I wrote this blog after my first day of walking.
I felt hands squeeze my shoulders and touch my back. Both of my own hands were being held, but I don’t know by who. As more and more people circled around, placing their hands upon me or upon others around me, my eyes began to burn. My friend and pastor began in a prayer as a few of my family members began to hold back tears. As most people closed their eyes and bowed their heads, I took a peek around. Close to 60 people had shown up at the lake to wish me goodbye and now, for just these few minutes, we were all connected. The group consisted mostly of close family and friends, some of whom traveled quite a distance to be here. Others were complete strangers who had heard about my story and came to see me off.
As my pastor continued on, my mind began to wonder. Suddenly, I felt a nervous wave of apprehension wash over me. All these people were here to wish me farewell, and most seemed quite certain of my ability to achieve the task that I had laid out for myself. But as I began to think about that, it became quite clear in my mind that I didn’t have the strength or the ability that they assumed I had. For the first time since deciding to this walk, fear started attacking my mind and strangling my heart. There’s no way I can do this. I thought to myself. What was I thinking? I’ve never walked 25 miles in one day before, let alone for 100 days in a row! I have no idea what roads to take or where I’m going to stay each night. Can bodies physically handle walking 25 miles a day with a heavy pack strapped to your back? Will my back even be able to handle the pack’s 50 pounds of weight?
I began to shake as I felt many of the hands give me a final squeeze, then let go. The prayer was over and now everyone was staring at me, waiting. People gave me reassuring smiles and some wiped their eyes. I looked around, my mouth open, but no words were coming out. I had planned some spectacular farewell speech that I had rehearsed in the shower and in the car over the past few days. Now, not one word of it could be found in my mind. Suddenly, the idea of telling everyone that I had made a mistake and that I was no longer going to do this walk entered my mind. I didn’t care if they would be disappointed, or even mad. I can’t do this. As I opened my mouth and attempted to speak, a small voice at my side said, “When you get down to Florida, how are you going to get back home?”
I spun around to see my nine year-old cousin standing by my side, looking up at me. Someone nearby repeated what he had said for everyone to hear, and the crowd laughed. My cousin continued to stare, his eyes growing wider with concern as he waited for my answer. A strange feeling came over me as I thought about how his mind was working. He had skipped over all the questions that I had just been asking myself. Won’t you get lonely? Won’t your feet get sore? Aren’t you scared? Can you actually make it to Florida? All he worried about was how I was getting back home when I finished the walk. He had known that I could do it before I had even realized it myself. A spectacular surge of confidence took over me as I answered his question with a smile and inhaled a deep breath that extinguished my doubts and fears. As 2,000 miles stretched out in front of me and 60 people stood behind me, I took the first step.