Where I Call Home

“At the end of the day, it isn’t where I came from. Maybe home is somewhere I’m going and never have been before.” ― Warsan Shire

It’s been two months since I left Portland, the place I called home for thirteen years. I spent the interim in the Green Mountains of Vermont in pursuit of a dream and searching for an answer to a question asked to me the summer prior: What do you seek?

I believe I found what I was looking for on the Long Trail. I learned some valuable lessons and gained new perspective on my “why” for long distance hiking. I contemplated this as I sped away from my little countryside oasis and into the bustling city of Boston, my new home for at least the next two years.

It turned out, however, that reaching a pinnacle moment and moving across the country, did not, in fact, replace or erase the grief that follows me around like a shadow. In fact, the most shining moments are those that feel the most poignant, or bittersweet. They’re a stark reminder of everything that’s changed and all that’s been lost or left behind.

That’s not to say I wish to go back. Change is really, really hard; change is inevitable, and change can be necessary. There is a lot to look forward to with starting grad school this fall and getting settled into a new city, and I am thankful to have a support system in place while navigating all of it. It’s just, well, possible to have many different feelings all at the same time.

This Outside article centered around 1500m pro runner Jakob Ingebrigtsen, and his post-race letdown after winning Olympic gold, resonated with me for a couple reasons. Author Brad Stulberg said on the matter, “We think that some external goal will fulfill us, but it’s this very thinking that gets in the way of our fulfillment.”

In a way, I thought achieving a record would make me happier or lessen the reoccurring thoughts about the past swimming around in my head. In reality, I’m happy about the record, but my overall level of happiness or contentedness hasn’t changed. I’m still the same person with the same thoughts and feelings on the other side.

Stulberg continued, “You are better off enjoying the process and being where you are.” If I didn’t enjoy the long hours on the trail, the grunt work of training, the unfolding of the adventure along the way, and have appreciation for the good parts and the bad, what was I even doing out there?

In terms of “being where you are,” well, there are some things I am really sad about, and probably will be for some time. A record isn’t going to change that; perhaps only more time and distance will, and that is okay.

A reoccurring question I’ve been receiving is, “What’s next?” Well, my entire life seems to have been a balancing act, or a pendulum swing, between athleticism and artistry, and I’m always looking for ways to merge the two. As I’ve been nesting in my new apartment and preparing to be immersed in all things music, I don’t know if I have a definitive “next” other than learning, exploring, creating–and–enjoying the process. Being where I am.

💫

In case you missed it, I was recently a guest on the From the Backcountry podcast with Will Peterson, fellow adventurer who set an FKT for the New Hampshire 48 this summer. I really enjoyed this in depth conversation with Will and hope you do too.

If my writing resonates with you, please consider buying me a coffee or becoming a monthly member (members receive some lovely MOTR stickers and a handwritten note from me). Your support keeps this newsletter going, for which I’m so grateful!


Another great way to support is by sharing this with someone that might enjoy it too. New readers may subscribe here. ‘Til next week! ~Mercury

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Who is Mercury?

Liz Derstine, trail name “Mercury”, is a distance runner, endurance hiker, writer, and musician residing in Boston, MA. She holds fastest known times for women on the Appalachian Trail (supported, northbound), Long Trail (self-supported), and Pinhoti Trail (self-supported).

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