My favorite parts of life are when I can do something that makes me nervous. It helps remind me to absorb the experience fully – to be an active part of this life. Since August, I have been finding 1 new thing to experience each month, all stemming from the fact that I didn’t want to lose myself during unemployment.
September: Live in Cleveland for a week
October: Volunteer for a trail crew with Ohio DNR
November: Learn the Ukulele
December: Get my Wilderness First Responder Certification
The day after Christmas, I traveled to Seattle, Washington to take a Wilderness First Responder certification course. I paid for it with some of my AmeriCorps Education Award money, and signed up for the course back in October when I was jobless and entirely frustrated with being at home – my entire body aching for adventure and that nervous feeling you get when you do something completely new.
The only problem with my plan was that in mid-December something happened. I had 4 interviews in the same week. I got a full time job offer to work for a well-respected non-profit that was going to start in my home town. I was given the title of ‘Director’ and told to run with it. I have constantly reminded myself that I could do and live anywhere for a year – I never imagined that would mean the place I grew up. I wrestled with what the job would mean for my life goals – would I ever make it west again? Was I giving up on my personal development for professional goals?
In time, I came to accept the position and where I was. I knew the good work I would be doing with children would make a difference. I felt busy and useful. My first two weeks helped me feel more comfortable, maybe even vaguely content. I was lucky enough that the organization even allowed me to miss work and travel to Washington for my WFR certification.
The day after Christmas I flew west for the course, and it felt like a homecoming. In the edited words of John Muir, “The mountains (were) calling, and I (did) go.” Flying over the crinkled brow of the earth, seeing the Cascades out my plane window, I remembered what bliss felt like.
Something happened in those 2 weeks I was away. I fell in love again with the Pacific Northwest, with every raindrop that created the coast’s beautiful vibrancy of being. Things there are textured with life and the reminder of the motions of it. The stunning mountain views, and chill of the wind off the sound awoke that part of my brain that was slipping into fallacy. I could finally let go of the portion of me that was worried I would forget the lesson that, yes, this beauty does exist, and it beckons with every part of mother earth. It was no dream I lived last April when I lived in this place.
Our class was 10 days on Bainbridge Island filled with wilderness emergency scenarios, growing friendships and an underlying respect for the outdoors. The 30 of us grew to know names and palpate spines. We looked for signs of life in the airways we spoke from, the precious breaths we took, the reminder that each pulse was such a sure fire sign that our hearts could still feel and decide, and lastly, that we were trained to expose something deeper. Our communal living was a force with which we built resiliency. I love the potential of the human body, hence my degree in an anatomy/physiology field, but to combine it with the awe of nature, and complexities of the human condition, well, I was in my element.
Another of my favorite things in life is to meet new people and become a part of their lives, if only for a short time. It is because we make ourselves vulnerable to others that we can feel this acceptance and acknowledgement of the humanity that surrounds us. When with good people, it’s never a choice. There is an irresistible flow to life that draws us to one another – our friendships and stories that carry us sometimes far beyond whatever was intended – beyond comfort or anticipation of the reaches of even our greatest foresight.
My trip to Seattle was a perfect storm of bliss and nature and people and learning. Upon the touchdown of my plane wheels in Ohio, it seemed as though my molten and dynamic self was thrown into water to harden. It was like reliving the utter halt of adventure I felt when I arrived home from California. There was such a drastic shift in my attitude toward the place where I am – my head still filled with mountains and playful hearts.
There are two conflicting thoughts that make my stomach drop, that make me nervous – the first being that I am stuck here for another few years as I build myself professionally. The second being that I am scared of what I now know to be true – I feel most at home when I am wandering and seeking new journeys. Though I never want to lose that spark that keeps me moving, that way of life seems so out of my comfort zone that I’m not sure I can handle it as gracefully as the people I surrounded myself with these past few weeks. I can only hope to hold on to the one absolute I am entirely sure of – that I will never love anything more than helping, loving, and learning from people.
For now, it seems I am a broken record proclaiming that home is still not home, and the meaning of my life is based on the culmination of something I’m not quite grasping yet. I hope my journey isn’t inhibited by a distracted existence – only thriving on moments when I am away instead of here, head in the clouds and dreaming of mountains.