Estes Park, Rocky Mountains, Colorado.
The opening sequence to the movie Contact is one of those pan-out shots, where the camera rapidly pulls away from a house, showing the neighborhood, then the city, then the state, then the country, then the continent, then the globe, then the globe surrounded by empty space, then the galaxy, then the… the… the ever expanding universe. It’s a common sequence, but it never fails to impress upon you a feeling of meaninglessness—a feeling of infinitesimal consequence. You, Maria Stevens, are not even a microbe in the scope of universal significance, and yet everything you are, and everything you do is inseparably personal and meaningful to you.
Alexis has been groping with an amusing and compelling idea: the twenty-something post-collegiate quarter-life crisis. You get that? Basically, she has been exploring the cultural significance of why she can be living out of the back of a pickup truck while her peers are pursuing 100k+ careers and marriages.
You’re not going to go into it here. But as soon as her blog is up, you’ll be damn sure to post the link all over your entries, because the content of her new blog will be highly relevant to at least half of your readers; and to the other half, it will help elucidate the reasons why you and others make such bizarre life choices.
Right, so where were you? Estes Park, Rocky Mountains, Colorado. More specifically: you were in the back of a pickup truck, under a canvas roof sheathed in frost from the cold mountain air, and your face was pressed against a sleeping bag that reeked of beer and sardines. Outside, a guy was power-washing the side walks outside a movie theater, and large four-wheel-drive vehicles rumbled down the street. McDonalds’s Golden Arches glowed in the early morning sky, against a backdrop of the snow-capped Rockies, and a train of senior citizens passed through the doors for coffee and geriatric social networking. At McDonalds? Yes.
Yesterday, you and the crew hiked nine miles, half of which was through the snow. The day before, you hiked ten miles in the scorching sun, dodging ticks. The muscles of your legs have gone on sabbatical. Occasionally, a sharp pain rockets through your right ankle, but the rest of you is sound. Oh wait, your upper back is crampy from your day pack, your scalp itches from a week of dirt and sweat, and you have heat rash on your chest. Your track pants and hoodie are mottled with all manner of substances—rice, vaseline, mustard, mud. You are back to washing your socks in sinks, bathing with moisty wipes, and peeing behind dumpsters in the middle of the night.
Sounds pretty miserable. You are homeless again, but it never really feels that way. The difference? You wake up feeling sharp, eyes hard and hungry for the next challenge. You have a game plan, and a sense of purpose. This is the best life you’ve ever had. As the sun shines stronger day-by-day, and the cold winds abate—when the snow melts and you feel a sunburn on your cheeks—that itch, the travelling itch, comes back. Sometimes you want to ditch the truck and just strap the pack on your back. Go it with your own two feet and a tent again. But you have time. Plenty of it. After this trip, there will be others.
But not before you get a job. Ha! The idea of going back to work again–once so irresistible during the colder months, when all you wanted was a heated apartment, a queen sized bed, and health insurance—feels ridiculous. But the fact of the matter is that the money is drying up. You’re down to approximately 1,700 dollars of disposable cash, which leaves you 1,000 for start-up capital when you settle down. Not enough. But you are pretty damn resourceful these days, and have learned not to worry about money. There are bigger things to worry about, like being happy. Your dad always said, “Nothing is worth your happiness.” You are probably the happiest person you know, even through everything you are doing suggests aimlessness.
Aimless people often commit to things because they don’t know what else to do. You refuse to commit to anything because you know exactly what you want to do.
You want to feel muscles of your body strain against a relentless incline, feel sweat pool in the small of your back–hear your lunges pull greedily at thin mountain air, hear your voice echo over canyons—and imagine that opening sequence in reverse… the galaxy, the earth, the continent… the camera dive-bombing through clouds, skipping over peaks, and screeching to a halt on your figure. Wouldn’t you rather that camera be stopped upon your there, at the top of the world, than upon you pulling a handful of bills and flyers from your mailbox in the hallway of your apartment building?