Am I Selfish for Hiking so Much?
My dad is an avid fisherman, has been for all of his life. His version of REI was a local fly shop where he would spend hours discussing the merits of the little bug shaped things in various bins. We would often drive down random roads near his favorite rivers where he would look for new spots to wade in and fish...and I was always his annoyed daughter feeling drug along for all of this.
I loved spending time with my dad but I hated being stuck on the riverside while he claimed, “just one more cast” over and over again. I hated going into stores full of things I had no interest in. My first full day fishing with him we still jokingly refer to as, “The Fishing Trip From Hell” On that day our family dog almost drowned, I got a massive case of heat stroke in the hot canyon, and my dad accidentally hooked me on the ear with his fly while he was casting into a tricky spot. Fishing trip from hell indeed...
Throughout my childhood my mom always commented that my dad was selfish. He was gone many weekends to be out fishing. The best day to fish on his favorite river happened to always fall on or around Mother’s Day, which my Mom never appreciated much. He often missed birthdays and other family events. At first, part of me blamed some of the tension around his fishing on my mom, she wasn’t even trying to take part in his hobby. Isn’t that what you do when you love someone?
I fished with my dad as often as possible. I was determined to try and love what he loved. He even got me my own waders and boots so I could follow him out into the river and try to learn how to cast. Most days though, I would just end up back on the riverbank reading my book and trying to patiently wait for him to finish. Which I realize now may have made it worse than if I had stayed at home. Being outside and doing something that gives you so much joy and having a person there who obviously isn't enjoying it, well, it weighs on you. I slowly realized my mom probably had also tried to take part in my Dad's hobby at some point. She had shown up in those same ways I had shown up and realized neither of them were having fun so she began to opt to stay home.
My mom and my dad didn’t last for many reasons, but it’s hard not to think that his fishing wasn’t part of it. Now that I have grown and found my outdoor passion, I see my Father mirrored in me. I often miss family and friend gatherings. My weekends are “outdoor” time and I resent anyone who asks me to spend them differently. I attempt to do it because I have people in my life that are important, and they don’t understand the outdoor stuff I want to be doing. They feel the way I felt about my father's fishing when they hike with me. A constant question of, “are we almost done?” lingers in the air even if it is unspoken. They try to enjoy it for me as I try to enjoy skipping a weekend outside for them...but the experience is always less enjoyable for both of us. I find myself seeking out people who are as excited as I am to go outside more and more even though I barely have time to fit in the friends I already have.
It all leads me to wonder, was my dad actually that selfish? Am I selfish for following in his footsteps? I honestly don’t have a good answer to those questions. Is it more important to make myself happy so I can come home a less shitty person than I was when I left for the outdoors? Or is leaving at all an act of selfishness? I am constantly trying to figure out the balance of being outside as much as I want and not letting down other people in my life. If I am being honest, it feels like a task I am constantly failing at, someone always seems upset with me for how little time I make for them.
These days I drag my dad along on hikes with me. He doesn't enjoy hiking, unless it’s a, "hike" to a secluded fishing spot no one else knows about. As we huff and puff up a trail he incredulously asks me, “you enjoy this?!” and I have to laugh as I think of all the times I sat bored out of my mind on a riverbed asking him the exact same thing. His love of the outdoors is different from mine, and that’s okay! We both attempt to set aside our own needs here and then and enjoy each other’s hobby. Maybe we are both a little selfish, but we still try and compromise for the people we love and sometimes that's the best we can do.
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