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Get Lost: Pride 2023

Get Lost: Pride 2023

How disappearing into nature was crucial for uncovering my identity.

By Tiffany Wice

When I truly started to question my gender, the world became a bit overwhelming.

Embarking on a massive journey like that, it touches literally every aspect of your life: Work, relationships, money, family, even the really mundane stuff (“Wait, does this mean I can’t buy the cheap men’s razors anymore?”).

For someone as anxious as myself, it was never a simple ‘a-ha’ moment like you see in the movies. It became an ominous feeling of impending doom, bubbling up and eating away at my brain every moment of the day. “What if it all goes wrong?”  I found myself hyper-fixating on the thousands of little reasons why I shouldn’t transition, instead of the very big single reason why I should.

It didn’t help that at that point in my life, some of the people closest to me weren’t very supportive, and in fact were actively hindering my gender journey. It’s easy to doubt yourself when someone you trust tells you there’s something wrong with you. 

The world around me was more of the same, “Be like this.” “Don’t wear that.” “Fit in”. Growing up, I had learned to internalise that neverending cacophony of shame, and I spent years hiding myself away and putting forward the least disruptive version of myself. It was safer that way.

I found myself stressed, anxious, unsure, hiding from everyone including myself, and surrounded by constant discomfort and uncertainty. A ship lost out at sea with no land in sight, slowly breaking apart piece by piece. At one point, I had to call 911 for myself due to the intensity of the panic attacks I was experiencing. It sucked, and if something didn’t change soon, I was going to implode.

I’m so lucky I was able to disappear into nature.

Whether it was just a short walk through a local park, or a week long trip to the middle of nowhere, I would find myself feeling clearer after disappearing into the woods. Thoughts that felt the size of planets back at home fit in the palm of my hand out there. It all became so obvious and simple. Of course I should do what makes me happy as long as I’m not harming anyone else. Of course I’m not a bad person for wanting what’s best for me. Of course.

I’ve always felt the most like myself when I’m out in nature. I remember as a kid pretending I was a forest explorer while out on hikes with my family, running ahead or dropping far behind to make believe I was all on my own, a fantasy hero on their way to some incredible adventure. Capable, brave, independent. Twenty-odd years later, it was those same moments, all alone and surrounded by green and brown and red and orange that I was able to breathe, to truly see myself in a way that I couldn’t among the noise and chaos of regular life.

There’s that certain kind of magic to being surrounded by nothing but trees and wildlife and earth, no signs of civilization in sight. If you’re here, I’m guessing that you’re familiar with that feeling.

The restorative elements of a visit into nature are well documented. A visit into the woods offers the rare opportunity to unplug, to look inwards without the distractions of everyday life. The forest doesn’t care what you look like, what clothes you wear, or who you’re attracted to… you can just be you. It’s the ultimate judgement-free safe space.

Out on those long summer hikes, weekend camping trips, high-altitude mountain adventures… I was always greeted by that same beautiful, magical stillness. My mind would clear, my body would relax, and I could finally hear my own thoughts. It’s like the universe was saying “It’s okay, you can come out now, no one is going to hurt you way out here”.

My first ally was, and always will be, the woods. At a time when I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere, Mother Nature opened her loving arms, took me in, and sent me back into the world with a stronger sense of who I was and what I needed. I will always be grateful for that.

My advice for anyone having trouble figuring themselves out: go out there, way out there. Get lost. Release your inner forest adventurer. Let all the burdens of modern life fall away (even briefly) and live for as long as you can in that wonderful stillness. Make that space for your mind, body and soul to speak freely, and listen to what they tell you. Your future self will thank you for it. 

Happy Pride <3

Written by Tiffany Wice – @tiffanywice
Location: Mason cabin, Lanark County
Images: Tiffany Wice & Sterling Sztricsko (@sterlinginsitu)