Archive for January, 2012

In the winter of 2003, I tucked my master’s degree in Marine Science under my arm and moved to the land-locked state of Colorado.  I moved to Aspen, where I vowed up and down to find a way to use my degree.  Yet, I lived in a place where no one did what they actually studied in college.  The bartender had gotten tired of Wall Street, the ski instructor was paying off his medical school bills, and the guy driving the cab had enough of practicing law.  So after seven years of studying to be a marine biologist, I took a job at a ski shop.

                Everyone wondered what the hell I was doing.  Myself included.  My mom sent me a book called “What Color is Your Parachute?”  Are you familiar with it?  I wish I could tell you in more detail what the book was about.  However, after years of moving it from bookshelf to bookshelf, and only opening it occasionally to thumb through the pages, I got rid of the book.

                The gist of the book was to provide a guideline in which a person could determine the perfect career for themselves—the thing that would bring them never-ending joy in the workplace—and then steps on how to procure that career.  The one time I had actually started reading the book was years later and, as technology moved at warp speed, the suggestions in the book no longer made sense.  Facebook hadn’t even been invented when the book was published….or the smartphone. 

So I took the Parachute book to the thrift store.  I wonder who picked up that book, thinking “I want to know what color my parachute is!”

Flash forward to a few months ago.  I was explaining to a friend why I was leaving Colorado for the winter.  I told him (in an e-mail) “I hope to come back from my winter in West Virginia with a better idea of what will spark my interest and bring me joy.”  I then told him about the book that my mom got me, concluding the e-mail with “I guess I’m just trying to figure out what color my parachute is.”

This friend happened to be in the same boat.  He was getting ready to leave Aspen for Hawaii (now, that would be a smarter place to go to avoid a winter of snow) and after ten years or so in the valley, didn’t know if he would return. 

He said to me “I too would like to figure out what color my parachute is.  Maybe that’s why so many people don’t know what color their parachute is; we’re too busy looking at the onrushing ground to look up at the thing that, if properly attended to, will break our fall.”

So here’s to looking up, to finding flashes of color and pattern in the air above me. 

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Back to the Beginning

I lived the first half of my life in Huntington, West Virginia.  A large part of those years were the angsty teenage years.  So I can’t really be too surprised that when the time came, I ran away with all that I had. 

                In the years since, I have returned only for short visits, and then gone back to a place far away…and then even further away.  I had good friends in Huntington, and parents that I loved very much.  And I never faulted any of them for choosing to stay there.  But I knew it couldn’t possibly be for me.

                You see, there was this train whistle that I always heard from my childhood room.  There were times, during high school, when I would hear that whistle and literally feel like my heart was going to jump out of my chest.  It seemed to be telling me that everything was going to be OK because I could leave; there was more out there for me.  I never really thought about where ‘out there’ was but I was comforted nonetheless. 

                And then, this past July, I returned to West Virginia from Colorado.   This visit was different.  I wasn’t a child returning home to my parents; I was an adult with responsibility.  My mom was in the hospital and my dad and I were taking shifts staying in the room with her.  So that meant that each evening I would return home to an empty house, the one that I had lived in since the time I was two years old, the one that never knew much silence in the memories that I had.

                Those nights I listened for the train whistle but heard nothing.  And I was relieved because this time, I didn’t know which way I would want it to take me.  For the first time, I was seeing my hometown as an adult rather than a restless child.  I was seeing it through the eyes of someone who had seen a lot of the world and could finally recognize that this town had provided a gentle cradle for my youth and a strong mold for my adolescence. 

                I cried when I was in the Huntington airport that July, not worrying about the strangers that surrounded me who saw my tears as they called for my departure.  Every time the sliding glass entry door opened, I caught a whiff of the rolling green hills trapped in the humid air and realized I still thought that there was something else “out there”.   And I’d spent years looking for it, drifting to places far away, calling them all ‘home’ at some point.

                But that July I started to wonder if I was searching for the wrong thing.  I began thinking that I needed to start with what was “in here” rather than “out there”.  And the best place to start was right back at the beginning, at the place that I first called home….the place that would always be.

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Starting Now

I’ve been waiting to start this blog.  I’ve been waiting until I had moved to West Virginia, and then until I knew more about blogs, and then until I got my internet up and running, and then until after the New Year because it would be too cliché to start on the first of January.  And then and then and then and then. 

                I know what I’m doing; because I’ve done it most of my life.  I’m putting off happiness until some future date when everything around me is perfect.  In high school it looked like this—“I am going to stop liking so-and-so because he’s a jerk and makes me feel bad about myself.  But I will wait until next week after the football game.”  Never mind that in doing this I was completely giving the time between ‘now’ and ‘after the football game’ over to misery.  And I was being OK with that…because I was starting later.

                Ah, but it’s so easy to look back at that high school girl and shake my head at her for being so silly—however, the pattern still remains.  I no longer have adolescent boys or football games but I have this blog I want to start…and this journey of self discovery…and happiness.  And I keep putting them on a back burner.   

                When I think about why I do this, some ugly words come to mind.  I have fear about what starting could mean for my life.    It’s too easy to keep going along with the present state of things, even if they aren’t necessarily working for me.  It’s scary to start something new because I have no idea what something new will look like.  And even harder to admit…there’s probably some part of me who thinks I am unworthy of this something new.  Who am I to want more than what I have?

                And so I will start this blog, on a regular Wednesday when I still don’t feel like I know enough; even when I’m scared to press the “publish” button that will put all of these words out there to be seen.  Because this is something that I’ve wanted to do for a while. 

And so I’m starting…now.

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