This week I’ve been thinking about the way we perceive things. As an introvert I think I’ve always been somewhat internally focused. I generally have a good grasp on what I’m thinking, how I’m feeling, and how things external to me are affecting the way I behave. That doesn’t mean I’m necessarily great about controlling how I respond to those things, but I usually recognize them. Over the last month I’ve noticed a shift in my behavior that you, as readers of my blog, may have already detected. You might have noticed that the frequency of my blog entries increased for a while in December and then decreased again in January. In fact, here is the list of dates on which I published new posts, along with the days since last post. October is a bit of a blip because I posted every day on my training hike so I omitted all but the first day (Oct 7). Note the decrease in days-since-last-post from late November through December 2011 and then the increase again in January 2012:

Jun 11, 2011 – first post
Sep 15, 2011 – too many
Sep 17, 2011 – 2
Oct 07, 2011 – 20
Oct 13, 2011 – 6
Oct 14, 2011 – 1
Nov 04, 2011 – 21
Nov 19, 2011 – 15
Nov 27, 2011 – 8
Dec 03, 2011 – 6
Dec 15, 2011 – 12
Dec 18, 2011 – 3
Dec 19, 2011 – 1
Jan 09, 2011 – 21
Jan 26, 2011 – 27

What was going on? November and December are holiday periods, aren’t they? Shouldn’t I have been posting less during the stressful holiday shopping season?

Actually, what is going on was caused by the holidays but the effect actually worked in reverse. I used up most of my vacation time at work early in 2011, so in November and December I was out of time off. Instead, as happens every year, everyone else at work went on vacation. As a result there was less going on at work and so I had more time to think about my upcoming adventure. More time to think translates to more frequent blog posts. Obviously since the holidays ended my blog posts have become less frequent, coinciding with the increase in work. In fact because last week I was sick and this week I took some time off to accompany my wife on a personal trip, my workload now is at the highest point it has been in months!

My point is that it is interesting how our perspectives change so easily. In December I couldn’t wait to get on the trail. I spent half the day at work thinking about it, and when I got home I thought about it some more. Now that I’m busy again at work I still think about it often, but I don’t have time to dwell on it. If I did I could accidentally miss my next meeting or fall behind on another assignment (I’m behind enough as it is!). Even though I have about half as much time until I’m on the trail (54 days from now versus 100 around the beginning of December), the adventure seems further away. I haven’t obsessed about my pack weight in weeks. Although we’ve been dehydrating meals for Christy to send to me on the trail, it feels more like either a chore or a hobby we have adopted rather than preparation for a 5-6 month long trek.

A few months ago I told Christy that it hadn’t quite clicked in my head yet that I was going to be hiking the AT. When I played soccer in high school or rowed in college there was always a point at which my brain “flipped the switch,” when I went from being just another student to being an athlete. I realized that the athletic season was on and that my behaviors had to change accordingly – more effectively using my free time to get work done. I told her that at some point I figured I would reach the same point with this hike – that it would become so imminent that my brain would flip the switch and move to thru-hiker mode, at which point I would lose concentration and she would be forced to deal with me sleeping on the floor in my sleeping bag, testing recipes on my backpacking stove, and carrying weights around the house on my back. I’m pretty sure I had reached that point in December. I find it intriguing how a busy period at work, some days off with a bad cold, and a 4 day road trip can flip the switch back again.

Why do our brains work this way? Wouldn’t it be more evolutionarily advantageous for us to perceive the world around us as it really is instead of through the perception-altering prism of how busy we are? When something is only 50 days away, shouldn’t it feel more imminent than it did when it was 100 days away? More importantly, am I going to adequately perceive what is in front of me when I set foot on the approach trail on March 21? If I’m lucky enough to finish the entire trail will I comprehend what I accomplished? And finally, once I return, how quickly will the experience fade? Once I’m back at work with a thousand things to keep track of and a million more to get done will I simply flip the switch in my brain again and allow a once-in-a-lifetime adventure to become just another memory jumbled together with high school, sports, my first job, family vacations, and everything else that has already passed by?

We’ll find out soon enough. Until then we have more meals to dehydrate, boxes to pack, and exercises to do. Not to mention I have work in the morning.

Categories: Preparations | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Perspective

  1. hey there- just posed a question and i’m interested in your input!

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