Why Does Any of This Matter?
Earlier this summer, in between my move from Los Angeles to Portland, I got to spend an entire month living in my northern California hometown (i.e saving some money while taking my first real break from work in almost a year). I even got to stay in the house I grew up in while sleeping in the same room I had for most of elementary and middle school. For some this might sound like a terrible idea. There’s something about “going home” that can evoke different reactions in different people: for many it’s a return to a place (and time) they left to become adults, while for others it’s a return to something that played a part in who they would later become, good and bad. Sometimes it’s a bit of both.
Fun and interesting fact: I’m 5th generation Chicago on my mom’s side of the family, and 4th generation Chicago on my dad’s side of the family. My maternal grandmother was born in Wisconsin in 1922 to mixed French/Anishinaabe parents with deep roots in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
All this to say that I come from a long line of mid-western peoples. Somehow though, I ended up on the west coast (and by somehow, I mean I gained an awesome new dad who eventually brought us west), and I’ve been a west coast lover ever since. To this day, I vividly remember waking up in our new house in the redwoods after arriving on the northern California coast as a 6 year old. It was the first time I’d ever seen a redwood tree, which if you’ve ever experienced, is impressive. From that point on I’ve been an outdoor kid, with the additional summers spent with my real dad fishing and camping in Illinois, Wisconsin and Alabama.
Being home gave me some time to realign my perspective. Who I am now as a 31 year old adult, and who do I see myself becoming in the next 10 years? What’s important to me? What’s the point to anything I’ve been doing with my life? Being home also gave me the opportunity to explore a lot of new places in my hometown area, a place that’s an outdoor wonderland to us outdoorsy types: trails, rivers, ocean and forests are everywhere. Want to mountain bike? You got it. Interested in ocean kayaking or exploring a river, you can make that happen. To top it all, nothing is ever crowded because it’s remote, next to a few small towns on the coast. Finishing up my job in LA, I found myself pretty depressed and confused about what I was doing with my life, so this couldn’t have come at a better time.
I was a really lucky kid to have connected to the outdoors, to something I loved, at a really young age, and being home reminded me of that. Ever since I can remember, trails and the outdoors have meant a lot of things to me:
–Fun. In the end, I think it’s really fun to be outside, especially when I’m spending that time with others who enjoy it as much as I do. And you know what? It’s OKAY to have fun, and to want to have more. As we grow up, at times we’re told that work is work. No one wants to work, because everyone wants to have fun. While I’m sure this is true, I’ve learned through age and experience that it’s possible to make those things one and the same, if you’re creative and you work hard. For me it comes down to this simple point: I’m better at whatever I’m doing if I’m also having fun and finding fulfillment in it, beyond a pay check.
–Space. I’ve always used the outdoors and wilderness travel to get some much needed space in order to decompress and ponder, coming back to civilization with a better perspective (and a lot of cranky, let’s be honest).
–It’s something anyone can do. Sure, not everyone is going to want to do a fast 14 mile hike with 2500 feet of elevation gain, but I’ve always loved the idea that everyone CAN. We all like to obsess about the right gear, the right footwear, but in the end, exploring the outdoors doesn’t always require us to drop lots of money on the most recent and innovative product (of course, depending on what you’re doing). There are lots of ways to be outside, even if that means biking, paddling or just car camping.
–Being confident in the outdoors leads to being confident in others parts of your life. This, perhaps above all, is something I experience regularly. After getting back from a tough trip, one that pushes me mentally and physically, I find that I’m more confident to face some of the other challenges I deal with on a daily basis. After all, I just walked up a mountain with 35 pounds of stuff on my back. I’m a strong badass.
Another great thing about all of this? Any of these benefits apply to the million other passions and interests that people are attracted to. Some find joy and thoughtfulness in art, some in music, some in building a cool car. It’s all great, and in the end, however you get there isn’t the important thing. Clearly for me, it’s pushing myself up peaks and figuring out how to be comfy sleeping on the ground.