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The End of the Beginning?

I'm 34, profoundly single, and two weeks ago I got laid-off.

The end

The morning after, I woke up and instinctively opened my laptop attempting to check the inevitable Slack memes from co-workers before beginning the day's meetings. But alas, my login attempt failed. After eight years, old habits die hard. I no longer work there. I no longer work anywhere.

The gainfully employed often speak flippantly about how great it must be to not work. They suppose taking time in the immediate aftermath for self care and doing things that "spark joy."

What they don't share—or perhaps don't know—is that the first several days are spent frantically dealing with corporate legalese, researching private health insurance options, navigating unemployment applications and saying goodbyes.

It wasn't until I began sharing the news and fielding inbounds from friends in the industry that I ran into a whole other dilemma: what's next?

That's when the full weight of the situation finally hit; the urgent to-dos violently crashing against the looming life decisions. My world became small, dark and painfully still. Suddenly even the smallest things felt insurmountable. On days I managed to put running shoes on, I'd drive to the trailhead only to sit in my car with tears on my cheeks. My nights were restless and messages from friends went unanswered.

In the stillness of my sleepless nights, I envisioned several versions of my future self and analyzed: Where was I? What was I doing? How did I feel?

The beginning

On my last birthday, I considered that of the billions of people in this world, how few of us will ever actually see the sun rise. It's one thing to notice coral streaks in the sky as you're going about your morning. It's another to intentionally wake up pre-dawn and watch as the sun begins to crest the horizon, then hover over the edge before letting go and launching toward the high sky.

In that moment I remember reflecting on my own past revolution around the sun, wondering if I was living life too fast. Or perhaps too slow. Or... what was it all for, anyway?

Two weeks post-termination and I'm crawling out of the darkness, lured by a newfound excitement of the wide-open possibilities. Possibilities to do something big. Something wild.

  • Where do I want to be? Deep in nature

  • What do I want to do? Connect in meaningful ways

  • How do I want to feel? Challenged yet halcyon

For a while, I've been fantasizing about doing a bikepacking trip called the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR). Together, its seven sections create the world's longest off-road cycling route. The GDMBR begins at the Mexico-US border and follows the Continental Divide up to Jasper, AB, Canada.

  • Length: 3,087 miles

  • Elevation gain: over 200,000 ft

  • Location: passes through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and parts of British Columbia and Alberta, Canada

(Learn more about the GDMBR here and here)

As of today, my "next" includes launching from Columbus, NM in late May and riding all the way north to Jasper—solo and unsupported. Will I have every detail ironed out by then? Will I have my bike perfectly dialed? Will I have accumulated and thoroughly tested all of the necessary gear? Not a chance.

But figuring things out in real time is half the fun and I can confidently say I've acquired enough experience and knowledge that this is not a completely stupid or unsafe idea. I will also be encountering other riders and towns along the way if something is needed.

I want to acknowledge how grateful I am that taking this time is even an option. It might not be easy but it's possible. And... nothing good comes easily, amiright!?

The beginning of the beginning

I don't know if this is the end of the beginning, the beginning of the end, a new chapter or a whole new book. Regardless, I'm pretty stoked for this experience; to share it with you and hopefully inspire others to live a little more wild.

I'm 34, completely open and in six weeks I'm beginning the bikepacking trip of a lifetime.

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1 Comment

Jerri Lyn Hillyard
Jerri Lyn Hillyard
Apr 26, 2022

Love you, and your sense of adventure!😘

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