Total Miles: 154.4
I remember. Not the smell of cotton candy or roasted peanuts, not the bright flashing lights of this ride or that one. I remember the crush of people and what it felt like to walk through them, meandering my own personal maze down the midway at the New York State fair.
Not long before, the only definition of midway I’d known was that of being halfway through something, and learning that it also referred to the games that seemed always to be rigged at the fair felt particularly ironic. There I was, halfway between the end of one school year and the start of the next, brushing past the ring toss and assorted other games of chance. I was midway at the midway.
Midway—at the fair, but most especially in life—is a disorienting place. A ship equally far from both ports, it’s a moment where everything is as far away as it can be. Being at the fair in the middle of summer, it felt like school—both the past and the future—was as distant as the stars. But as quickly as the moment arrives it vanishes just as rapidly, an invisible threshold sliding swiftly beneath you.
In the mountains, there’s a saying that getting to the top is only halfway, a reminder that what is typically the very moment of triumph is also the moment where everything you’ve already done now must be repeated in reverse. Tomes have been written about those who embraced the triumph of midway too fully at the expense of neglecting the challenge that still lie ahead. On the Appalachian Trail, I remember vividly the elation of having reached the midway point only to have the elation turned upside down by the counter-narrative; that despite having walked the impossibly far distance of over a thousand miles, I would now have to do it all over again.
Midway is a moment of challenge, and of change. A moment of reckoning. It can buoy spirits and it can crush them. It can even go unheralded, as it did yesterday. For Jesse, it had marked the far side of the halfway point of the section he’s joining us on, and for Ace and I, more than half of the Long Trail had now drifted behind us. Somewhere back in the rock and mud, we were now all closer to the end of something than to the beginning.
Truth be told, I’ve never known just how to feel about this moment, either on the trail or in life. Excited. Stranded. Saddened. Proud. Maybe all of the above along with a few others. Maybe that’s the “mixture of midway.”