How Briefly Getting Lost In The Wilderness Made Me Realize We Should Be More Like Ron Weasley
I heard rustling from the freely growing shrubbery that lined the dirt trail, and then I saw it crash from seemingly nowhere about 20 feet ahead of my trekking poles. The crash sounded like the moment a riding horse shifts from a trot to a full gallop. I could hear the sheer power of the hooves and the weight of the large animal as it slammed onto the narrow ledge of the rock face several thousand feet above the last human I saw. The doe quickly rolled from where it landed on its side and shot up before staring in my direction. I froze. The deer froze, and we made eye contact for what seemed like a full 20 seconds.
“Wait, you have anxiety?” One of the hikers from the group that I was socially distancing with turned to look at me.
“Yeah,” I said, readjusting the supplies in my bag to adjust for the camel pack’s shift in weight. “I actually have terrible anxiety.”
It was true, and if I weren’t so insanely stubborn, my anxiety would be debilitating. I suffered from constant panic attacks that hit full swing at the height of California’s stay at home order. I had been getting by with hiking and camping and doing all sorts of very random things (like that one time I tried Capoeira) for so long that I hadn’t dealt with my anxiety. That was until COVID-19.
The pandemic shook things up and made me face myself. There was literally nowhere else to go but inward to take up a journey of reflection. Stripped of everything else, I got to see who I truly was as a person. My personality isn’t 80 percent anxiety and 20 percent the outdoors. I never realized how much more than that I was.
I was alone for the first time in the woods. I went onto the trail without a sign from anyone around, but on the way back, I saw a pile of fresh bear scat in the middle of the trail. I first heard noises behind the trees off to the distance and then saw the bushes move. “Of course I would get mauled by a bear the very first time I decided to hike by myself,” or so I thought, and so I picked up my hiking pace three-fold and made it out of the heavily-bear-populated mountains with a story. That was a little over a year ago.
A Mountain Woman’s Thoughts On Getting Laid Off During A Pandemic
It happened slowly, and then all at once. One moment I was completely fine hiking with my friends in the woods after weeks of recovering from a bout of actual flu and pneumonia, and then the next I’m stuck in the house again for fear of dying from a new illness—Covid-19. I had started a new job the week of the beginning of the stay at home order in the middle of March in California.
I was completely fine that week, but then something happened when they closed the hiking trails to minimize the spread of the Coronavirus. I couldn’t think or figure anything out until they opened them up again with social distancing guidelines. It all clicked again when I went back out into the woods, this time with a mask on my face. When many offices planned to reopen their doors and end working from home, I was laid off.
I always sat in the middle of the most classrooms off to the side whenever I picked my seat in college courses. I remember sitting in that same formation in my World Literature class. There weren’t a lot of people there, but I remember there was one other Black person who happened to be in the class and who sat next to me.
We shared the looks in our direction when we got to the brief bit of history that Black Americans get when we show up as slaves in a piece of canonized literature. I thought that would be the end of Black history for that particular class, as it usually is, but I was surprised when we somehow ended up on the topic of everyone knowing their history except Black people.
The rest of the class had never heard of that before. The other people in the class asked the only two Black people in the room the question, “why doesn’t anyone know anything about Black history?”
The first call came moments after I let my small group of friends know what was going on with me. “Hey—are you okay?” The pause and uncertainty behind the ask told me that she was concerned.
“Yes,” I said with a sigh. “I’m not sad. I’m just disappointed.”
After 23 years of memories and conversations, I decided to end a very one-sided friendship. It was a relationship fractured with seeds of ignorance that I, unfortunately, let grow and take hold—a mirage of trust with no understanding. I asked for years for only one person, in particular, to show up, educate themselves, and do the work, and when I was reminded of my pleas for help last week, I was, again, met with nothing.
Friends from all walks of life reached out in support. They tirelessly talked to their friends and family about the issues thrust back into the media today. They all stood up for what was right on the correct side of history and ensured that I was safe and protected. The friendship that I ended—I realized that my friend wasn’t able to do that.
The first time I ever had to use four-wheel drive was when I carpooled with a friend to a wedding out of town. Margaret (the name of my vehicle) climbed what seemed like a full 45-degree angle up a rocky hill. I was wearing dress heels, a floral-patterned cutout dress, and had to brush the hair that got stuck in my lipstick to watch all of the other cars behind me struggle to reach the top of the hill where our friends were getting married. It was a beautiful ceremony. However, there is something that happened on the way there that has stuck with me.
My friend and I ended up meeting in Bakersfield since it was in the middle of where the two of us lived. It was easier to meet there since both of our parents were still living in Buck Owens’ paradise. Before getting on the freeway to leave town, my friend pointed out the gigantic Confederate flag that used to wave alongside the busy long stretch of road.
“How does it make you feel seeing that?” she asked, referring to the flag that was designed to represent a divided nation, and that turned into a symbol of hate.
“You know what?” I said, still barreling down the stretch of road out of town. “I don’t like to see it, but I rather see boldness and honesty when it comes to racism than those who are quietly racist behind my back.”
I had let it go for years, but the onslaught of deaths around me finally being publicized made me speak up to you, my friend. I know you will take your time reading this, but understand that this isn’t a message that comes from a place of bitterness and malice. I know that you are afraid, and I understand.
I was fearful too, but having fear doesn’t justify anything. Fear is just a lack of knowledge. The second you understand something is the second you stop fearing it. Through understanding, you find room to grow and begin to share love and kindness.
Once upon a time, before I knew what bisexuality was, I struggled with the thought of having to choose whether or not I would live my life as a lesbian or fake only like guys. It was silly. I had heard of the sexual orientation in high school, but I didn’t really believe it existed until I was forced to open up and discover more about myself in college.
I dove deep into the queer community, educated myself, and have since dedicated a lot of my time and experiences with writing towards activism. I looked at every side, spoke to other people with varying backgrounds, and then came to a more compassionate conclusion. It doesn’t change the fact that I was a complete ass in high school and that I was once very ignorant, but I can do my part now to help facilitate knowledge and introduce others to concepts that are new to them.
Yesterday, I woke up to the warm rays of sunshine pouring through my windows. It was the early portion of the nautical sunrise—that cool moment of gentle dark blue skies when the small birds in nearby trees begin to sing. I love waking up that way, without an alarm clock in front of a clear view of my favorite mountain range of all of California framed by a large window. My jaw drops every time as I let the cat out of the apartment onto the balcony, and then back in, and then back out again a few seconds later.
I swear that cat is watching the sunrise along with me as I water the miniature Amazon Rainforest on my balcony. I manage to grab my hiking buff cloth and squeeze in a two-mile run before yoga and then my daily morning meeting for work.
I sometimes look in the background of my own camera feed on my video conference call to see that I have forgotten to roll up my yoga mat. As I do, I realize that I’m usually always in an overly fantastic mood when I see the mat lying there. Everything suddenly stopped feeling like “work-work.”
It was late March when I started to send the first of many handmade and store-bought cards through the mail. Each package would be lightly sprayed with a disinfectant like unbathed women spritzing pungent perfume before the invention of indoor plumbing. Like everyone else, I had a different idea in mind for 2020, and I had to adjust to a changing world. I felt most terrible for the kids who missed out on seeing friends from school, students who missed out on graduations, and those who have lost loved ones during this time. However, I couldn’t help but also feel a little bummed that the kids I used to hang out under The Tree with in high school would all be turning 30 away from each other during a pandemic.