Dick's Blog

“Molting”, Chapter 13 of “Inside and Outside: Messages of Hope from a Lifelong Hiker and Depression Survivor”

IMG 0617


Welcome back to my free memoirs. You can access all the chapters in my first memoir, “Hiking Out”, and all chapters posted to date of my second memoir, “Inside and Outside”, by going to my BLOG and clicking on the appropriate book title at dicksederquist.com  

This Week, Chapter 13, “Molting” (I like reinventing myself)

Next Week, Chapter 14, “A Story in There” (I had been holding his hand a lot recently)


I’m back after a month off. My wife and I just spent three weeks vacationing in Idaho. We had visited all the states around it, but never stepped foot there. We put 2700 miles on our now very dusty and dirty rental car. We traveled a lot of gravel and dirt back roads, many adrenaline filled, with no guardrails, hundreds of foot drop-offs, certainly not on my “Triple A” map. At the end of some of those roads were some great day hikes. Although not the main emphasis of our trip, we did hike about 42 miles over a period of 21 days.

People asked us before we left, “So what’s so special about Idaho?” Well for one thing, God must live there. It’s beautiful, definitely a place for renewal and recharging your physical and spiritual batteries. Idaho received a record snowfall this year. All the raging rivers are over their banks due to the snowmelt this spring. We heard of 30-foot standing waves on the Salmon River before it joins the Snake, then the Clearwater, on its meandering way to the Columbia and on to the Pacific Ocean. Several times, we crossed the path of Lewis and Clark on their long ago incredible journey of discovery (with much trepidation) through Idaho. It’s much easier in a rental car than wading up to your waist in snow, cold, wet, hypothermic, hungry and desperate in the mountains crossing the Continental Divide.

It’s 6 years since I wrote this piece, over 200 years since the Native Americans, who helped Lewis and Clark, and subsequently gave up their lands to the pressures of westward migration. Our three-week journey came across many historic markers documenting their plight. My personal journey is a lot less significant, maybe unimportant. It’s about my fear, trepidation, failure, hope, and returning from a place, which seemed to me like a place of no return. Think about the words to the song, “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again”, it’s about renewal, molting and creating a new skin, what Mother Nature does naturally when one grows out of the old one.


Molting, it may sound revolting, but it means to me reinventing myself. Lobsters, praying mantises and reptiles periodically slough off their old skins in order to grow. Other than dandruff, people don’t leave their epidermises lying around, but they do absorb, regenerate and take on a new exterior, a new persona, when required. It may not be physically immediately apparent, but humans often perform a kind of molting, a reinvention process of both their outward demeanor and mental selves when conditions, events, opportunities, and adversities are presented.

This is not about extreme make-overs or transformations by choice, or by coercion, like religious conversions, being born again, changes in political party affiliation, or joining a revolution. This is not about profound enlightenment, revelations and rapture of the spirit. This is about adapting to new realities, like finding out you’ve been depressed all your life, or that you have cancer, or being told that you are about to be a parent. These are the things you constantly do throughout your life in response to change. It’s how you grow up, a process that never ends until your last breath.

I like reinventing myself. Best of all, it’s an opportunity to start a new slate, forgive myself for the stupid transgressions or things I’ve done or said, or rid myself of fears and obsessions that have controlled me. Some of my reinventions are so small that I’ve forgotten them. Some form the cornerstones of my existence.

The first days of public school, from the first grade on, I faced with dread, fearing the unknown. Midway through the year I was flying high, forgetting my earlier trepidation. As the year ended, doubt would set in again, wondering if something I hadn’t done right would keep me from passing, in spite of my good grades throughout the year. I did every homework assignment, fearing that one slip up would cook my goose. It was a twelve-year up and down, almost manic-depressive cycle of foreboding and exuberance.

Then came college. I was highly motivated and flying high. In the beginning of my second year, I came down with the flu, and worse, something I didn’t understand, a grinding depression. I couldn’t face going to class, awake all night and sleeping the day through. I felt incredibly alone. My grade point average dropped in half, my dreams of success shattered. Finally, with my tail literally between my legs, I went to the Dean of Engineering, dropped out of the chemistry classes that were mystifying and killing me, and changed my major from Chemical to Mechanical Engineering. Given the second chance, I was able to pull myself together and redefine myself, finding challenge, meaning and joy in my new curricula.

I joined a fraternity and moved out of the dorm, discovering new friendships and camaraderie, and lots of beer. My study habits changed. I finally learned that if I kept up with the course work and really paid attention in class, never getting behind in the theory, I could get away with an hour of two of homework at night, leaving time for more camaraderie. Studying for exams became a snap. All I needed was a light review, without feeling I had learn the whole course the night before the exam. I pulled up my grades, climbing back to my freshman average. For the first time in my life, I felt confident, comfortable and relaxed, a new man. There was even time for intramural sports and nontechnical reading. Without the pressure, things came easy. I understood time management.

I reinvented myself again and again, starting an engineering career, marrying, gaining a Masters Degree, becoming a daddy to a girl and a boy, and running Jaycee community projects. We became a hiking family, seeking new adventures and vistas at every opportunity. We involved our children in our activities and supported theirs. We shared life’s most precious commodity with our children, time, something my busy father found too precious to waste. This has paid great dividends. We are both parents and great friends with our children, spending much of our time with them and their families.

Thirty-five years ago, when I suffered my deepest depression, I became my own activist, proactive on my own behalf. Determined to understand my condition, in addition to medical help, I became my own psychoanalyst, ferreting out the root causes of my troubles with the same determination as a major engineering project. This was my version of the Boston Big Dig. I also came out of the closet, so to speak, and let my condition and need for help be known to my contemporaries. As a forgotten comedian once said, “I earned this emotional breakdown.” I wasn’t going to waste the opportunity and let it pass without finding out what caused it and getting the support I needed. To sustain me through these times, I increased my hiking and “peak bagging” activities, setting my goals on climbing the highest peaks in the northeast, a goal I’m still pursuing in spite of my aging knees.

Fourteen years ago, I retired and became a consultant, my second career. Nine years ago, after being cured of prostate cancer, I became a writer, career number three. It’s probably getting that time to reinvent my self again. I’m sure my wife would agree that I still have a few more bugs to work out. Looking into my crystal ball, I see my reflection grinning back at me, thinking about one of my final molts in life, when I begin sleeping with a great grandmother.

Next Week, Chapter 14, “A Story in There” (I had been holding his hand a lot recently)

Dick Sederquist is a retired engineer, engineering consultant, writer, author, hiker, motivational speaker and cancer and depression survivor. Dick suffered an emotional breakdown 35 years ago, realizing that he had been depressed all his life. That started his long journey back to mental health and happiness. Dick writes motivational and inspirational nonfiction short stories and essays for general audiences on many topics including life, family, humor, spirituality, nature, science, his volunteer prison experiences, hiking and travel adventures, depression, overcoming adversity, and what the author refers to as “home improvement”, healing the mind and body we live in. Dick and his wife have been married 50 years; have two grown children and four grandchildren, all part of a close-knit, active, caring and loving family. The whole family believes that the greatest gift in life is helping others.


No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment

Leave your comment

Guest Tuesday, 24 April 2018