It was April and surprisingly warm, little bunnies hopping around the university grounds, their fur turning from white to light grey, reminding us of the coming of summer. There I stood in a tight black dress beside my parents, ready to experience Campus St. Jean convocation after six unruly years of undergraduate life. At the time I hadn’t thought that I would miss writing lengthy papers, ignoring classmates’ sniffling, their tapping pens and jittering feet, the interminable readings or the seemingly unending lectures that often captivated or ruined me.
I was on top of the world and had it all figured out. My days were spent dreaming of a useless counterfeit job, one that my professors would frown upon, one that would enable partying and freedom and money, loads of imaginary money.
A) Use shiny paper money to move out of my parent’s basement, my tiny heaven and hell
B) Volunteer in India
I had no idea that my forthcoming reality would deviate so completely from The Plan.
So I walked across that stage, proud as hell, smiled down as I shook the dean’s hand. Snap went the camera, the crowd clapped. I descended from the stage in my too-high high heels, and looked up at the rest of my classmates feeling giddy and embarrassed.
It was done and I was going to join a silly adult world convinced I would never have to grow up. My first step was to find myself. Yep, I planned to be able to do that in a single week, trekking the West Coast trail with a group of strangers. This would be a great adventure and afterwards all my dreams would come true: the counterfeit job, the Indian experience, maybe even falling in love with a tall yoga guru. I planned to temporarily retire little-old-me fashionista extraordinaire, turning camping and hiking lover. I would have to come to terms with retiring my collection of short skirts, flowing silk blouses and tight jeans; trade them in for 50 dollar merino wool t-shirts, ridiculous pants that turn into shorts, breathable base layers (all supposed to inhibit bodily odours), trekking poles, a 65 litre hiking Arcteryx pack, a survival knife, a water purifier, a Camelback water lung, gloves, sleeping bag, tent, Coleman stove, dried food, beef jerky, compression pack , camera with waterproof case and much much more. This would go on my back? I was in total denial – the work that would be inevitable once I got on the trail was nothing but a myth to me.
I walked into the Mountain Equipment Coops, the Track and Trails and the Campers Villages of Edmonton getting to know staff by name, dropping major bucks on high grade trekking gear I wasn’t sure I would ever use again. Did I even like hiking? Was I the only one in on the big secret that hiking was just walking?
I had booked the trip and I was far along into the shopping process when I started reading about how important footwear was, breathable vs. gortex, wool socks vs. polyblend, the inevitable blisters, the rain and rocks, ladders, draw bridges, the uphill and suicidal downhill battles. That’s when the nightmares about the 6 nights, 7 day, 76 kilometre trek started. The most common nightmare consisted of clumsy me plummeting from a cliff into the deep dark depths of the ocean where I would be gobbled up by a whale, taking tips from my memories of Pinocchio’s jaunt in said whale. Oy, I was in way over my head as had been the case for most of my undergrad; applying for grants I wasn’t qualified for, getting research assistant jobs I felt I didn’t deserve. I faked it though and that’s exactly what I planned to do on my trek. Smile my way trough the crap and smile my way through the beauty. Just keep smiling, nodding and somehow make it through while avoiding plummeting to my death.
Caroline Kubicki is a Political Science grad from the University of Alberta, Campus St. Jean. Born at a very young age, her endeavours include elevating small talk to medium talk.