Dear Natalie: Walking on dirt, really?

Ask Natalie Banner

By Natalie McCarthy

Dear Natalie,

What made you even want to get out there?

Love (sort of, sometimes),



Dear Me,

It’s too much.

You go to work every day. Most days, you venture out with a hopeful heart, and some days, you are tired. You are privileged to see the best and worst of humanity, the struggle and the joy, the decades – generations, often – of trauma and heartbreak, ended with one brave person who decides to make a change. You realize to witness this is a gift, one you probably haven’t earned, but one to which you’re willing to apply yourself.

You come home from work every day. You have a family, a beautiful family with parents who love you and brothers who are the best lifelong friends you could ask for, and a husband and two cats in a warm house full of music, food, and artwork. Your neighbors sometimes drunkenly stumble onto your porch and engage you in a too-long conversation, but they always leave you in a better mood than when they found you, and they always let you borrow their snow shovel.

It’s a good life. I mean, it’s all beautiful, but yo, it’s sometimes just too much.

After your first year of marriage, several years into your clinical practice, you’re overwhelmed.  You look back at your adult life and you see all the directions in which you’ve been pulled: Get all-star grades. Be the best graduate intern this hospital has ever seen – and make the decisions of a seasoned professional, even though you’re still figuring out how to thumb through the diagnostic manual. Fit thirty hours of work into twenty; this will allow you four hours of sleep, and be sure to awake refreshed and wide-eyed. Plan the best wedding. The best. The wedding to end all weddings. Save money by making the centerpieces, invitations, and favors yourself, even though you do not consider yourself a particularly crafty chick. Be thrilled to shop for dresses, even though strange, elder-woman shop clerks awkwardly view you in various states of undress. Listen to people’s stories of violence, sexual assault, combat, spousal abuse, drug use, poverty, near-starvation, and all manner of medical crisis – and listen with an open heart. Do not turn away. But do not carry it with you, because look, holding onto all that ick will beat the heck out of your sanity. Go home and have the energy for your loved ones that they deserve. After listening to people all day, listen to your family and your friends. Be available. Keep your arms wide open for them, always. Never lose patience, and good golly, never look tired. If you could lose ten to twenty pounds, apply false lashes like a pro, and freshen up your wardrobe, too, that would be great.

Dear Natalie Walking on dirt really
I may or may not have made this. I can’t remember.


It seemed the more connected I got, the less connected I felt, and a sense of failure weighed more heavily on my chest. “I need something,” I said aloud one day, in the center of my dining room. I said it to no one. I said it to myself, mostly.


Dear Natalie Walking on dirt really
You know I eventually chose these over heels, right? 


I can’t remember what made me pick hiking. I remember suggesting the idea to my husband, and off we went to the forest, an hour’s drive from our urban home. On the way out of town, we stopped and bought a few water bottles and a couple of $5 backpacks. The quality of the pack I got was barely decent enough to withstand a primary school kid’s books for one semester, let alone the year of hiking I ended up putting it through. We climbed our first hill and I was wheezing at the top.

“Do you want to keep going?” my husband asked.

I scoffed. “Of course I’ll keep going,” I muttered. And I did. I do.

Dear Natalie Walking on dirt really

But how did that change me?  That’s a story for another day.

In the meanwhile, on behalf of the Adventure Some Women and Camping for Women communities, I wish you a fabulous and fun-filled 2018 in the wonderful outdoors.

Love, always,


P.S. – Have you had conversations with yourself like this? What pushed you to get out and adventure?  What does adventuring do for your mind, body, and soul? Let us know via message, video, or audio recording (you can use the voice recorder on your phone!), and feel free to share pictures as well! We’d like to include your contributions in future posts. Share via email at [email protected]     

P.P.S. – Your privacy matters. If you want to remain anonymous when you share, say the word. Ain’t nobody gonna know but me, and I have ethics ‘n’ stuff.


%d bloggers like this: