Storytime: How my casual stroll in the forest turned into a expedition

Storytime: How my casual stroll in the forest turned into a expedition

This story connects to my previous blog post and kind of explains everything. When I wrote the first post, I realized this story needed it’s own blog post. In short, I explain how I misread a map and took a really challenging hike.  Anyway, here’s the whole story! Enjoy.

It all started on my trip to San Fransisco. Me and my friends wanted to go to a forest and agreed to take a trip to Muir Woods. We heard Muir Woods is breathtakingly beautiful and one of those “you have to see it for yourself” trips. We didn’t expect anything difficult. All we wanted was to walk around and hope for anything interesting. When we bought the tickets, I insisted we have a map on hand, just in case. If it weren’t for that map, I don’t know what would have happened. My friend and I glanced at the map to pick a trail. On the map, there was a trail that lead to a meadow. Well, we weren’t quite experienced and failed to read the trail descriptions. Little did we know, the trail (bootjack trail to be exact) was a moderate/strenuous trail, not for beginners. Particularly for a group with one bottle of water (each), and wearing Vans and Converse sneakers. As we walked deeper in the woods, the trail got more steep and we were quickly losing breath. I could tell that we were traveling high because the road got more narrow, the slope to my left was getting taller and I could see the tops of the trees. Mind you, trees at Muir Woods are giant. If you could see the tops of the trees, you were climbing pretty damn high!

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Nevertheless, we were all eager to see this so called “meadow” and refused to head back, even though we passed a group of hikers who warned us otherwise. As the trail got harder, I started losing faith in myself. I began to doubt that I could do it and wondered if I would ever make it back to my hotel alive. I was also the navigator of the trail and for awhile, I started believing that I was leading the group the wrong way. Climbing the incline got harder for me and I admit, I broke down several times. With the motivation of my sister, I kept on going. There really was no turning back. We made it pretty far and we needed to reach a rest stop or we could be severely dehydrated.Furthermore, there was no way we could make it back in time for the bus and we needed to find a park ranger who could help us find our way back.

Many miles and tears later, we reach the meadow! I wish I could say the meadow was worth the tears and it was exactly what I imagined but it wasn’t. It was the most disappointing dried up brown patch of grass I’ve ever seen. The most exciting thing I saw was a lizard scuttling across a giant ass boulder.To add more salt to the wound, the nearest ranger station was a half a mile away. A half a mile isn’t a big deal unless you are already worn out and in searing pain. But logically, turning back would be pointless. We checked the signs, studied the map, and checked our navigation several times (because our brains were completely fried) before we continued our journey.

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Alas, we soon did find some hope during our climb. We ran into a group of hikers and they reassured us that we are not too far from the nearest rest stop. This motivated us to move farther and we tried to pick up our pace. Several minutes later, I could hear cars. Oh, how I missed the sound of cars! Carefully, but quickly we reached the top of the trail. I have never been so happy to see a wooden hut in my life. That wooden hut was none other than the ranger station. As far as I cared, that park ranger was my god and I found the promised land. We all rushed to the ranger, out of breath, covered in dirt and sweating from head to toe. The ranger looked at us like we were the biggest bunch of idiots she ever seen in her life. Which I was the biggest idiot she’s ever seen. At one point in my hike, I switched out of my tank top and had nothing on but shorts, shoes and a bikini top. Still, I didn’t care that I got weird looks or even laughed at by several families on my way back. They weren’t the ones who climbed nonstop for three hours straight nor did they have a bus to catch!

The ranger pointed out several options we could take but recommended that we just refill our water and go back the way we came. We had exactly one hour to get back and make it for the last bus that would take us to Sausalito. I packed my things and used all my strength left. It felt like the amazing race and we were the second to last team fighting for the finish line. I nearly slipped three times and if it weren’t for my sister, who knows where I would be. Once we reached flat land, we all kicked it into high gear and raced to the gate. If one of us could stop the bus, then we were home free. I could feel everything in my body telling me that what I was doing was too much for me to handle but I ignored my instincts. Even the instinct of human decency and civility. Remember, I’m still in my bikini top and there are hundreds of families passing me by. I got pointed, laughed at, double-take, jaw drop, looked away and several kids eyes were shielded (sorry for scarring those youngsters, it wasn’t intentional). Note: Towards the end of the run, I made time to put on my tee so I wouldn’t get scolded at.

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I saw the ray of light at the entrance of the forest, I pick  up the jog into a sprint and meet my sister. She has the biggest look of disappointment on her face. We didn’t make it to the bus. Right when my friend reached the end, she saw the bus drive off. We all crash on the nearest bench and try to come up with a new plan. The ranger suggested we walk uphill for a mile or more up to get signal and reach an Uber. That idea was out of the question and I could hear my feet crying in protest. Sleeping on that forest bench didn’t seem like a bad idea at the time and I considered it several times. If there really is a god, I’m sure he sent me a lifeboat. While sitting on our bench of shame, my sister spots a taxi cab casually parked. We run to the driver and ask if he could help us. He pitifully looked at all three of us and reduced his usual rate by ten dollars. We all practically flew in the van and kissed the leather upholstery.

Several hours later (like, 9pm), we finally made it back to the hotel safe and sound and we spend the rest of the day buried in the comforters of the hotel bed.

As I wrote in the other blog post, this hike was the most enlightening walk I have ever had. I was the most vulnerable and strongest person I have ever seen myself. Although my emotions were all over the place, it didn’t bother me about what people would think of me. The forest allowed myself to be free and remove the burden of putting on this face for everyone else. Plus, I have a wicked fun story to tell my friends and family!

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Things I’ve learned about myself while on my trip to San Francisco.

Things I’ve learned about myself while on my trip to San Francisco.

I recently came back from a five day trip to San Francisco and I am by no means a traveling expert. In fact this was the first time I left the state without my parents hovering ( though it could be because I went with my sister and cousin). Nevertheless, I still learned a bit more while on this getaway. It’s nothing life changing, I think I need to be gone longer than five days for that to happen. Anyway here are the things I’ve learned.

1) I hate bus tours!

Or maybe they’re just not for me, but personally I hated having to take the tour bus. I objected taking it the first day we arrived, but…majority rules. It wasn’t all that bad but you really don’t learn a thing about the city and they move at a snails pace. On the other hand, it’s impossible to get a good picture because the bus has to move. The tour guides are rarely informative and the microphones they use are really bad sound quality so I’m slightly irritated trying to figure out what they’re saying without blowing out my ear drums. The buses also take forever to make a full tour around because they take the long routs and have fewer stops than a standard public bus.

2) San Francisco weather is very confusing! 

When I first arrived, I was shocked at how windy the city is. Really, I don’t understand why Chicago takes the medal for “the windy city”. Chicago is nothing compared to the wind in San Francisco. The wind generally only happens when you’re near the ocean, but a lot of what you will be doing will be near the ocean. Someone explained it’s because San Francisco gets the wind from Alaska and the wind from the South mixing together to make this everlasting breeze. If you like to wear your hair down, I recommend you wear a bun or ponytail because the wind is very unforgiving and will constantly blow in your face. Also, dress in layers. It doesn’t get that cold (Chicago can be much colder), but it doesn’t get warm enough for say, shorts or dresses. One minute you could be cold and the next minute, you are sweating bullets. It all depends on where your standing. The more away from the ocean you travel, the warmer it will get. Overall, pack a cozy sweater that you can take on and off oh and jeans and/or warm leggings will get you far.

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My visit to Muir Woods quickly turned into an unexpected adventure…

 

3) You are stronger than you think

I know, the ultimate cliche but believe me, cliches are cliches because for the most part, they are true! Let me explain…

A quick recap about myself. For all of my life, I believed I was a frail girl. Not because I was a girl (obviously) but because I am very small, have a lot of allergies, I have a really sensitive stomach and sports were never fun for me. Whenever we jogged in the park during gym class, I always had to be escorted back due to my allergic reactions. As I got older (and experienced many anaphylactic reactions) I caught on that I am not allergic to nature (except for the common, but not life threatening, hay fever) but the more severe reactions were due to the poisonous chemicals people put in their landscapes. Nevertheless, I was still subconsciously skeptical and avoided doing anything that would put me at risk. The lazy girl I am, I just label myself as “frail” and be done with it…I’m such a fool!

NOTE: So I started explaining this story that gave me this new outlook on my life but realized I need to make a separate blog post about this event. The story is longer than anticipated and I will post a link here that explains the whole story if you are interested. 

This trip in the woods really tested my limits and proved to me that I am not as weak or fragile I originally believed myself to be.  I wouldn’t say this was the first time I hit this moment of realization though. I have had this small thought in the back of my head that reminded me why my thoughts of myself are wrong, but I never gave myself the chance to prove otherwise.

On another note, This hike really stripped me down and broke apart all the layers I put on for people. If you could see my face, it was as imperfect as I could possibly see myself. Metaphorically and physically all my flaws were shining through. Every last part of me was covered in dirt, sweat and my clothes were a horrific mess. I was vulnerable, but still not weak.

Despite all the pain this hike inflicted on me, it wasn’t the most miserable moment of my life. In fact, it was the opposite. Each step was in a way liberating and I somehow felt a sense of relief. The harder the climb in the forest got for me, the closer I got to knowing just how strong I really was. I admit I broke down several times during this hike, but I didn’t stop moving. With a little help, I chose to keep moving forward and embrace the good and bad I was feeling.

4) You don’t have to do dangerous stuff to live life to the fullest

Movies love to make things appear over the top and send this sort of inaccurate message about living. Think of any movie that follows the story line where someone has so much time to live and needs to live their life to the max. Generally, the protagonist ends up doing weird and crazy stuff like skydiving, cliff diving or bungee jumping. While spending my time in San Francisco, I didn’t really do anything extreme or dangerous. Maybe that trip to the woods, but even I wouldn’t consider it reckless in any way. Enlightening, yes but not dangerous. Nevertheless, I felt like I was closer to life than I have ever been before. It wasn’t because I did anything special, it was because I made my own choices with no worries about the future. I lived every day in the present and for once, the future didn’t scare me.

I learned a lot on this trip to San Francisco, but I would say that these are the four most important things that I’ve reflected on the most while spending my time in the city. I am very lucky and grateful to have the opportunity to travel. I hope I have more chances to travel (hopefully out of the country!) so I could come back here and talk all about it. Thanks for listening. If you want, you are more than welcome to share with me anything you have learned on your past trips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part VI: A Socially Awkward Ravenclaw (and a short story)

Part VI: A Socially Awkward Ravenclaw (and a short story)

Hello internet I’m back! I know it’s been four weeks and I’m sorry, I have a good explanation. No, I didn’t back out of the blogging business just yet. I am two days away from completing my four week summer school course and believe it or not, that took out a lot of time and energy so blogging was not on my mind. My schedule involved spending three hours reading and taking notes for tomorrows lesson and six hours in school. Naturally, sleep became my new hobby…along with binge watching the HBO series Girls in between (new obsession!!!). v_v Anyhow, I just completed my final assignment and because I worked my tail off, I get to skip the final exam! So, let’s get this blog on the road shall we?

As a kid I didn’t get to socialize as often as most kids. I grew up in a sort of shady neighborhood so my parents kept me in the house most of the time. The only reason why I know what it’s like to play outside was because I would visit my cousins out of town, or visit my grandparents on the weekend. Even then, that would be a twice a month treat. Every other time I spent mostly in the house or wait until I get to go out with my parents. Generally my parents were always busy so most of my days were inside. In grade school, I had a good number of friends, but I think I can recall two times in my life where I visited their house and even then I had to leave before sun down (sounds like I was a werewolf!). Once our family moved, I went outside a lot more than normal (I still have helicopter parents though!!! >.>), but I feel like I missed a chunk of my childhood that could have helped my social anxiety.

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Not to brag, but no one can relate to Rapunzel better than me. (That’s why she’s my favorite princess!)

With all that said, I have never been good at meeting new people and initiating friendships. I have gotten better (actually really good compared to when I was in middle school). Maybe it’s also a Ravenclaw thing. We can be so caught up in our heads, we forget there’s still a world outside us. The thing with my social anxiety is that it’s not obvious to people unless I tell them. On the outside, I can hold conversations with people, particularly in class. Most of my anxiety is all internal battles. All of them are centered on insecurity and uncertainty if I am even remotely worthy of having a friendship at all. This insecurity manifests itself and I convince myself not to initiate any farther. This is where I tend to distance myself from other people. People usually pick up the hint and reciprocate.

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I will just go ahead and say the flat out truth, I am scared. I am scared of rejection and that person hating everything about me. I know we all face rejection, hell I’ve had a great share of rejection. But knowing that doesn’t make it hurt any less. I’m also scared of coming off as annoying or clingy to the other person so I choose to be more distant than I should. At that point, I never know what to say or what topics I should say that can make the conversations more exciting. I know this post is getting a bit dreary but I will bring in the silver lining!

Yesterday was probably one of the best times I’ve had in a long time and to think all it took was a burger. As I said in the beginning, I have been in summer school this whole time. My past couple of years has been a drag, but this change was a breath of fresh air. When I walked in the classroom for the first time, I noticed there were three girls who seemed to be friends. I can’t explain exactly, but something about how they carried themselves intrigued me. They had confidence and always talked about doing things after class. Every day after class, one would ask if they wanted to go out for food or something and I couldn’t help but wonder how nice it would be to do something like that with a friend. Something I haven’t done since high school. I’m not looking to be their best friends, I just wanted to talk to them, maybe even be around them. I don’t know what compelled me to feel this way. Maybe I’m sick of being alone all the time or I miss having talking to someone in school other than my teachers. No offense to the teachers, they rock but there’s only so much interaction allowed. After all, introverts need some form of companionship too. Big or small.

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So I tried to slowly include myself in conversations. Asking simple questions or interjecting with whatever they were talking about. I tend to participate in class a lot, and we would occasionally talk about current lessons. I still felt my anxiety whispering to me from time to time, but I did my best to ignore it. I think the class I’m in helps everyone feel more open and comfortable around each other. It’s a communications class, so a lot of the discussion topics encourage us to open up and say things that would be considered TMI.Anyway, yesterday everyone gets their exam scores back and we all exhale in relief when we realize we didn’t fail. One of the girls exclaims how she wants to celebrate with pizza and ask her friends if they want to join them. At the end of class, they talk about pizza again and I casually exclaim, “yum, all this pizza talk is making me hungry”. The first girl turns to me and asks, “do you want to join us?” I felt my heart skip a beat and it felt like I was flying.

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I immediately accepted her offer before it looked like I would malfunction but the whole time I was holding back my smile. I immediately text my sister what’s happening and she’s cheering me on. Sadly the pizza place wasn’t open so we got burgers which is just as delicious! It felt like a first date. The whole time I could feel myself shaking and my voice turned more meek than usual. Still, I kept my head up high and stayed present. I worked hard to keep the conversation going. I don’t know if the other girl liked spending time with me but I thanked her anyway and as soon as we split away (and I knew she wasn’t looking) I quickened my pace and started singing.(Like I usually do when I’m really happy ^_^)

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I don’t know if I will ever be friends with these girls, but that isn’t a big concern of mine. What was important was how the experience made me feel. I haven’t hung out with a new person since high school, so to experience that again was amazing. I don’t know if other people take it for granted, but it really is a special feeling. It reminds you how differently other people perceive the world and life is always moving. It’s so hard for me to reach this point of interaction, but when I do, I remember how great I feel when I can make my tiny world just a little bit bigger.