Six years ago this upcoming August, I hauled along with my husband, cat, and dog, all of our possessions from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Driggs, Idaho. It was a long drive. The cat really hated it, for sure. He howled most of the way, and was not comforted by the stories I told about how he would soon be a mountain kitty. After about 22 hours of driving, we all made it safely to our new home, and the night we arrived, we walked right into one of the first seasons of Music on Main. At the time, it was held in the spot where the Colter Building now sits.
I remember being exhausted at that show, and a little buzzed on GTBC beer. Arriving at a high elevation after driving for hours, and then imbibing a brew that has about 7% alcohol is a great way to get drunk fast. I did think at the time that our move was the right decision. Living in the mountains was what we wanted, and look; we’re in a great place that has free outdoor concerts in the summer!
I had completely bit on the dangling bauble of gorgeous peaks and quaint small town living.
I was hooked.
I was also completely unaware at the time that living in Teton Valley would bend my identity in a way that I was not prepared for. This forced change in me occurred when I lost my 401K, medical coverage and ample vacation time with sick day benefits. It was my work identity that would be bent beyond recognition, and my reaction to this surprised even me.
I wanted to believe that I was the kind of person that could just say, “Hey, I’m moving to the mountains. Look how spontaneous I am. Isn’t it cool? Livin’ the dream, bitches!” But deep inside, I was wound tightly when it came to my vocation.
I was very attached not only to my position, but to the people with which I worked. I took a great deal of pride in my corporate level stress bucket of a job.
Although I did not like to admit it, my daily role at work defined me. It was also killing me. After passing out on a sidewalk in front of the building I worked in and sustaining a concussion to the back of my head, I realized that my life could not be just this thing I was doing. I had a wonderful companion in the form of my patient and caring husband. I loved my pets and my friends (and petting my friends). But most of all, I was consumed by my daily responsibilities at work.
We pulled the parachute and made a significant lifestyle change. We moved to a mountain valley in Southeastern Idaho that boasts some of most majestic views I have ever seen. Every day, I feel that some of the wildness of this planet is right outside my door. It’s invigorating.
On the other hand, I have spent a great deal of time here mourning the former structure of my employment situation. I couldn’t let it go at the architectural firm I worked for (this can’t be your employee manual, and you did not just say that totally inane sexist thing to me that would get your head served on an HR Director’s platter in the real world ); I was still clinging to the idea of it when I worked for Corner Drug– a small business that didn’t need any of what I missed in my former life;
and in my last full time position, let’s just say that I thought I had finally found the answer, and then realized that what I was doing and who I was working for wasn’t for me at all.
I had left a situation in the “big city” that was fulfilling to me, but also self destructive, only to move onto a foreign environment of small town living that I couldn’t reconcile.
But now, I can honestly say that I have finally let go. It took a really long time; longer than I wanted it to take. I was clinging to something in my past instead of trying to find fulfillment in the present. There is nothing like spinning one’s wheels over something like a “career”. Not only are you losing precious time thinking about something that is out of your control, you are aging not-so-gracefully in the process.
I was able to realize that this place is what I want more than anything. To try and stay here and make a living in the place that I call home is something that I think about every day. My current occupation is to get by every week with enough money to keep buying food and paying the rent (and the monstrous electric bill) so that I can live in Teton Valley, Idaho and stay connected to the people here that I love.
I can no longer say that I have a “position” anywhere. It’s not like that for me anymore. It’s more like, “well, I do some admin work for a non-profit a few days a week, I try and find writing jobs so that I can keep some deadlines in my life, I work at a farm every week so that I may earn fresh produce, and someone just asked me to clean their guest cottage for a couple of weeks.” I can honestly say that I am freelancing, but it means a great deal more than just trying to get paid for writing. Every week is a challenge to our household, but when I have work lined up that I have made my own personal choice to perform, it is liberating.
In between, the rent is usually late, I probably need to get rid of my Smartphone, the electric company has threatened to turn off our power once, I am getting my birth control from a Canadian company on the internet because I can’t afford to buy it at Corner Drug anymore, my dog needs double knee surgery, the last color job my stylist performed was paid for with a very nice sweater that I never wear, and I am hoping that I can find some kind of work that will pay in meat so that I can round out my weekly “I will work for food” option.
I have to tell the honest truth about all of it.
I have never been happier.