This is Mark and he lives with type1 diabetes. We met randomly through social media when someone tagged me in a photo of him–because he is hiking from Georgia to Maine on the Appalachian Trail. What follows is my account of our meeting a week ago, at least in part. The full interview will be in the next two podcast episodes.
Last Saturday I got up (early for a Saturday morning) and packed up as much of my photo and audio gear as I could and typed in “North Adams, MA” into my phone and started driving. I was going to meet Mark and interview him for my podcast. As I drove I questioned the potential outcomes of my time investment. I haven’t felt too motivated to get out much lately–nursing a hurt shoulder and waiting for lower humidity and temperatures leaves little recourse for a climber.
‘What if he has nothing to say?’ I wondered. ‘What if we don’t really hit it off and it’s just a bunch of one word answers and awkward question repositioning? What if there is no place to do an interview and the edit of the audio becomes a nightmare?‘
Nothing can have real significance to us if we don’t accept some risk in order to realize it. Maybe this is why every time I have put more time and effort into going to meet someone for an interview or photo shoot it winds up exceeding my expectations. Our view of the situation colors the reality of it in a tangible fashion. In this way we are not victims of circumstances but influencers of them.
If you subscribe to the LivingVertical podcast (you’ll notice it’s been re-renamed as Adventure Rx) you will hear the conversation that went on between Mark and I–and you will also hear about why I chose to rename the podcast to better align it with the changes that are happening in my life. Ah yes, change…the one consistant mile marker along my path.
This interview was very special to me. Not only for the reasons I allude to above, but also because the Appalachian Trail was where I discovered that I didn’t have to see myself through the lens of what people with diabetes were supposed to be or do–ten years ago as a fresh college graduate. It was my first experience leaving behind the conventional expectations of people around me and forging my own path, just like all the thousands of people that have hiked it before me. It’s not a point of pride to have experienced that, it’s a humbling gift.
Through the bitterness of deprivation and discomfort I transcended the talismans of security that I had been taught were essential for survival. I learned that there is only truth in experience and that without action I was standing on the brink of a lifetime spent placating my fears. I learned to choose.
I also learned to pull the ripcord when it stopped being fun past a certain point and to weigh the costs of choosing the road less traveled. I learned that doing awesome things may not always be worth it when they come at the expense of relationships that you forgot to add into your calculations. These memories of cost and benefit; of loss and gain replayed through my mind as I drove to meet Mark feeling a strange familiarity given the fact that I had, only days before, put in my notice at Glu, formally declaring my intention to move despite having a great job working for a cause I believe in, alongside people I like and in some cases admire. Yeah, I’m throwing that caveat in there to see who actually reads these blogs of mine. If you’re reading, you made the cut. I should put a smiley face in here but I have to draw the line somewhere.
I know I have talked about it on here and even to my colleagues at work–but the formality of having made the choice on paper to forego the security that came with full time employment put a bit of a lump in my throat. The fact that moving means living back on the road in a tiny trailer is something I am self-conscious about. I feel like half of the people who hear that think I’m an irresponsible derelict for choosing such a path. The other half think I’m riding off into the sunset to begin an early retirement. I shouldn’t care, I know.
Fending for myself in terms of insurance and diabetes supplies will be challenging. Living on the road with a baby will be challenging. Being an independent contractor will be challenging. Not panicking and taking it out on loved ones will be challenging.
It won’t be easy. But it will be worth it, because that’s what happens when you commit to something fully, even if it’s a failure. I want to close this blog with a quote from Mark–which you can hear in full context in his two-part interview on the podcast. He said this a couple of times–and it is one of the most profound and timely statements I needed to hear. I think you need to hear it too.
“After ten years of living with diabetes, fear just stopped being a good enough reason not to try”
You can reach out to Mark via email to support him in his journey and ask him questions at email@example.com. Please be patient with his response as he is, you know…out in the middle of the woods and not always in range of cell service! Andrew has a blog you may wish to read as well: To Wander North.
If you’d like to support the work LivingVertical is doing by making a small monthly donation via Paypal, you can do so in the right hand column on desktop or scroll down on mobile. 1 dollar a month from each of our readers would cover the costs of maintaining this website.
You can also buy one of our diabetes empowerment photo prints if you want to own stunning images from our expeditions!