Death Valley National Park and the New Year

I spent the last few days of 2016 in Death Valley National Park. I mostly hiked and enjoyed the isolation. Hiking in isolated locations provides me with a lot of time to reflect. I have been mulling over the last year, my personal relationships, and overall who I am as a person. I thought I would share some of my trip’s photos and personal thoughts regarding 2016.

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At first, I thought 2016 was not kind to many people. As if a year could be cursed from the beginning. Last year, I would jokingly reference wanting 2015 to end as if 2016 would be instantly better. I found both years to be emotionally draining. I have cried more than I have in a while with the passing of loved ones and acts of hate and violence occurring worldwide. I have tried my best to work through my depression and imposter syndrome while “keeping it together” as I support my husband and I while he completes medical school. And with the rise of social media, a lot of true colors were exposed by many individuals I held in high esteem. Of course, these examples are a few of many.  But, as I was off-trail hiking, I remembered these two quotes by James Baldwin:

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”

“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”

Towards the beginning of the trip, I went back and forth between moping and drowning in nihilism. After a few days, I decided to reflect on everything I was thankful for. Everything that makes me wake up in the morning and love the tiniest aspects of life.

I am genuinely grateful for what I have despite society telling me I need more to be happy. My family and I have good health. This year, I received numerous awards for my historical research. I am months away from earning my Master’s Degree in History. I traveled around America. I had the honor to interview a large number of inspiring women involved in politics and grassroots activism. I celebrated 12 years with my soulmate. And I am on the path to where I want to be, among other things.

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Portrait of Josh. Death Valley National Park, 2016.

My reflections also led me to feel torn over the concept of the traditional holiday of the New Year. I have always liked the New Year, because there is this certain romanticism over how we perceive the passing of time. Of course, I understand the concept of time has occurred primarily through cultural and social constructs, but this notion of leaving the past behind and looking towards the future seems promising. Except, when we forget our past or deliberately remove ourselves from upsetting historical events and their respective consequences. If we do this, we cannot learn from our mistakes—as a society and individually—and our history is relegated to the textbooks. Then, true ignorance looms and we forget that history encompasses everything we are.

All of us live and act out history and we are connected to each other and the past. The year 2016—like every year—will become more or less, another history lesson which will most likely be swept under the rug by a majority of individuals in positions of power and/or privilege. To make the changes we want to see, let’s start from within. Let’s not forget our past and if we do, let’s remember to be open to all of it—the good, the bad, the incredibly ugly. Remember, language and events change but if we read between the lines, our history becomes apparent.

Anyways, I’ll get off my reflective soapbox and move on to some resolutions I made.

I never do resolutions but this year I decided to focus more on my mental health. I love hiking and it grounds me. I figured I’d try to hike a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and in preparation I will complete a series of local hiking trips on the weekends—or, when time permits. I will be saving and dreaming of this until I am on the PCT in October.

I also will be donating more blood and joining a couple nonprofit organizations.

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Portrait of Skye. Death Valley National Park, 2016.

Peace and love to you all in 2017, and in the word’s of poet Linda Hogan:

“Walking. I am listening to a deeper way. Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.”

-Skye

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