Tag Archives: life

Waking up

I haven’t been back to CT since moving to CO almost 15 months ago – at least until this past weekend. I wasn’t sure what it would feel like. What places had changed. What places had stayed the same. I was most interested in seeing whether my perspectives had changed it all. Would it feel like I was “back home” after a vacation or would it be the vacation? Due to the mad rush of the shortest feeling “long” weekend ever (and the fact that I was sick but trying to push through), I think it’ll take a while and some reflection to answer most of those questions. Or maybe my fried brain didn’t actually absorb enough to answer any of them. Time will tell.

There were a few things that did jump out at me though, even in my fogged mental state… Above-ground power lines are really really ugly. That’s something that as a native you automatically filter out and don’t notice until you move somewhere that doesn’t have them. So many potentially scenic shots were ruined by gross looking rows of power lines. Of course within a half day of being back, I was no longer noticing them again. I also managed to find the answer to my oft-pondered question “why do long drives go by so much faster in CO?” 2-3 hour drives have become routine on weekends since moving out there. They don’t even feel that terrible or long. That same length drive in New England is agony. Even a ride half that length sucks. It only took me from the airport to Plainville to finally realize why. It’s the damn trees. You can’t see anything while driving. It’s always an endless hallway of trees. CO has amazing and diverse views that never get old. CT has… trees here, trees there, more trees ahead.

Something I missed more than I realized is the beach. Many people find the mountains and wilderness areas to be their ultimate relaxation spots – aside from weed, that’s the primary reason people move to CO. As much as I try to adopt that mentality, they don’t relax me at all. I see adventure and challenges, and I want to go and do. Nothing about them makes me want to sit, stare, and clear my mind – quite the opposite. The brief, freezing minutes I stood on the empty beach in Old Lyme are the most relaxing minutes I’ve had since moving. Having one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen may have been a contributing factor (see title image). In fact, the top three relaxing and at-peace moments of my life have all involved evenings on the beach. I need to make a mental note-to-self to fit in a beach vacation in 2017.

Seeing people I haven’t seen since moving was, of course, cool too. One of my friends noted that after a couple of hours together it felt like I never left. I think that sums up the trip pretty well. By the second day back, it did indeed feel like I never left. I could have gone back to my old routine without missing a beat. I picked up with friends right where we left off. That made the entire past year feeling like a lucid dream. In some respects I blame the air travel. Flying always has a way of making me feel like I’m being teleported or put in a time machine. You get loaded into a giant, noisy cigar tube, you can’t see much because the douche next to you that had to have the window has the shade drawn, so you take a nap and wake up in a very different place. Flying doesn’t allow for the same level of continuity as driving, and it’s that continuity that gives me the feeling I’ve actually traveled. You can’t really see the land change or feel the climate change in a plane. You’re in one place – then you’re in another. Throw in some massive sinus pressure/pain clouding your thinking and it’s easy to wonder whether the experience is real or a day-dream. On top of all that, there’s the incredibly hectic nature of the past 15 months (and maybe even going back two years, as the move stress began long before the move day itself). Even in spite of mini-vacas and attempts to wind down, it still feels like my feet haven’t quite hit the floor yet out here. It’s not what I was expecting to walk away from the trip with, but it’s actually CO that feels like a very long vacation, during which I have to work, of course.

Caterpillars and Owls

Far away
The ship is taking me far away
Far away from the memories
Of the people who care if I live or die

The starlight
I will be chasing a starlight
Until the end of my life
I don’t know if it’s worth it anymore

-Muse, Starlight

That song, among others, has been stuck in my head for the past couple weeks. My idea to live cheaply enough that I can more or less drop off the grid has been stewing for years, but watching Into the Wild and reading up on Chris McCandless was the tipping point for actually beginning to finally take steps towards it. The way I saw it, Chris was able to have more life experiences in his final two years than most people manage in a lifetime. Even though he died young, he lived a full life. I looked at myself, getting older, spending the vast majority of my time tied to a desk and staring at a computer screen, doing nothing of value for myself or society, and I made the decision to pursue a life that was at least somewhat in the spirit of Chris’s, albeit much less extreme (for now).

I’ve been in Colorado for a little over a year now and I’m beginning to wonder if the physical isolation from old friends has given me a sort of tunnel vision, not at all unlike the tunnel vision Chris got when he decided to disown his family. Out of sight, out of mind. I know they’re still there. I communicate with them on social media and for the extra cool ones there’s also that modern human appendage called a cell phone. But over the past year, I seem to have discounted their value in my life and future. Friends didn’t factor into the move decision and they haven’t factored into any subsequent steps taken since then. I’m doing just fine without them. I have fun hiking, climbing, cycling, and snowboarding. What more do I need? Oddly enough, the answer has been right in front of me from the get go. One of last things Chris McCandless penned in his diary, after having two years of incredible experiences most people could only dream of, was “happiness only real when shared”.

I think it’s important to make a distinction at this point. The way I see it, there is a very real and significant split between two types of friends: friends made in childhood and friends made in adulthood (after entering the working world). At least in my experience, adult friendships tend to develop over shared activities and such, or the fact that you’re stuck together for 40 hours per week at work. The activity (or being stuck at work together) is almost always the connection. This differs significantly from more long-standing friendships that have weathered the many changes of hobbies, likes/dislikes, jobs, moves, life, etc. These older friends truly know you, because they were there and lived through significant life events with you. You can tell new friends about the past, but hearing about it isn’t the same as going through it together and being there for each other. New friends can be made, but they’ll never be a replacement for old friends. So don’t leave any comments saying, “just make some new friends”. Put simply, there is no substitute for old friends – not your new friends, not your significant other, not your dog. I’ve known this all along, but whether it’s the tunnel vision, lost perspective, or some type of failure to look at my future with a wider lense than merely what activities I can accomplish, I’ve completely written it off – until this past week.

As mentioned in the preceding post, an old friend (now getting old in more than one way, henceforth referred to as “sprout”, per the prior post) came to visit last week. This was the first time in a year I had actually seen one of my old friends and it reintroduced some perspective, totally shattered the tunnel vision, and made me do some deep thinking. It also brought to mind Chris McCandless’s statement I had previously ignored: “happiness only real when shared”. Why? I thought I was happy having endless outdoor activities and near perfect weather at my disposal. I thought I was happy doing things I’d never thought I’d do. Then I started reflecting and realized that when the film reel of my life is replayed, the events that stand out enough to make it on almost all involve friends. The things I’ve done and accomplished myself have faded away – no matter how seemingly important or epic they were at the time. At best, I remember that I did them, but the details aren’t there, if I even remember the event at all.

I’ve had the opportunity to do some solo climbs this summer that I chose specifically to push the envelope on my meager climbing skills and my fear of heights (yes, it is indeed comical that I have a fear of heights yet spend every weekend in the mountains). In fact, the title image is from just this morning – me looking like a dope on the Father Dyer summit. Even though these climbs were all within the past two months, I already know they didn’t make any lasting and certainly not any meaningful memories. As I do more peaks, these will simply fade away. The only emotion experienced during these events that was strong enough to leave an imprint was the fear that came from sketchy, exposed moves. The terror of realizing that my axe was penetrating the rock-hard snow so shallow that it would do absolutely nothing to catch a fall if I slipped while trying to traverse the peak of a 50 degree, 800ft high snow field on Atlantic Peak is pretty well seared into my brain. Everything else on that and every other climb is totally forgettable, because they were done alone. This phenomenon isn’t exclusive to climbing either. It includes any and all other activities as well. My seemingly epic and big accomplishment solo cycling rides and races fade away just the same. The feeling of fulfillment evaporates the following day and it’s off to the next activity to try to get it back. The forgetability (I have just invented that word) of nearly everything I do by myself has fueled the trend to push myself harder and to increase my risk tolerance. It has really made no difference, and it wasn’t until this week that I realized why.

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Final ledge on the Sawtooth traverse. As easy as a sidewalk… but with a 2000ft cliff instead of a curb.

The climbs, rides, and adventures I do remember in great detail even years later are the seemingly lame ones back in CT – the ones I did with friends while we joked and laughed the whole time. Or the ones that involved lots of whining and complaining, while reminiscing on all the whining and complaining from the prior time. The “boring”, easy bike rides that were anything but boring. The (at the time) seemingly epic hikes up Sleeping Giant that I could now probably jog through on a lunch break. I remember the good times I had, and those good times were a product of friendships and personal interaction, not the mountains, not the “challenge”, not the adrenaline rush of exposure or risk. There is no replacement for making new memories with old friends. I finally realized this while trying to figure out why I was having more fun dragging the whining sprout up tiny hills than scrambling 13ers by myself or how literal car camping in the most uncomfortable position possible was actually made enjoyable by caterpillar jokes and getting assaulted by an owl. Those seemingly lame activities were made memorable enough to tell in “remember that time” stories for years to come. It totally renewed my perspective and broke the tunnel vision. What I’m not sure of yet is how it’ll affect my decision making going forward. I do know one thing though…

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I’m still never moving back to CT.

New Beginnings (because every first post deserves a cliché title)

I created this blog a good while ago and it’s sat idle until now. As I wrote about recently on Whiteboard Pig, I’ve always known I wanted to write about something less irritating than politics – preferably my outdoor adventures. I haven’t been sure what direction or angle I wanted to take. Outdoor adventure recounting blogs are a dime a dozen and most of the bloggers have me beat in both photography skill and equipment, as well as story telling ability – a writing style I never have and probably never will excel at. “Stuff to do in Colorado” type blogs/websites aren’t any less common. News9 has someone writing up some bullshit almost every day. I certainly wasn’t going to start simply writing trip reports, because 14ers.com already has those in spades and with all the constant mishaps and questionably non-fiction (read: incredibly dramatized or straight up fabricated) writing in those reports, I’d rather just read them than write my own.

I thought that if I gave it time, some epic climb or misadventure would occur and be worth writing about. But those came and went, and still I never felt compelled to write. I spent twenty minutes that felt like twenty days with only two, extremely marginal points of contact on the side of a 50 foot cliff, sans rope, and never felt like writing about it. We were nearly whited out with storms rolling in at the top of Colorado Mines Peak, and while the moment I heard my trekking poles buzzing is seared into my memory, I didn’t care to write about that experience either. At the end of the day, those would still just amount to trip reports. Even with all the dramatizing I could possibly muster, there are a million and one people out there doing far more hardcore and crazy stuff and writing about it and/or taking awesome pictures. If it’s not even interesting enough to write about, then strangers certainly aren’t going to want to read it either. So what would the point be? Unfortunately, none of that really even put a dent in my desire to actually put some content in this blog aside from the skin’s stock photo/example post that’s graced the front page mockingly for months.

Something most people don’t know or don’t understand (or possibly can’t even comprehend) is that the primary purpose of moving to Colorado was not a change of venue or desire to do new things. Certainly those benefits factored in, but far and away the primary purpose of the move was to take the first step towards a radical change in lifestyle. Most in my generation are slowing drowning while attempting to get a career launched. Some still live with their parents while they milk college for literal decades. Others work what jobs they can get and make the best life they can. The ones unlucky enough to have careers are slaving away to advance them and attempt to save for a retirement that’ll likely never happen. None of these options appeal to me. Not only have I not pursued career advancement, I have actively avoided it – taking promotions only when forced on me. Although I enjoyed college and there are many things I’d love to study for my own edification, I can’t even fathom going back to school while working full time. Being less than a year away from 30 also brings with it a life perspective that no longer includes the “I’m young, I’ll do that later” filter.

This all brought about the idea for a change. A life spent sitting behind a desk at a job that is neither mentally stimulating, nor beneficial to society is a life wasted. When thinking about these things I often recall a story I was read when I was a child. So as not to increase the length of this already excessively long post, the extremely Cliff Noted version goes like so: A young boy discovers a magical ball out of which feeds a piece of thread. This thread slowly feeds out of the ball and disappears. This thread ends up representing his life. He can pull the thread out of the ball to fast-forward his life. He begins by using it sparingly to fast-forward through illness and very unpleasant times. As the story progresses, he pulls the ball with increasing frequency and during increasingly minor inconveniences, ultimately bypassing major chucks of his life until he very quickly finds himself old and realizing he skipped most of his life. The moral of the story was supposed to be about taking the bad times with the good. However, I’ve always looked at it differently. Every day at work I pull that string. Every Monday morning that I wish it was Friday I pull that string. Every time I daydream of that upcoming week of vacation, I pull that string. Every time I do something at work to “kill time”, that’s literally what I’m doing, wishing my life away, killing myself. And when I’m old, just like the kid in the story, I’m going to have all the same regrets about “killing time” my life away and spending 60% of my waking hours wishing it was already the short, five hours of the day I’m free to do as I please.

So why not just get a more fulfilling job? Seems like the obvious solution. Truth is, I don’t want to work 40 hour weeks at any job, no matter how rewarding. We all have one life to live and I want the absolute maximum amount of time to do as I please and actually bond with my fiancé rather than spend five days per week texting on breaks, then staring at a TV at night in a burnout coma. The more fulfilling job is my backup plan, not my goal. But how is anyone supposed to survive without working, especially in Colorado with its absurd rent prices? It’s easy. Wealthy people do it all the time. With a top marginal capital gains tax of 15%, if you have just a million dollars you can easily live a simple life off dividends alone. If you have more than a million, which most do, you can live lavishly while contributing absolutely nothing to society or even actively destroying it… but now we’re getting back into politics and I promised I wouldn’t do that.

Well, I’m not independently wealthy and don’t stand to become so no matter who dies, so there needs to be another way. As anyone with even a shitty CCSU business degree can tell you, if you can’t increase revenue then the only way you’re going anywhere is by cutting cost. Thankfully, my fiancé and I retained decent paying jobs through the move and are not penniless hipsters living in a tent in someone’s backyard in Boulder (jk, faux progressive Boulder would never allow that shit – buy a mansion or go to hell, aka somewhere on Colfax). So we have some money saved and a current income:expense ratio that allows for plenty more to be saved if yummy food and REI could please stop interfering.

You know what? People these days have the attention span of half a goldfish (dead goldfish concentrate even more poorly than live ones). I probably already lost 90% of readers in the first two paragraphs. I’m just going to hit the publish button now and make this a multi-part series (that scores some blogging cool points too). Stay tuned for part two, which will be out in as long as it takes me to write it…