Maryn Swierc’s 500 Mile Hike

“I learned that my insecurities do not go away because I am in a different country.”

How long were you at camp?

I was at camp for a total of 13 summers. I started out as a camper at Singing Hills and spent about 7 summers on staff between SH, EV, and HW on Crew, as a Counselor, Work Crew Boss, Kitchen Director, and Girls Director.

You just finished an 800km trek through Spain. What inspired this journey?

The last few years of my life have felt crazy to me; a lot of adjusting and painfully growing and asking a lot of big questions that may not ever be answered. Nobody tells you that your twenties can be so, so hard! Mine certainly have been. By the time I was in my last semester of graduate school, I just felt so tired. I have learned that Exhausted Maryn breeds things that are never helpful: shame, sadness, anger, frustration – only adding fuel to the fire. I really didn’t feel like myself at all.

I decided to do Camino because, honestly, I wanted a break. I wanted to completely separate myself for a little while. So, about two months before I would graduate, I remembered that my aunt had walked the Camino about five years prior. I didn’t have a plan after graduation, so I knew I would have the luxury of time. There weren’t a whole lot of cons, so I just decided to go for it. I graduated in August of 2018 and about three weeks later, I left for Spain.

What did you learn during this time?

Where to start? Oh man. The Camino was amazing. I miss it. So much.  I also have deleted and rewritten this paragraph at least fifteen times. I desperately want to convey that experience with all of its nuances, stories, and colors, but I know that I cannot. I experienced so much! I saw amazing, beautiful things. I ate delicious food. I became friends with people who I hope to know for the rest of my life. My feet hurt more than they have ever hurt before (even worse than Work Crew!). I felt sad and overwhelmed at times. I also felt overjoyed and grateful. More importantly, I learned that my insecurities, anxiety, unrealistic expectations do not go away because I am in a different country.

Walking 500 miles gave me a lot of time to think. During this time, I came to know that my expectations for myself have crippled me more often than they have helped me. I should be this; I should be doing that. I should not have ever made those kinds of mistakes.  I am certain that I am not the only one who feels this way. But, these expectations are utterly and completely void of grace. I do not want to over-romanticize this, but expectations give us no margin for growth or transformation by the power of that grace. I am trying still trying to figure this out – how it might change the way that I live and think, but I want it to do just that. The Camino itself — the walking, the blisters, the dusty feet — was not particularly life-changing. However, the Camino was life-changing because it allowed me the time and space to rest and to think.

How does your time at LLYC still impact your life today?

My answer to this question will always, always, always be the people I met. To this day, my very best friends are ones I met at Laity. There have been many times (and still are) when I feel far from the Lord. I do not know who I am to Him, and I cannot, no matter how much I want to, allow His love to take root in my life. Those friends and mentors have seen this in me – seen me at my absolute worst. They have witnessed me at my most angry, selfish, heartbroken, and frustrated. But, I believe they are part of the Lord’s provision for me; part of his infinite mercy. Each of them has encouraged and allowed me the space to kick and scream, to think, to grieve, and to ask questions. They know me and they still love me (however imperfectly), just as I know the Lord does, though I cannot always grasp it. I love them, and thank God for them, because they have changed my life.