You’ve Got This

In Pacific Crest Trail discussion forums, occasionally people mention their worries about doing the trail, such as “I just had an operation on my foot, and it hurts to walk. I feel as if I’m walking on glass. I don’t know if I’ll still be able to the PCT this summer.” And the unvarying response, “You’ve got this.”

I hear (and see) that remark all the time. “You’ve got this.” What the heck does that mean, anyway? Well, I know what people who say the words mean — “you can do it” — but as it stands, it means nothing. In my case, I don’t “got” anything except maybe the raspy fingers of cliché scraping up and down my back.

I’ve wasted a lot of time trying to track down the origin of the phrase, but can’t find it. It had to have started from somewhere, but unlike many clichéd and annoying phrases, such as “bucket list,” it doesn’t seem to have come from a movie. And I can pretty much guarantee it doesn’t come from Shakespeare like so many common phrases do.

There is a song, “You’ve Got This,” but I can’t tell if the song came first or the statement did.

Not that the origin of the phrase matters.

What does matter is the way people use it, telling others they can do something without any sense of the person or what the person can actually do. Seems dangerous to me, and in addition, reeks of false positivity.

In my example above, the people who offered the encouragement knew nothing about the woman except those three brief sentences. How do they know she can do it? Why are they even urging her to try? No one suggested she check with her doctor first to make sure she won’t further injure her foot. Admittedly, most of the women in the group seem young (young-ish, anyway), and so they have not yet gotten to the point where their bodies refuse to do what they tell them to do, so I’m sure it never occurred to them that others might not be able to do what they themselves can. The fact that some of the women hiked the trail without ever having been on a single backpacking trip and many had only been on one or two short trips is an astonishing acknowledgement of the power of youth.

(Oddly, it’s almost four years to the day that I first began writing about and dreaming of life on foot. In that initial research, I discovered that potential hikers often spend months in preparation, taking long hikes and backpacking trips, drying foods, mapping water holes, sending ahead care packages to themselves at various places along the trail. They need to be prepared for emergencies, all weather conditions, and whatever might overtake them on the trail. And yet now I’m reading about people that aren’t doing any of that — just buying their gear and setting out. Ah, youth!)

People often say that hiking the trail is more mental than physical, that the sheer distance and immensity of the trail get to people more than the physical activity, but I don’t see how that can be the case with everyone. Even after all my walking, hiking, trudging with a backpack, there is no way I can hike twenty miles in one day, let alone day after day after day. Even when I was young, I couldn’t do it.

And yet, I’m sure if I posted my reservations in a PCT group, I’d get a spate of “You’ve got this.”

Someday, perhaps, I will attempt to hike the trail, or at least a small portion of it, but if do, it will because of a lot of hard work in preparation and not because someone told me I’ve “got this”.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Keep On Trekking On

I’ve been following a few women’s hiking groups on Facebook, one each for the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the John Muir Trail. I joined these groups when I thought there was a chance I would be thru-hiking one of the trails, but I really don’t think I have the strength, stamina, or will to attempt such a massive project. (The food planning alone is staggering, considering that you have to plan for six months, and in some cases, have to send the food on ahead and hope you get to it before desperation sets in.)

WANDERLUSTThough I’ve set my sights on a smorgasbord of shorter trails, working up to multi-day backpacking trips, I’ve kept up with the groups, because you never know where life might take you. (At least I don’t where life is taking me. You might have a better concept of your path than I do of mine.)

I’ve paid particular attention to discussions about gear. The trouble is, the advice is so conflicting, it’s almost impossible to sort out what would be best for me as opposed to what is suitable for younger, fitter, thinner women. Most of the gear I have purchased I found on my own, though I still don’t know if it will work for me. The tent I got is a backpacker’s dream, lightweight and easy to set up, but a bit claustrophobic for general use, so now I’m looking for something a bit larger for car camping, where perhaps I would have room for some sort of folding lounge chair. Conversely, since the sleeping pad I got is a bit heavy for backpacking, (though that’s what it was intended for), I’m looking for a lighter pad. And a warmer sleep system.

Recently I’ve been researching trekking poles since I need new ones. (I only have one that’s about worn out, and my hikes in the Redwood Forest proved the necessity for two). I’d just about decided to get a couple of the one I am now using when I noticed a brief mention of Pacerpoles in one of the groups. I immediately went to the Pacerpole site, watched the videos, read the theory, and was sold. Oh, my. These poles are completely different from regular hiking poles — they work to keep you upright, better balanced, and better posture, as well as allowing for a normal arm swing. Although the poles are not ultralight, apparently, the way they work, they don’t demand extra strength or energy. But they are only available from Britain.

No problem. They ship anywhere, and shipping costs are included in the price. And PayPal so kindly sent the euros to the Pacerpole folk so I didn’t have to worry about currency exchange. A few minutes ago, the Pacerpole folk emailed me. The poles are coming via Royal Mail. How cool! My first international mail! Well, my first overseas mail — I have had Christmas cards from a friend in Canada.

What cracked me up is the Pacerpole people sent me homework to do while I’m waiting. Videos to watch, information to read, proper body form to practice. Now I just have to wait a couple of weeks until they get here.

Meantime, I’m preparing for my road trip across the southernmost part of the country. I’d hoped to be more spontaneous, just stopping upon whim, but I know me — if I didn’t make plans to stop, I’d get into the car and drive until the car needed to be filled with fuel and my bladder needed to be unfilled. And then I’d just keep driving to the next pitstop. Since that is not what I want on this trip, I am researching various National Parks and Monuments with campgrounds and hiking trails along the way. I might not visit any of those places, but at least I’d have shorter driving goals, with a hike to look forward to if whim doesn’t stop me anywhere else along the way. (For those of you who like to plan, you’d be so proud of me — I have a notebook with maps, camping information, hiking trails, and any other information that would be helpful, such as food storage tips to keep from attracting mountain lions. Eek.)

I’m hoping by the end of the trip, I’ll be a seasoned camper, maybe even backpacker, and then . . . who knows. Probably back to dance class for a while to unkink and restore myself, while I replenish my supplies and get my car tuned up for whatever comes next.

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)