Thursday, April 18, 2013


I've identified the source of the struggle, what's causing me to walk around with a short circuit. It's just weight. It's extraneous stuff. I'd be more specific if I could, but I can't, because it's every kind of stuff you can dream up. It's real and imagined, it's physical and emotional and philosophical, it might even be spiritual but I recoil from that word. It's the way stuff builds up over time, like plaque, innocent and natural and harmful, and it's heavy.

There's no simple solution to something so vague and omnipresent.

The air in Asheville, by contrast, was warm and light. When Yonton burst through the door into my hotel room and threw his arms around me I felt warm and light, too, for an instant. And by the time my friend David and I drove around in the middle of a wicked thunder storm it had stuck, I felt light as a biscuit, I thought I might lift away.

I met first David, a boy of spectacular style and ease, years ago when I shored up in North Carolina to see William. It was late October, Obama was on the cusp of his first election, and I was just over a year free of college.

A few weeks before, living in a Seattle in a studio apartment in somebody's basement, I'd felt the weight creeping up on me. The same weight I feel today, only back then it sounded like debt. I didn't have any at the time, and I still don't, but the very idea scared me. It would be so easy for me to accrue, such a glossy road that would begin with a credit card and a better apartment and all the new things I'd fill it with. It wasn't a ludicrous idea by any stretch of the imagination. The easy way all my friends let it roll off their back made it tempting, "Everyone's in debt," they'd say, throwing down a card to pay for coffee. "I'm 28,000 in debt from college, what's another hundred?"

I didn't have any student loanst, although I never brought it up, but I didn't have a real job, either. That's been the biggest difference between them and me. I've always worked, cobbled together writing, waitressing, front desking; I worked for a year at a failing kayak shop until a good looking rep pulled me aside and warned me that if I ever wanted to make it in the outdoor industry I should separate myself from that place immediately. But my friends- a lot of them- they really work, within the golden trifecta of Seattle employment: Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon. Their debt was big back then but their paycheck was bigger.

I once made it all the way to the final interview in a six month long process with Amazon only to have a jeweled encrusted woman shake her head and say, "We've decided to go in another direction."

To which, today, I have the wherewithal to say Thank God.

I'd dedicate my first book to Amazon for the simple fact that they recognized that I did not belong there.

I didn't have the income that so many of my friends had, but I sure knew how to spend like they did.

Until I didn't. I remember clearly sharing a plate of nachos with three friends after the climbing gym, and one of them raised his glass and said, "What do you think, guys-heli skiing in Japan for new years?"

And I thought, uh oh.

If I were to be honest, I couldn't pay for the portion of the nachos I was eating.

But before I could jump in, before I could apply for a credit card I couldn't pay off, before I could really think about what I was doing, I packed up my things and I left. I moved back to the East Coast, then drove on a frosted October day from Vermont all the way down to a mountain town in North Carolina called Boone to see a boy I'd met on the grand canyon.

Regardless of the boy, regardless of anything, that trip changed everything.

My second night in town there was a band playing at the App State auditorium, and Will and all his friends dressed in suits and fancy hats and we all had a lot to drink. That's the first time I met David Clarke. He had straightened his boisterous red curls for the occasion.

I remember being aware that night that things here were very different.  Different in a way I might get along with.
It wasn't about the money, or anything I could put my finger on, but when I was down there in North Carolina, I felt this incredible buoyancy. Everything was new, and the town so small and perfect, and Will and his friends so unusual to me. Storytellers, adventurers, laid back and creative and funny.
At the time I wasn't sure what exactly made me make that snap decision to leave Seattle, to leave a mountain of good friends and connections, my university, most of my things. I just detected a weight, something building up that I wasn't quite prepared to take on. So I made the right decision and I left before it could get me.

To some degree the weight and the stuff is inevitable. Especially if you've lived in one place long enough to know a lot of people, and kiss and love and lose and break and cure and crush and long for a lot of people. Especially if you ski and you have to pack and unpack boxes and boxes of synthetic layers every time you move.

Especially if you live in a city with six month leases and impossible apartments and big competition just to find a place to sleep, and you have to move all the time.

Every day is a marathon. That's how I feel when I wake up on my mattress on the floor. If I can just be good today, and fill every possible second with what needs to be done, maybe by the end of the day I will be caught up.

But the phone is ringing, there's a crisis at work, if I could just clean out my closet, the dog wants to play, I can't find anything, not my keys or my sweatshirt, if I don't work out today I'll lose my good body and I'll be completely undesirable and then what. And on top of that, the lease is coming to a close and I need to find a place to live again in a city that is growing less affordable to me by the second. And I miss my friends. I live in the same city but I don't get to see them in the way I wish I could.

This is why I threw the spoons. That, and the fact that it's been six months since I broke up with Andrew, since I ran to Montana, and I still don't want to go back to that neighborhood, or to the climbing gyms. Even now, when it would be really nice to see him, it would, but exhausting, in its own way. And I'm already exhausted.

I went to Asheville on business, someone above pulled a few strings I want to say, even though I don't believe in such things. And then my boss asked if I could hang out there for a few more days and then go straight to New Jersey to lead another training. I said yes. And so I had a string of days in North Carolina with no work and all my meals comped.

David and I had dinner on the second night.
By the time I moved to Boone David had moved to Costa Rica, and he only came to visit for a week.  Will and I sat outside on the porch and he rolled cigarettes and poured out rum and cokes and we listened to bad South American pop music.  Then we went rafting down the Nolichucky on a spring day that I remember as one of the funniest, happiest days of my whole life.

That was over three years ago.

In Asheville, we have dinner and David offers to drive me back to Yonton's house where I'm staying. There's a huge, soaking, violent rain storm. The streets are flooding and the blue ridge mountains in the distance are flooded with white lightning. "I have to play you this song," he says, "it's a country song but it's a Nelly remix."
It's the song Cruise, some ebullient country song I love, a ridiculous hip hop remix. He blasts it over the speakers in his car. I ask to hear it again and again. The storm is drawing closer to us, the lightening changing from white light to violet strokes. I'm hit with the sudden feeling of peace, a happiness like that funny day on the Nolichucky, like a stone has been removed from off my lungs. Isostatic rebound at the cellular level.

As we drive I imagined all of my things evaporating, my apartment in Seattle getting knocked over and turned into condos, just as planned, only I haven't moved out yet. All my possessions are gone, and I don't care. I shrug. I'll buy a new set of skis one day, if I can. I think of all that weight disappearing in an instant. David and his unheard of red curls is singing along and driving me through the twisted streets of Asheville and I'm struck once again with that feeling of buoyancy. The potential lightness of life hits me suddenly and I sit up straight, as if I've been struck.

I think that the weight and the stuff and the debt does add up, inevitably, as you get older.

But I'm not old yet.

I'd completely forgotten that I'm not old yet.


Anonymous said...

I LOVE that song.

itsjustjesse. said...

Do you listen to the Avett Brothers? This reminds me of the song 'pretty girl at the airport.'

"You don't have to tell me when you're leaving."

And, they're from North Carolina!!

Tamara said...

That's a new mantra if I've ever heard one. And thanks for this post, which I relate to a whole bunch.

cindy said...

same cloth, same cloth...even the back story

Anonymous said...

At 58, I too have to remind myself that I'm not old yet. Layers of stuff, also known as life, pile on. Work, the house, the car all weights. But I get into the garden, rain or shine, with my waterproof pants and pull weeds, move dirt, plan plantings, and all is good. You have a world where so much is good. You have created a great space for yourself. When the weight gets heavy, remember one simple thing. Breath. Take care. And thanks for the writings.

Susan said...

Two things:
1.You are so wise about for the freaking hills away from debt!
Nothing you ever fill your life with that results in massive amounts of debt will ever be worth it.
2. You are so NOT old. You will look back at these days, when you are OLD, like me and say..Damn, those were the days.
Your blog continues to inspire me..

Anonymous said...

Oh man, I am in the "no student loans but no real job either" boat. Which I am trying to see as fun and freeing (as in I can do anything, go anywhere) but mostly, right now any way, it is a little paralyzing.

I love this post! And I agree it is a great mantra!


Catherine said...

I hear you, sister. This is why I travel with my family. This is why I am nomadic. Minimal stuff. Minimal weight. Lots of buoyancy.

Jillian22 said...

I'm there too. That desire to shed my skin, to start anew, to find an opportunity. I hope you find that freedom, that weightlessness. I hope you take that plunge, whatever it is. Do it for those of us who can't.

Sandi said...

Yes, I agree with Jillian, take the plunge for those of us who can't. I'm a happily married mama of two lovable and spirited little boys, I love my life and where life has taken me, and I still daydream of getting rid of all the stuff (and kids bring a LOT of STUFF) and packing my family onto the road, seeing where the road could take us.

I love your writing! Keep at it! Love,

Jacki said...

Ugh, the weight. Yes. I don't know what else to say than "yes." Oh, and I agree with Jillian ... whatever the plunge ends up being ... take it for those of us who can't.

Jacki said...

Ugh, the weight. Yes. I don't know what else to say than "yes." Oh, and I agree with Jillian ... whatever the plunge ends up being ... take it for those of us who can't.

Lisa said...

As much as a lot of comments say - "please take the plunge for those of us who cant". I cant help but think if they believe their choices were the right ones. I live a normal life with a job I love, which happens to be full time. I have lived the unemployed life and yes freedom comes in many shades, its a toss up for sure. In certain phases of your life you want certain freedoms - you want the freedom to travel, do it, you want financial freedom, knowing a hefty paycheck is going to hit the bank every 2 weeks, do it, retire early, then travel, there are lots of people that make things work for their own individual situations. I am not hoping to give you a solution, but to say do whats right for you, and I love your writing.

Tonya said...

Love this! I can relate with that crushing feeling, but in a different way. I am at such a different place in life. I am glad it is lifting for you, hope it lifts soon for me.

Anonymous said...

It's going to sound so superficial after such a post, but I think I have a crush on that guy...

Melissa said...

thank you. epic.