Whit’s End: For most of my life, I was an indoor person | PostIndependent.com

Whit’s End: For most of my life, I was an indoor person

Carla Jean Whitley credits her friend Kelly with developing her love of the outdoors. They frequently hiked Cane Creek Nature Preserve in north Alabama.
Carla Jean Whitley / Post Independent

“If every single American could spend a few days a year contemplating the natural beauty that surrounds us and begs for our attention, half the frustrations and anxieties of our population would disappear overnight.” —Lyndon B. Johnson

A confession: Until two years ago, I was decidedly an inside person.

Don’t get me wrong, I experienced the normal joys of childhood. I recall exploring the “woods” behind my grandmother’s house and adjacent to my north Florida neighborhood. (Childhood has a way of inflating such environments. The vast swaths of trees I remember would probably be more accurately labeled “backyards.”) I rode my bicycle from friend’s house to friend’s house, and I would even occasionally join in a game of kickball in the cul de sac.

But truly, I was an inside girl. It’s an easy thing to be when you’re raised in the sweltering southeastern United States, though I know several outdoorsy Floridians. (Most of them now live in Colorado.) I preferred to lose myself in a book, though I’d consider sweating for cheerleading practice or a football game.

That remained my attitude into my 30s; I didn’t mind a kayaking trip, but otherwise I preferred to be inside with a book, a cat and central air conditioning. Yoga helped me grow comfortable with sweat, but it wasn’t until a friend reviewed my online dating profile that I realized something in me was fundamentally different.

Kelly was training for a mountaineering course that would end at the summit of Mount Shuksan in Washington. The months leading up to that trip required hiking with an ever-heavier pack, and I volunteered to walk alongside her. Our forays into the Alabama wilderness became as frequent as we could manage. As we hiked past waterfalls and the hills Alabamians dub mountains, I discovered a new side of myself.

I’ve long wrestled with depression, and I expect that to be a life-long journey. Getting outside helps. Those hikes with Kelly brought life into perspective. There could be turmoil in our industry or the political climate — and there often was. But as we focused on the trail ahead, none of those worries seemed as compelling as what lay before us.

As we drove out to one of those trips, Kelly took my phone to read my online dating profile. You’re selling yourself short, she said as she read my claims of being an indoor person. This doesn’t sound like you.

That’s the moment when I realized wilderness had become part of me. I went into the woods to support a friend. In the process, I found greater healing and life than I could have imagined.

Carla Jean Whitley moved to Colorado in part to spend more time playing outside. Email Whitley, the Post Independent’s features editor, your favorite outdoor adventures at cj@postindependent.com.

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