Sitting on my unusually small couch, I looked at the time: 1:15 PM. I sighed and picked up the remote and confirmed that I was still watching Netflix. I let the next episode of The Office roll. And the next one after that. And the one after that too. After five more episodes I looked at my phone again: 3:45 PM. No new texts, no new phone calls. It was mid November and I had little motivation to do anything.
Have you ever thought you had the next couple years figured out, only to realize you definitely don’t have it figured out? That’s what happened to me this fall. I decided it was time to abandon my ski-bum lifestyle at Alta, and pursue a Masters in Real Estate Development at the U. I felt the pressures of society pushing down on me, and I caved. I’m not sure where the pressure came from. Some of it was probably from the comment my ex-girlfriend made. How she planned to get serious with her life when she turned 25. I was 26 and this was a definite sign she wanted me to get my shit together. Pretty good logic, right? Part of me was scared to end up like some of the strung-out ski bums you see up at Alta who still talk about their glory days from the 80s.
Either way, after only one term at the U and living in the valley for all of three months, I realized I made a horrible mistake. I pushed my passions aside for what I thought was my next step towards happiness – stability. So I terminated my lease, got rid of 50% of my possessions and went back to ski-bumming at Alta. I joked to my roommate that we should title this period of our lives “The Failed Experiment”. Although these three months were nothing short of a kick in the nuts for me, I learned a lot about myself, how stability isn’t always the answer and how life’s path is not always a straight one.
We all chase some sort of stability in one form or another. For some, it is living in a van, climbing every day, and taking showers in public sinks. For others, it’s having a white picket fence, a good broad who cleans and cooks, and climbing the ladder at some corporate fuck fest. During my time spent down valley, I realized the “stability” I was chasing produced one of the most unstable versions of myself. I pursued a career I wasn’t super passionate about, and took away one of the most important parts of my life; the mountains. I realized that stability is different for everyone and what’s important is that you’re in a place you love, with people you love, doing the things you love. Now it’s not always that simple, but at least it’s something to strive for.
Have you ever heard the song “Let Her Go” by Passenger? Yeah, it’s corny as shit, but the message rings true to just about everyone who listens to it. Basically, it talks about how you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. This sentiment rang true to me when I was living down valley. During my previous two seasons at Alta, all I could think about was how I was getting nowhere. Stuck in the same, low-paying jobs while my friends climbed the ladder in the ski community. Some became photographers, while others got promotions at the lodges they worked for. I just bopped around from salad boy, to waiter, to maintenance man looking more and more like the jaded “fake local” I swore never to become. I started to hate living up at Alta.
When I didn’t come back this season, it dawned on me all the great things I left behind. The good community and friends, a decent job with a cool boss, and some of the driest, deepest powder in the biz. What I’m trying to get at is, sometimes our journeys aren’t always a straight line. Believe it or not, the little shit that knew he wanted to be an orthodontist at the age of ten is not normal.
If I’ve taken away one lesson from my failed experiment down valley, It’s how much the mountains are apart of me. How they squeeze the air out of my lungs on the skin track making me feel alive. How their mood swings from thirty degrees and sunny to two degrees and puking snow. Especially how I feel some weird, hippy connection with them when I’m on my skis. No other place has captivated my soul like the mountains have.
Life has a weird way of telling you where to go next. Sometimes it says clearly, “Go here now and you will feel fulfilled.” Other times it says, “You’re going to have to figure this one out on your own”. In the last several months I’ve had to figure it out on my own, and I am better because of it. Although I don’t know where life will take me next, I have a good feeling I will make sure the mountains, and Alta are apart of it. As for this very moment, all I can think about is the storm that’s going to cure our winter drought next weekend, and where I’m going to ski first.