I spent this past winter living in a ski town nestled in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. I accepted a low paying job and moved out there to experience the ski bum lifestyle. I’ve been skiing and snowboarding most of my life, and previously had never spent a whole winter in the midst of the mountains. That was what I wanted to do.
So I became a lifty. Yup, I was one of those under-appreciated, underpaid, and under-stimulated (see video for demonstration) attendants that stands in the freezing weather all day and that you’ll see saving someone’s life on occasion … though we don’t make a big deal of it.
After a few weeks of working on the mountain, I decided a second job would be a good idea. After all, my credit card was still feeling the effects of Peru and my stint as a Junketeer. And, with my crappy mountain wage, there was no way to alleviate those effects without some added income.
Fast forward a few months. I’m working between 65 and 80 hours a week. But I was still clinging to the idea of the ski bum. I would work four 16-17 hour days in a row. C’mon, a ski bum needs at least a three day weekend right? But when the town got busy, I would work about 80 hours in 5 days.
This started to take a toll on my body. I eventually was using one of my days off just to rest and catch up on sleep. Then another large portion of another day would go toward preparing my meals for the upcoming week, because I definitely didn’t have any time to cook once I was into my work week. Snowboarding was being put on the back burner.
A friend pointed this out to me. She I said I was working too much. She was right. I moved to this town at the top of the Rockies so I could snowboard all winter … and I was blowing that. Yet, it didn’t feel wrong to me.
My response to her was, “Some dreams are bigger than others.”
Yes, I did want to be a ski bum for a winter, but my real dream is to travel. That sometimes comes with some financial obligations. So yes, I was working too many hours. But I wasn’t working that many hours for the fun of it. It was for my grander aspirations of travel.
Not only that, but me working didn’t violate that bigger dream. I was traveling in a sense. I had relocated to a new town, a new state. I was experiencing a new culture. And I was meeting all kinds of interesting people.
At my second job alone, I worked with people from all over the United states plus people from Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, Brazil, and South Africa. I wasn’t going to get to know any of these people if I had spent all of my time snowboarding. So really, I was living my dream.
Dreams and goals are the best to have. But they might conflict occasionally, at which time you’ll need to decide which is more important to you. Which of you goals is the more desired goal? Which of your dreams is the bigger dream?
Solitude matters, and for some people, it is the air that they breathe. — Susan Cain
Lately, I’ve been revisiting an idea I wrote about some time ago: that there is only one moment. Visiting this is how I’m overcoming my … writer’s block?
No—it’s not as much writer’s block as it is writer’s atrophy.
I’ve been very busy these past few months. I left myself very little time for writing, and even less motivation.
Now that I’ve finally made the time and sat back down, I find it incredibly difficult. Once upon a time, I could sit down for a few hours and a hammer out a few thousand words. Now … a few hours of writing means only a few words on the page; it means a lot of staring at a computer monitor; it means more frustration than progress.
There’s a common distinction made in the writing world: there are those who enjoy writing, and those who enjoy having written.
I fear that my atrophied hands have swindled my brain into making me the latter. I can look back at all the content on this blog, or at my book and think “Yes, I am a writer, for I have written.”
Now though, staring at my laptop makes me feel like less and less of a writer.
This is where The Only Moment comes into play.
My atrophied hands are causing me to imagine action. I can imagine myself writing. I’m there, at the keyboard, hammering out word after word, limited only by the speed of my hands. Blog post after blog post; short story after short story; chapter after chapter my hands hammer on.
I can feel the satisfaction that comes with another finished project. I can feel the deep and profound thoughts that I’ve infused into my writing. I can feel the imagery and themes leaping off the page with such creative beauty.
Meanwhile, my atrophied hands say, “See how wonderful it is?! We’ve created a masterpiece!”
That’s when I have to crack my knuckles. That’s when I have to take my hands through the painful bending motions that break the rust from their surface, to free their joints from the deposits of laziness and non-creativity.
I … my hands … we! only have this one moment. All of the writing I can see in the future, all of those completed works, all of that satisfaction—it’s all in the future.
The future doesn’t exist though. By default, neither does anything that I find there.
The future is my imagined action. It’s my projection. Therefore, I may not attribute to myself anything which I have not already done.
And with this realization, I can feel fluids moving in my joints—I can feel my fingers free up. My thoughts begin to show something reminiscent of fluidity. My words begin to look like writing.
This has become a daily struggle. I am a creature of habit, as we all are. So every night, I press the reset, falling back to the habits of atrophied hands. And every morning, I must see a bright and promising future dissolve beneath the harshness of reality and the illusion of time.
I will continue this daily meditation though until my hands have formed a new habit. I will continue every day until my action is no longer imagined, but realized.
More people would learn from their mistakes if they weren’t so busy denying them. — Harold J. Smith
It was there for just an instant—a bright speck of light on the horizon.
I had been sitting, crossed-leg, my notebook on my knee, pen in hand. I looked up from my page–just for a moment—to take in the view. I was perched atop a great granite outcrop, high on a ridge.
My eyes swept over the landscape, from the mountains growing on the eastern horizon, and westward across the patchwork of farmland broken by green pine covering the ridges and ravines. And there it was. To the southwest, a flash of light.
There’s a highway there—a four lane artery that stretches to the south. The light came from where the road bends, just before dropping into a valley and disappearing into the shade.
I watched the area for a few minutes and the flash of light did not repeat itself.
It was likely just the sun being reflected off a windshield.
I wondered at the odds of that happening: for me to see light reflected off a windshield more than 10 miles away.
First, what are the odds that 70 million years ago a plume of intrusive magma—destined to be granite—would force its way into a thick layer of basalt? And what are the odds that between 12 and 15 thousand years ago glacial floods would eat away that basalt, exposing the several granite monoliths? And what are the odds that I would be sitting on top of one of those monolithic outcrops at that exact moment? Astronomical. That’s not to mention the fact that the sun was in the perfect position in the sky, given the angle of the car windshield. And let’s not forget I looked up just in time to see it.
This bright flash was something miraculous.
But even more miraculous … you. What are the odds of you existing? It took billions of years for stars to create the elements that you are made of. The earth only existed for a billion years before recognizable cells came into existence. Another 3.5 billion years and this planet saw mammals. Modern anatomical humans have only been around for a quarter million years, and in that history you can find the genetic material that you are harboring inside all of your cells.
Imagine a single change to this sequence of events, a sequence that spans billions of years—an inconceivable amount of time. A single change could have changed everything.
If the chances of me seeing that light were astronomical, that makes the probability of your existence … cosmic.
Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth. — Marcus Aurelius