I spent the summer of 2011 living on a farm in paradise (or west Marin County, California, if you ask the mapmakers). One of the women I was living with would play the album that this song is on almost every day in our airy kitchen, doors open, music spilling out into the kitchen garden where we harvested beets and kale and lettuce and borage flowers for our meals. I was nearing the end of a long stretch of un- and underemployment, living off the insurance settlement I got when I was hit by a car in 2008. The summer before, I’d ridden my bike across the country and then spent a couple of months visiting friends and family east of the Mississippi. I’d taken the train back across the country, come home to Portland, spent the holidays with my family, then moved down to California and, six weeks later, onto the farm. I spent my summer tanned and dirty, sleeping in a tiny tent, eating fresh organic food, milking goats, making goat cheese, and driving to Berkeley most weekends to see my fiancé; we’d make music and drink beer and soak naked in the secret backyard hot tub on the next block over in his adorable south Berkeley neighborhood. I hadn’t run out of money quite yet and I still believed I’d be happy being poor and I still believed in the permaculture revolution and I still thought I could maybe be a teacher, that that would be a pretty easy thing to go about doing and being. I also fought with my mom a lot about how (she thought) I’d never figure out my life and get my shit together, which I guess makes the point I’m eventually going to get to in this entry all the more confusing and wonderful and strange.
So I guess if you’d asked me, that summer, where I thought I’d be now—actually I think I might have said India, because A still thought he’d be doing his dissertation there (his master’s degree is in Indian classical music, which is why my cats are named Ravi and Anoushka—after Ravi and Anoushka Shankar). So maybe I’d’ve guessed I’d be in India, with a master’s degree in elementary education, pregnant and dressed in loose cotton, ordering seeds for this fall’s school garden in Berkeley. Heh.
I turn thirty next month and I’m not happy with where I’m at. My life plan has gone all wonky and wrong. I worked part-time in elementary schools in Oakland and San Francisco for a couple of years, and third-graders made me cry. I got divorced and moved home and lived in my parents’ guest room and let them give me a job, which I’m still working now. I’m single and broke. I’ve struggled to save money and to so much as know what I’d rather be doing. I haven’t enjoyed my job in a long while, or even felt like I’m any good at it, really.
I don’t have to focus on that stuff. I started a business, which was, for a while, reasonably successful, and might be again if I found or made more time for it. I adopted my darling kitties. I ran a marathon. I climbed a few mountains and a few gym walls. I moved into my own place eventually, and I never asked my parents for financial support (just all the other kinds). I fell in love again. I saw a therapist for a year and a half, and that was enormously good for me. My ex-husband and I are friends.
But boy, oh boy, have I felt stuck for months and months.
So a few weeks ago, I was talking to my mom about how it was getting to be time for me to move on from my job, and she asked, “Do you still want to hike the Pacific Crest Trail?”
And I said, “Yes, very much, but I’m not sure the timing will work out. If I quit my job and start something new, it’ll be hard to take off again next summer, but I don’t think it’s good for me anymore to stay at this job…”
She interrupted and said, “Can you hike this year?”
“It’s too late to start from Campo, so I’d have to hike southbound, and, I mean, I’ve been having trouble saving money, I don’t have enough.”
And she said, “I’ll give you a loan.”
I laughed and shook my head no. I have a few weddings this summer to attend and/or shoot. Who would take care of my cats? I didn’t want to give up my apartment. And the borrowing money thing tripped me up and made me nervous. But within a couple of days I’d come up with potential solutions to every problem. “Are you serious?” I asked my mom. “Are you seriously okay with me doing this?” And she said yes.
(We did this pretty awesome / ridiculous trail “scramble” race together this weekend. So maybe she kinda gets the trail thing, a little bit.
Or maybe she loves me and wants me to be happy, and this seems like a way she can help me get there. I hope she’s right!)
I quit my job.
I’m free today, or something like it. (In two weeks, I mean.)
I don’t expect to find the answers on the trail. If I’m looking for anything, existentially-speaking, it’s just some time off to think about my priorities and try to project them forward into the future without the daily distractions. Or an interruption to the weekend-to-weekend routine I’ve got going on right now. A reset button. And, of course, a fucking awesome summer and fall on a beautiful trail through the Cascades and the Sierras and the desert.
I start up north middle of next month.