I’m doing it … again. I’m running away from home. Actually, I’m trying out a different perspective. Consistent with my increasingly positive attitude about life in general (and mine, specifically), “running away,” has become “I’m running to.” In this case I’m running to:
- Open space
- A simple life
- Hikes and bike rides
- Community living
- Punching a time clock
- Meeting lots of people
- Peace and Insight
The next two weeks will be devoted to organizing my life so that I can head out to a seasonal job in Wyoming. You might say I’ve been down this road before—twice, in fact, in 2009 and 2010. So, this third time’s the charm. I’m sure of it.
I’ve had a precious opportunity to reinvent myself and consider what I want the rest of my life (or the foreseeable future) to look like. And boy has it been a process! When it originally started two years ago, I thought I’d have my life figured out in six months, but I confess I’m still saying, “I don’t know,” more often than I probably should. On several occasions I’ve questioned whether this “timeout” is age appropriate.
A little background
It began with selling my house in 2009, mercifully right before the real estate crash. Undecided about where I’d live next, I weighed some options. After research on CoolWorks.com, a web site advertising seasonal work primarily in National Parks, I made the leap and applied for jobs in Grand Teton National Park. Ever grateful to the man who took a chance by hiring (over the phone, no less!) a middle-aged woman whose previous hotel experience was over 20 years ago, I landed a job at a small, high-end mountain lodge where I’d also be housed and fed. Housing problem solved! I chronicled the horror and delight of my transition from owning a home to living in a cabin with roommates in an article for More.com early in my first season.
For each of the past two years, when my contract was completed, I left Wyoming thinking I would not return to the job. Now as I prepare for my third season, we can see how that turned out. Each time, though, I’ve struggled with the decision about whether to go back (I struggle with decisions in general, but that’s another post entirely). There’s the rational pragmatist trying to beat some sense into the creative dreamer, and the dreamer resisting the threat to her freedom. The pull (or more precisely, the yanking) can be downright exhausting. But now it’s settled and I’m returning to the mountains to absorb anything I previously may have left behind.
It’s no place like home
I crave the simplicity of seasonal life in the mountains. My domestic responsibilities involve only a small part of a small cabin. Meals are cooked—I just show up and eat. I go to my eight-hour shift at the front desk or as concierge. Afterward I develop and nurture friendships over a glass of wine or a White Russian at the local establishment, check out Facebook, and read or write. I try to never miss a sunset, hike daily, bike after dinner, ride the occasional horse, or paddle the canoe. This business of being immersed in nature really appeals to me: “awesome,” “thrills,” “joy” are at the top of my vocabulary list when I’m there. And that easy-going western lifestyle—with all that open space and sagebrush—is so unlike home. I’ll be looking for a way to somehow bottle “mountain essence” and bring it back to Minnesota in October. I’ll rub it into my skin so every fiber of me absorbs it, and design a life where I feel like I do in Wyoming.
Don’t misunderstand, I like my life at home in Minneapolis where I have close, fun friends and there’s always lots to do. If I stuck around for the Twin Cities’ beautiful summers instead of their long winters, I’d love to be here even more. But life at home is different—you don’t realize how different until you’ve had an experience of being away and living simply for a serious length of time.
Moving at my own speed
It’s been a process, this quest—for clarity, peace and ease, fulfillment, and relatedness. And it takes on an added curiosity (or urgency?) inside the wisdom of my age. How do I take my insight and experience, and make this time of life extraordinary?
I get it: running away from home isn’t all that productive. Moving forward, however pokey I may be, is. I’m getting there. Third time’s the charm 😉
My soundtrack today: Wide Open Spaces by the Dixie Chicks