The Obligatory Thing that College Students Do When They Graduate College, or Well, What Now?

Next month, all things going right, my thesis will be approved, I will graduate from New York University, and face the question that all college students face: Shit, what now? Some compatriots of mine will ask this question a year from now after accelerated masters, some friends who have already graduated are still asking it, and really it’s a terrible question. It places the entirety of college on an unrealistic pedestal, and is counterproductive to the entire exercise. It still has to be answered though.

For the next little bit, while I transition to what comes next, I’ll work on trying to make my thesis better and either A) Put it out as something “professional” for publication, or B) Put it out here on the blog. I’ll also try and work off a chunk of my student debt to move towards financial freedom, and also to just have it out from over my head. Hopefully something that pays by the hour but still enjoyable like a coffee shop or book store. Something I can really enjoy and still come home wanting to work on writing and getting ready for the next step. Those are the immediate goals, but the next major adventure is a little more intense than the job I need to get though.

I think the next adventure will be the Appalachian Trail. I’ve spent a lot of time hiking, camping, rock climbing, and I miss it. The last four years, minus one in Tel Aviv, I’ve been in New York city. At first jumping from a town of 12,000 to a city of 12,000,000 was a little bit of a culture shock, and there were a couple of midnight phone calls to friends freaking out a bit in the first week, but after that, I started to take things better and better. By the end of it though, I can honestly say that New York is like nowhere else I’ve been, and incredible in the way a mythical place is. At least for right now though, it’s not for me.

Never being able to be alone, always having to brush up against other people, not being able to simply step outside and sit. All things that you can’t really do in New York. Even leaving your building and walking down the street can become tiring sometimes, when you’re walking in a constant crowd of people. My privacy isn’t the only thing I’ve missed. I need another challenge, one that will challenge me physically and mentally. I despise gyms, and I don’t think they challenge people very well, and lord knows there’s not great hiking in NYC unless you want to traipse through garbage and a sea of stoplights to hit your feet on some concrete.

Don’t get me wrong, spending a year in Israel, traveling around the middle east and Ireland, moving to New York; they all were unique challenges in their own ways. Writing a thesis, graduating University, learning to put up street art without getting caught, which is its own special story, all great things that have made me grow. Yet… while I’ve learned a lot about the outside world, and while I’ve learned a lot about myself and grown, you almost need those long days of introspection to sort through it all, to really pull the best jewels from the treasure box. Nature is the perfect sandbox for that time. When you’re alone with yourself on the trail, you have no choice but to reflect, and after doing so much, a lot of reflection wrapped in a challenge, smothered with new people and experiences may be just what the psychologist ordered.

And so, it’s time to make another jump. The Appalachian Trail is 2190 miles long, stretching from Springer Mountain in Georgia, traveling all the way up across the country until Mount Katahdin in Maine. I’ve had several friends do it so I’ve gotten advice. I’ve been planning my route, and I’m restocking all the gear I’ll need. I’ve done a lot of research so far, and there’s more to go, but I’m excited to do a through hike of the whole thing. My biggest worry is really my weight, but if I eat enough and make sure to pack enough, I’ll be absolutely fine. Along the way I’ll keep a journal and will update the blog with thoughts from places, and maybe a longer form video documentary of the trail at the end. We’ll see, though. I’ll have plenty of time to write and reflect. I’d begin the last week of February, earlier than most but to be able to avoid the main swell of hikers that begins in March. Definitely I’ll be cold at the start, but hopefully this will also enable me to avoid the hotter weather towards the end of the trail as July bleeds into August.

Apart from all of the practical considerations, and all the reasoning, at the end of the day, I simply miss being able to wake up in the morning and be in nature. I miss real sunrises, and the smell of rain on trees, and the sounds that water makes when it flows. Whippoorwills before dawn like the best/worst alarm clocks. Not to get totally Thoreau, but there really is a part of the human experience that’s absent if we don’t reconnect ourselves to nature. This will also be time for me to recharge my batteries in a different way, and remember what it’s like to be.

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