So how did I end up here? Why the walk? Why hidradenitis? I’m not going to paint a rosier picture of myself than I believe is accurate…
I’ve always had trouble sticking with one thing. I’m never satisfied with the status quo. I don’t think I deserve any better than the status quo, but I have an unquenchable thirst for something more. My resume is a long list of very different things, but all of them were short lived. When I did them, more often than not I did them well – I just never did them for very long.
I think on a personal level I am a very dependable person in many ways. People knowing what I am going to do next is not one of those ways. I don’t say that from a point of ego; I don’t think it is necessarily a good thing. People like to romanticize unpredictability. The problem is, I myself don’t know what I am going to do next either. I feel pretty lost most of the time. It’s not a great feeling.
Walking Across America
So why walk the beast? I put it to a friend of mine like this recently… You ever get mad, sad, or confused and decide to go on a long walk to sort things out? It’s kind of like that, but a really, really, long walk to sort a whole lot of things out.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with walking for yourself. Not everyone has to walk for some external cause, trying to venture forward for a charitable effort. There is nothing wrong with just dropping everything and walking away to find your answers, walking just for yourself and yourself alone. I don’t think it’s selfish.
Maybe you just want to have an adventure. Go for it. No reason to make it complicated. Walking across the country hardly ever births from a want though, I think it comes from a need. I don’t think it is some kind of lazy escape for those frightened of “real world” responsibility. I think people reach a natural boiling point and just find themselves having to walk.
If you need to take some time off to find yourself and battle your demons, do it. It’s probably the most important priority you have. There is a reason flight attendants advise you to secure your oxygen mask before trying to help others. My parents deserve better than a broken son, my siblings deserve better than a broken brother, and my friends deserve better than a broken friend. I know being a broken husband, father, worker or business owner isn’t what I want in my future, so I need to secure my oxygen mask first. You don’t try to fix a machine with a broken wrench. If you need to find yourself, if you are lost, go do it. It’s not selfish.
That being said, due to the specific circumstances of my own life, I have never felt more selfish. I knew I had to attach some meaning to this walk beyond myself. Not everyone has to, and that’s fine, but me specifically – I had to as part of my growth. It has to be different for me because I feel like I have been very selfish in my life and I am trying to atone.
Walking for Hidradenitis Suppurativa
I hardly ever go to the doctor. I find myself between so many jobs that I rarely find myself with health insurance. I had basically been crawling the internet since I was twelve looking for information on what might be wrong with me. I knew it wasn’t contagious, I knew it wasn’t an STD. I stumbled upon Hidradenitis and everything matched up. I finally got around to going to the doctor in 2010 and got an official diagnosis. He said without a doubt, that’s what it was. Until that moment, it wasn’t real. In the back of my mind there always lingered a thought: It could just be some strange horrible acne. But now… it was real. Now I knew what I had was an incurable, progressive disease, that tends to worsen over time. I was crushed.
Leading up to that last paragraph, I had before been talking about not wanting to walk for just myself. So wouldn’t my motivations be selfish if I decided to walk for HS? The thought crossed my mind. I thought, people will think that the only reason I care about HS is because I have it. People will think I am just trying to find a cure for myself. I thought, perhaps I should walk for something else. I had an ex whose nephew has CF. That always touched my heart. My niece has eczema and severe food allergies, maybe I could walk for that? I have grandparents who have had heart disease, emphysema, and cancer. Maybe walk for them? What can I do that is the most selfless?
Then I thought, it’s not just about selflessness for the sake of selflessness, it’s about using what value I have to help others. Where can I do the most good with my own experience, that specific experience value that is unique to me? What makes us love each other is what we share with other people. Sure, I love every one of those people I mentioned that have those other ailments, with all my heart, and I empathize with them, but I know there is a struggle out there with HS that I can empathize with all the way to the core on a knowing and personal level.
This isn’t about comparing one persons disease to another. This is about sharing. People I can turn to and say, I understand, and if I don’t now, I will soon as my condition worsens. When I tell someone I understand, they need to know it’s true or that it will be true someday. That somehow I am in the same boat as them and know what it feels like to have the water pooling around my feet.
So my fellow people with HS, I am walking for you. I am walking for me, but for you too.
Walking for Everyone
Beyond funding and friendships I know the act of the walk itself doesn’t do much good for anyone else. I am just walking. I can walk all day and no matter how far I walk you as an individual will still have your everyday struggles. I don’t want to glorify something mundane. I’m just walking. But I know that I personally grew inspired and was able to reflect inward just by watching and reading about the travels of Nate Damm, Andrew Forsthoefel, Logan Mayberry, and many others that have done this before me and are doing it now. I hope my walk will do the same for others.
Through this walk, for myself I am gifting personal growth. I hope to mentally, physically, and spiritually come out the other end of this a better person. The person the people I know deserve to know.
Through this walk, for those with HS, I hope to bring funding for more research and better treatments, to spread awareness of this disease, and to develop new and unbreakable friendships through our common struggle.
Through this walk I hope to inspire others to get up and adventure, say no to the status quo, and reach out and make new friendships. Whether you or someone you know has HS, eczema, CF, cancer, lung disease, heart disease, or any other physical, mental, or spiritual struggle. If you or someone you know is just going through a hard time, a struggle that can’t be assigned to any particular category, but are just under the burden of life – I am walking for you too.