A New Season, A Familiar Place

April 2017
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When I packed up my things and tetrised them into the back of my truck, I recognized that I didn’t try that hard at all to find a place in between my leases. I totally neglected doing anything about it, and part of me thinks I did it for a challenge in the midst of the comforts of a 9-to-5 job. I used to tell myself that movement meant growth, a new place meant learning, new perspectives, stories, growth and…a challenge. Things couldn’t be dull if I was always in a new place, I would always have to be on my feet. And now that I’m growing up a little and seeing the benefits of sticking around, I have to find other ways to challenge myself. It’s a nice way to prepare for camping season. The air is delicious this time of year.

For now, I’m planning for another season in Jackson. The Pacific Northwest will still be there whenever the right time is for me to return to it.
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This is the first time in my life I’ve had a 9-to-5, and I’m actually happy about it. No more 6am-10pms…bleh. I get to catch the sunrise and sunset in any given day —on my own time. I get to join the rest of the world in the evening, and I have a predictable schedule where I can plan things weeks in advance because I know my days off for the first time in my entire life. I’d get excited about the 4 weeks vacation a year, but in all honesty, I expect my itchy feet will convince me to leave before it’s up.
The longer I stay in Jackson, the farther I feel myself getting away from what centers me. Maybe I just miss everyone’s faces and laughs on the West coast, maybe it’s the impossibility of feeling rooted when you have to up and move every 6 months or more when your sublet is up or you find out rent is going up $200. This place is beautiful, there’s a reason so many people flock here. The wildlife, the mountains, the endless land, the biking potential, all the sun and sage and vast stretches of empty roads is phenomenal. But…its lack of affordable living is suffocating. I know it won’t be forever, I know I’ll get back to my family and friends eventually. For now, I’m trying to focus on the good here. And there is so much of it. But I have to try really hard to remind myself of it when I don’t really have any friends here. Anyone I met last summer left with the season’s end. Those who know me well don’t assume I’ll keep this job for a year or three, they ask, “How long do you plan to stay at this job?” And I say, “Until I have enough money to leave.” I don’t know how long I’ll stay here, it might be until the end of this lease, it might be longer – or shorter. I have no idea. It was 66 and sunny, nearly summer weather a few days ago. And for the first time in a long, long time, I found myself looking forward to what lies ahead.
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It has been a suffocating winter, and I am welcoming all the possibilities that come with spring and simply feeling the sun on my shoulders at looooong last. I am ecstatic to stop the absorption of toxic work environments (paper printing fumes and the mentality of people who have been reading the news 10 hours a day for 30 years are no good), and nourish myself with delicious tales that inspire me to live my best life.
I am just giddy about it, the long days, bonfires and foraging, backpacking and to simply see the ground again. I am so relieved that I can finally see all the sage and the better part of the hills, and walk somewhere without trudging over snow for a while. I am beyond thrilled to see the goddamn snow melting. I was surprised when I found myself overjoyed at the sight of clear roads and the ground squirrels peeping out of hibernation. It’s a special kind of peace to see these massively strong and powerful animals beginning to thrive again, feasting on the grasses they couldn’t reach throughout winter in a crisp but gentle air, to be reminded of the fragility and incredible strength that surrounds this town, and to be reminded of the spirit that I forgot existed here over the all-too-long winter.  For now, life is good. It’s really, really good. Or, in the words of an old co-worker who witnessed all too much of my funk this winter, “when Shelby wins, we all win.”
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I don’t really measure my life in years, it seems more appropriate to measure it in seasons. And this last season seems like I specialized in seasonal affective disorder — certainly a huge funk. I guess if I had to put a positive spin on it, I think I learned how not to settle. For anything. I was pretty miserable last winter too, and one of my friends pointed out that maybe I am sad the bears aren’t out, but I like to think I’m not that simple-minded. I just hate being couped up, and it turns out, weather below 17 degrees. There’s a toughness in the people here that must come with the weather, and I do not possess it whatsoever. With spring here and summer around the corner, I feel like I can breathe again. And sure, the new job might be neat and a huge step in the right direction, but deep down, I am let down that I’m still here and not back home. My first thought when I was offered this new job was “Damnit.” But how could I NOT take it, and not see where it leads? It fell into my lap. Oh well, the insane housing crisis will push me out sooner or later. (I secretly hope it, but at this rate, some retiree will hand me the keys to their vacation home by season’s end). Despite me threatening to leave it, Jackson loves to surprise me with good news and convince me to stay here, day after day.
I’ll be here for the summer at least — in a home nonetheless. In the meantime, Jackson is home. It has its troubles, like anywhere, but the perks sure make it damn easy to forget about them.
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