Day 24: Trabadelo to Triacastela

A couple of nights ago, I had dinner with two pilgrims from my albergue, Michael from Ireland and Caroline from Germany. Before our food came, Michael asked if I was vegetarian. For 25 years, my answer has been an immediate “yes.” However, at that moment, it wasn’t so easy to answer.

Truth be told, I had ordered the trout on the menu because it was the only option listed as “local,” having come from the river right outside our door. After weeks of eating vegetables, eggs, and fruit that came from who knows where, but certainly not anywhere nearby, the fact that the trout was caught locally was more important to me than the fact that it was indeed a fish. Another night I ate fish soup, because despite being told a vegetarian meal was no problem, this was in fact the only option presented at the communal dinner table. Am I a vegetarian? My heart says I am, even though I have not been strict about it over the last few weeks.

This conversation and my struggle to answer a simple question, got me thinking about labels. We use labels everyday to categorize ourselves and others. Labels are an easy way to explain yourself, to recognize whether you have something in common with someone else. But we are all unique, and it strikes me how absurd labels are in trying to communicate who you are as a person. They are certainly a useful tool. Yet, by choosing one label over another, we omit important information about ourselves.

So which labels to we choose? One of the first questions we usually ask or are asked when meeting someone new is “what do you do?” We know instinctively that the person is asking about our job, but our jobs are not the only thing that we do; for many, they are not the most important thing. Yet, we answer: “I’m an attorney;” “I’m a journalist;” “I’m a project manager.”

None of these answers fully explains what it is that we actually do 40 or more hours per week. And certainly none of these answers adequately tells another person much about us other than what we do for money. And yet we keep asking, and we keep answering, typically with a one word label.

The professional label is a hard one for me these days. In May, I left my law practice, not knowing whether I would return. Although I remain passionate about the subject of my work as an public interest environmental attorney, I knew back in May that sitting in front of a computer in an office everyday, just wasn’t sustainable for me.

I do what I do because I am passionate about the natural world, but I only get out to enjoy it maybe one day on the weekend. I think I’ve known deep down since May that I won’t be returning to my law practice, at least not anytime soon. Yet, I’ve had a hard time letting go of the attorney label. What I’ve come to realize is that there is a lot of my ego wrapped up in that label. It is a label that carries a lot of weight and prestige in the U.S. (despite the lawyer jokes). And it is a label that has defined me in some way for the last 11 years.

Letting go of that ego and that label is one of my reasons for walking the Camino.

I am an activist, wife, traveler, pilgrim, gardener, hiker, native plant enthusiast, mushroom forager, birder, reader, blogger, cat person, Oregonian … I can let go of one label. I have so many others to choose from.

Today I walked 24.5 miles!

4 thoughts on “Day 24: Trabadelo to Triacastela

  1. Strong reflections today. You’re also the best daughter a father could hope to have. I think that descriptors are more important than labels in identifying who we are. For instance, you are determined, compassionate, loving, kind, capable, strong willed, considerate, sharing, a good friend, and thoughtful along with many other unique traits. I know you are successful in being a wonderful person with your own unique quirks and that is what matters the most.
    Great distance today in so many ways. Love you, Dad


  2. Magical views of the mountains and forests of Galicia! This is a post I’ve read in a blog about one of the principles enunciated by the spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset (1883-1955), and I quite agree with this thought (sorry for the bad translation):

    “I am myself and my circumstance and if not save it, not unless I” is one of the ideas most famous of Ortega y Gasset. It is written in his “Meditations on Don Quixote” in 1914 and since then feature is part of his philosophy. But, what the term refers circumstance? The fact is the vital world in which everyone is immersed (family, culture, historical moment, society …). Also included in this term, the body and mind of the individual. We live in a concrete world, with a particular body, some intellectual and psychological skills, some bodily skills and even our character as a given that whether it can stimulate or be a brake on the development of our projects.
    Our ego is formed in its meeting with the world. And the world is not an independent reality. The world is what I notice and everything that I deal. Being “is” in relation to life. We exist thanks to the existence of others. We meet in life with the world, with our world. It is true that we first find us and afterwards find the world, we find us only to the extent that we are installed worldwide, as we deal with things, with people, with our circumstances. That is why, if we do not save the situation, we do not save ourself. It is important to take care of oneself and, based on the acceptance of your body, your being, your environment, focus your life project, your desire to be authentic and to show to others as you really want to.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s