Earlier this year, my 14 year old daughter and I took to the trail to hike the full length of the Overland Track, feeling confident we could ace the 80 kilometres together. Admittedly, doubt arose when said daughter turned up the day before we left with new acrylic nails, an untimely but generous gift from her grandmother. She said it would be both glamourous and an additional challenge to see if there were any left by the time we finished. The joy of teenage rationalization. I guess though if this was teenage risk taking starting to take place, as a mother, I needed to be grateful. I did remind her that a broken nail did not constitute a helicopter rescue. You know, just to lower expectations on that front.
For a fun gift, I brought us two bracelets, one said “Squad” and the other “Goals”, which we wore for inspiration, it’s the small things. Needless to say, it was an awesome hike. Plenty in it to be physically demanding which also pushed mental boundaries, something I know we both enjoy. We carried some 20kgs plus water each in our backpack and I declared ourselves to be mighty girls. A phrase we often threw at each other as we walked up and down steep and rocky slopes, over unrelenting exposed tree roots, and through puddle upon puddle of mud and slush in the sopping Tasmanian rain. If there was ever an experience of uninterrupted mindfulness, this hike naturally created the absolute need to be in the moment.
We had planned a six to seven day trek but my daughter had other ideas, she was pumped and I suspect it wasn’t just the chemicals involved in attaching acrylic nails. She is competitive by nature, and possibly nurture, as certain family members have similar traits, although we won’t mention names. She once told me one of her favourite expressions was “go hard or go home”. When it comes to sport, she will give it her all and then some. We finished the hike in five days, which meant we had four 17-19 kilometres days, all determined by Little Miss Go Hard. Hmm, there could be a book in this.
Happily, I went with her squad goals as I am a fan of human behavior, and got to witness my daughter being herself, pushing her body and her mind as much as she could. I could have told her to take it easy and even restricted the hiking length in our days. However, I saw it as an opportunity for her to experience how strong she was, probably beyond what she started out believing at the beginning. There was no doubt, the last few kilometres in those long days had both of us struggling, but there is something so incredible about thinking you cannot go on, and doing it anyway.
As for expectations of our trip, I didn’t have too many, nor did I plan to provide my daughter with opportunity to increase self-image. Interestingly, through my own experience and observing Little Miss Go Hard, hiking compels moving beyond what we think we can do and fosters an increased innate belief after the fact, that is when you’re finished. Whilst you’re hiking you have to find the inner and physical resources to get to the destination and sometimes this involves facing disbelief, mostly in yourself. This skepticism lurks on any given day, waiting to unhinge any spec of confidence by asserting you haven’t got what it takes. This requires you to step up, and not just with your feet. I have loved seeing that unravel and resolve in both of us.
Interestingly, someone lovingly said to my daughter, “I bet you and your Mum had a great time, especially the opportunity it gave you to talk about future dreams and secrets that only a mother and daughter share.” My daughter looked at me, momentarily puzzled, and replied “ah no…. we talk like that all the time not just when we are hiking.” I was surprised by that reply. More importantly though, I think it offers insight into how one can be so intensely focused in one area of their lives, aka Little Miss Go Hard when it comes to being competitive, but also be well balanced in other aspects. In close relationships, she knows emotional consistency rather than an all or nothing experience.
Finally, I would never try and change her drive, it is admirable and fiery. Rather, I am hopefully fostering that although she can go hard whenever she wants, if she feels the need to go home, I would like her to know and connect with that she is already there. There is nowhere to go, she has everything within her to always be home. I would call that inner balance and belief. Just quietly, it’s part of the ongoing and unspoken squad goals. I think it was worth the hike.