That Time I Went to Colorado and Questioned All of My Life Decisions

It might be unfair to write this post right now. Right now, while I’m still in the middle of it– tears still fresh behind my eyes and desert dirt still in my socks. My plane hasn’t even touched back down in Atlanta. After 27 years, I am familiar enough with myself to know that sometimes I get a little caught up in the moment. I get passionate about things. The fair thing to do would be to write this post in a few days when I’ve come down from this happy high and have my feet firmly rooted back in my own reality. After some decompression. After some distance. After some sensible, rational thinking.

But that’s the whole point of the post.

I have spent the last twelve days with my sister between her home in Colorado and a couple campsites and hotels in Utah. I have spent the last twelve days with my best friend in the world doing the things that I love most in a place that is more beautiful than I ever knew. For many many reasons, the last twelve days have comprised one of the greatest and perhaps most life-changing adventures I’ve ever had.

First let me tell you all the shit we did. The short version:

  • Day One (arrival): Watched Addy’s boyfriend kayak, chased him down the river.
  • Day Two: Hiked Grizzly Creek and finished off a bottle of rum with dinner.
  • Day Three: Biked from Carbondale to Red Stone, reaching freezing rain and snow at the top of a beautiful climb where we had to poach a hotel’s fireplace to warm up before we finished the ride back. I burned holes in my socks.
  • Day Four: Drove to Moab, UT. Biked Arches National Park (or attempted to– some legally purchased Colorado cookies got in the way of finishing our planned 40-mile route. But we were able to experience time and space travel instead, so pretty rad). Camped in the most beautiful campsite.
  • Day Five: Rode Canyonlands National Park– a ride surrounded first by snow-covered mountains and then deep brown canyons. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the landscape during any of our bike rides. Watched the sun set from another stunning campsite with a beer-water in my hand (Utah’s got some weird laws about beer).
  • Day Six: Rode Slickrock bike trail, one of the toughest mountain bike routes around. Thirteen miles of gripped rock riding, again surrounded by scenery so beautiful it looked fake. That ride tested my mental and physical limits and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
  • Day Seven: We fucking skydived. Out of a plane. We jumped out of a moving airplane is what we did. And then we mountain biked again, because skydiving was just breakfast. And then we watched our skydiving guy BASE jump and I fell in love a little bit. If you’ve never watched a man run off of a 500-foot (-ish???) cliff like it’s just some regular shit, I highly recommend it.
  • Day Eight: I did a twenty mile solo ride while Addy chilled at our lovely hotel in Moab (decided to take it easy from camping the prior nights and she had gotten a little ill). The dedicated bike route network around Moab is absolutely fantastic, and there is never contention with cars or road traffic. …What!?! We spent the afternoon poolside in the sunshine and let our bodies recover.
  • Day Nine: At the last minute, we decided to stay in Moab again because vacation felt so good and I didn’t particularly want to leave a man who jumps off of things for a living and whom I was enjoying getting to know. Hiked up to some petroglyphs. Read books.
  • Day Ten: Left Moab at 3:00am to make a 7:00am start time for a triathlon. Addy and I were the only two racers without wetsuits, because we’re sick like that. Also hypothermia. It was another instance of pushing physical and mental limits swimming in that cold-ass lake, and neither one of us regained feeling in our feet until mile 10 of the bike ride, but it was worth it when people on the sidelines said “There’s the no-wetsuit girls!! They’re tough!” You’re fuckin’ right doggy.
  • Day Eleven: A short but beautiful hike in Aspen to wrap up my time in Glenwood Springs.
  • Day Twelve: Actual apartment hunting in Denver (and some breweries, clearly) before my flight.

Now clearly twelve days of vacation– not working, spending beyond our means on fun activities, drinking beer and riding bikes– is bound to be a ton of fun. It was always gonna be a little downer to go back to work, back to my day-to-day, but I did not anticipate the level of that sadness. The withdrawal that I already feel on this return flight is deep. It is not just a sadness to leave vacation. It’s a sadness to go back to a life that will now feel difficult to defend as being my ideal, “perfect” world. My happy little existence has been disrupted now by the idea of what it COULD be. By its own potential.

Now let me be clear: I LOVE my life in Atlanta. I love it. I have the best friends I could imagine. I have a beautiful home with the greatest roommates and a dog and a cat and an awesome, fun job that I love in a great neighborhood in a city that is getting cooler and cooler every day. I have no real worries or commitments. Anyone who knows me knows that I am an incredibly happy-go-lucky person and I feel a deep love and loyalty for this city and for the life I have built for myself in ATL. I am so exceedingly fortunate to be living how I live.

So whats the damn problem?

How selfish can I be, to consider leaving a good, happy, blessed existence to venture into a life that I view as somehow having the potential to be better??? How good do I think I’m supposed to have it??? How much happiness am I allotted, and why can’t I be satisfied with the great deal that I have right now?

These questions have been plaguing me for the past few days. Part of me is concerned that this is just one of those things I’ve gotten riled up and passionate about and after a week or two of being crazy I’ll let it go.

But what if it’s not that.

What if I really just tasted what my life could be like if I had the gonads to give up what I know. What if I can’t forget that taste.

After five years here, Atlanta has become somewhat of a comfortable zone for me. I am close to my parents, I’ve made an amazing circle of friends, I’ve got a cool job, I’ve got my rhythm. I have built an identity and a niche for myself around these things– as a coach, a cyclist, a singer, a caring daughter, a homemaker/roommate, a southern girl. Someone who is rooted in her sense of place and has a solid sense of self.

But what if these identities that I’ve forged– the image I have given myself — are holding me back from discovering that I might be capable of being or becoming more? Right now nothing in my life is pushing me to be greater, to do better. I’m sitting on a master’s degree, which would be more okay with my conscience if I also weren’t sitting on the music and writing that I am supposed to be pursuing instead of using my MPH. Somewhere in the last year I got content to just work and play and chill out. I haven’t asked more of myself, and I’ve hit a rut. Artistically and emotionally I have been stagnant. I wrote more in the last twelve days than I have in months. I felt more in the last twelve days than I have in a long time: joy, terror, anticipation, excitement, physical and emotional limits, even a glimpse of falling for somebody. I know that sounds fucking insane! And maybe it was just part of the whole crazy spontaneous ordeal and it turns out to be nothing more (Kevin if you’re reading this, I don’t mean that whole “nothing more” thing that I said back there) …it still unsettled my little balance. All of  it felt more real than a lot of what I’ve been feeling lately in my normal life. I hate rhythm. I hate routine. But that is where I have found myself and it’s got me down. I bill myself as person who lives her own life– fuck my degrees and fuck a real job and fuck what I am “supposed” to do– I’m gonna do me. I’m gonna make music and work abroad and ride bikes and do whatever the fuck I want. “Fuck All Y’all and Your Rules Petrilla” is what they call me. Not really. To a great degree, I’m living that life, but I’m also a little stuck– I got content with the idea of achieving this off-beat lifestyle and tearing away from expectations and somehow I let that in and of itself  be enough. But it’s not. Now that I am certain I am not living for anybody else, it’s probably time to truly live for me. Actively live for me.

This whole thing has me questioning, why and when do we stop pushing ourselves to be the happiest we can possibly be? When do we decide we are content??? Is content the end game? Predictability and routine and comfort– is that what its about?? Is there a switch that will eventually turn off inside of me and allow me to just chill the fuck out? Or will I always be looking for the next great thing? Will I ever feel like I have and do enough? Do I want to ever feel that way?

When I list the things holding me back from uprooting and making such a huge change, it comes down to only this:

  • Not wanting to leave or abandon my friends, especially my roommates (Andrew I am looking at you– you have become my greatest friend over the last couple years and even thinking of leaving our amazing home and friendship in Atlanta makes me indescribably sad)
  • Being far from my folks. What if my dad gets crushed under one of his car projects or falls off the cliff in the back yard?!?!

.and thats really it. Ultimately my hesitance comes down to worrying how my decisions might affect the people around me. Job? I can find work. Money? I can be broke for a while, I’m great at hustling. Practicality? Who gives a shit. YOLO, bitchez. Overall fear and risk? That’s what life’s about. But I have always been someone who worries for how I affect others. That will be a big hurdle to work through within myself.

One of the greatest people who I am lucky to count as a friend, seeing my photos and posts about the trip, texted me. He said simply, “follow that big beautiful heart of yours.” Freddy you can’t know how much I love you for that.

I cried in the airport as I was leaving Denver. I can’t remember the last time I cried. I had tried to push my flight back. I was out of money. I was not ready to leave. I cried and ruined a goodbye moment with my sister because my thoughts were heavy on these ideas, these decisions– the notion that I am fully and solely responsible for my own happiness. Literally nothing and no one else is stopping me from being perfectly happy all of the time. No one else gets to make these decisions for me. That is a huge realization. It’s a huge burden in a way. It’s terrifying. But it is also very empowering, if you can get over  the initial desire to flee from such a great responsibility. Making one’s own life the best it can be– once the fear of that great task subsides, there is only room for opportunity. Change is fucking scary though.

But to me, not realizing my full potential or my full happiness is way, way scarier. Living a life that I feel could have been more, “only if…”  That is my ultimate fear. That is a life unlived. That’s the exact life I have worked so hard to avoid.

———

Today, after some sleep and more writing and thinking, I find myself back in Atlanta and things don’t fit quite the same. I would say “feel,” but it’s not just a feeling. It is the fit of things as my world here tries to stretch itself into the the now much larger mold of what I know it is capable of being. And I don’t know the damn answers. I don’t know if a change of place will right this– I know this city and any place I go will be what I make it. I don’t know if leaving this wonderful life I have created is a huge fucking mistake or if it is a risk worth taking. I don’t fucking know.

But if the last twelve days have given me a hint of what my life could be like every day

if I had the balls to leave this comfortable space and try something new–

to not allow my own self-imposed identities and ideas to hold me back from discovering more about myself–

and to be able to explore and play and live in a place so full of beauty and new opportunity

 

Then I don’t really know what the hell I am waiting for.

 

 

 

 

 

Photos from the trip (too many to pick!!)

 

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