like I would be okay. When I’d take hikes or move my body outdoors alone, my head would clear and my depression and anxiety would lift a bit. As I spent more time outdoors, I became more centered and comfortable there, but it wasn’t until I went backpacking that I really began to feel a shift in myself. Being out there, carrying everything I needed on my back, finding my way around on my own and exploring some really beautiful places I’d never been made me feel strong and confident in a way that I hadn’t before. I finally felt like a part of something bigger than myself, rooted to and part of nature, and I began to trust myself and my intuition again every time I hit the trail.
I still have anxiety and depression and the media is still doing it’s best to remind me how dangerous the world can be, especially for women, people of color or my LGBTQ+ friends and I, but through hiking and backpacking, I’ve learned to shift my listening. I don’t give so much head space anymore to the messages that tell me I can’t do things, that I’m less than, or that I shouldn’t be who I am or try to make an impact or be successful. Instead I listen to the wind blowing through the leaves, the soft flow of water in a stream as it moves over the rocks, or the sound of my boots hitting the trail as I travel.
Before I started exploring outdoors, I often felt like life was some kind of scary, wild roller coaster ride and that I was just a passenger, jostled around at every turn and just waiting for things to go careening off the tracks. Now, I’ve found a different kind of wild, one that had been hidden deep inside of myself, one that feels instinctual and gives me the power and strength by connecting with the wild in nature.
I’m really grateful for the positive impact the outdoors has had on me. In many ways, I truly believe time in nature continues to save my life over and over again. Sharing the empowerment and healing that can be achieved through hiking and backpacking and making that accessible to all women has become my life’s mission. With this blog, the community I’m building and the resources I have, I hope to help other women find and reconnect with their own wild inside themselves, the one that has always existed in each of us.
If you are interested in supporting me in empowering and enabling other women to get outside, heal and develop confidence in their own abilities, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or consider making a donation below to help provide funding for outreach, backpacking gear and programs that will encourage women to find their inner wild.