Over the summer, I traveled to Denver with my boyfriend for a short, albeit needed, vacation. It had been a while since we’d left the Midwest due to a series of life conflicts—he had lost his job and been unemployed for several months and my first job out of college barely paid above minimum wage, to name a few—but with my new job that not only paid more but also offered paid vacation days, and with his tax refund, we decided to skip town for a week. The furthest west I’d been in the continental U.S. was Iowa, and he hadn’t been much further west than that, so we welcomed the adventure with open arms. Even spending 14 hours in the car was exciting. Who doesn’t love a summer roadtrip with Credence Clearwater Revival thumping through Ford Focus speakers?
This was one of the times in my life that I felt pure, unadulterated happiness. Adventure brings a high unlike any other. Travelling is my drug. Unfortunately, I don’t have the budget to go far, and even when I do travel, I don’t often get to take advantage of all the opportunities waiting for me in that foreign land due to the unfortunate financial constraints of a recent grad/burgeoning “professional.” Something about Denver awakened a new attitude in me and for a brief moment, helped me escape from my midwestern rut.
We spent half a day at Red Rocks and between being horrendously out of shape and also adjusting to the mile-high altitude, climbing the stairs from the bottom to the top of the amphitheater in 90 degrees felt damn near impossible. Wheezing, sweating, and probably cussing, I kept repeating the same phrase—“This is my Everest!”—which became the vacation catchphrase. Every challenge, whether small or large, was welcomed that week with the same veracity. “This is my Everest!” I’d proclaim, and onward I’d go until I completed whatever it was I’d set my mind to. In this case, among Colorado locals who seem to me to be the fittest people in the U.S., I’m sure they would have laughed or scoffed at little ole Illinois me wheezing on my way to the top of Red Rocks—that is, if they were half as cynical as I am. What I noticed in Denver is how friendly the people are. Or maybe, what I was noticing was how unfriendly I am.
Sure, I was high on life for a time in Denver, but it didn’t take long for the familiar dark cloud to creep over me. It first appeared on our second to last day there. Vacation was closing in on us—I liken this feeling to the way Sunday evening feels before returning to a school- or workweek. The fun is over and it’s back to the grind. This grind meant the grueling 14-hour drive home, which is not nearly as exciting as the drive there. Away from the Rockies and into the Great Plains, through Nebraska and Iowa and back into Illinois where the toll roads begin again, James noticed a profound change in my mood. Back to Illinois, back to humidity, back to my thankless job, back to reality. Goodbye, vacation high.
For the past several months, nothing has awakened that spark in me. My work-life has been met with a new set of challenges, as has my personal life. For a second I teetered on the edge, almost making the call to my first-ever therapist. I decided, though, to not commit myself to a system that might overlook the true problem and prescribe medication. I don’t think I need medication. What I think I need is an attitude adjustment. So began my trial-and-error to find the missing puzzle piece.
I bought a digital piano, thinking I might get back into playing. I haven’t touched the thing since the second week I bought it. Then I signed up for a yoga class. That left me feeling inspired and at peace during the actual classes and for about half an hour after I left. I tried my hand at writing a screenplay with a friend—that has gone untouched since April. Still, I’m struggling to find something to make me feel happy, a word—and a feeling—elusive to me. What is happiness?
I’ve never been big on New Year’s resolutions because the fear of failure is enough to keep me from the challenge. But, a famous piece of advice keeps drumming through my brain—do something every day that scare you—and here we are. It’s January 2, 2012. And I’m going to do something every day that scare me. I am going to try to make it up this incline, I’m going to try to navigate through these unfamiliar waters. I’m probably going to use a lot of clichés in the process. I am going to be happy and I am going to go out of my way to try to be a kind, genuine human being.
This is when it all comes full circle: this is my Everest.