Of Native Masks and Khaki Pants

Native MaskMy muse is getting the better of me tonight.  It’s Friday and I feel tired and ready to sleep.  Yet, when I attempted sleep, a curious memory crept into my head.  A memory that I feel compelled to write about.

It starts with an exercise that my life coach, Gracie had given me the year before.  We were discussing my fear of leaving Minneapolis for an extended trip, and the opposing arguments that were battling for control over that decision.  Her instructions were to first assign an object that represented each of these opposing arguments.  For the first argument, I chose a native mask, similar to the one that my friend Jo had bought for me when he traveled to Bali.  The native mask represented the side of me that wanted an adventure.  It was the voice of risk and adventure.  For the opposing argument, I chose a pair of Khaki pants.  These pants represented my comfortable life where I was gainfully employed and living a stable life.  It was the voice of reason.  Or at least I thought.

Next in the exercise was to visualize a confrontation between the two objects.  Each object has the opportunity to present their truth and convince me why I should listen and side with their reasoning.  The pair of Khaki pants obviously cited the risks of giving up my stable life and regular income.  Compounded with leaving my friends behind and adopting a life that resembles something akin to homelessness, really put some fear in me.  The native mask counteracted these assumptions by reminding me that 1) I could re-acquire all of my belongings when I was ready, 2) It was unlikely that I’d stay homeless and due to my intelligent nature would likely find a job when I returned, and 3) that I had proven to myself time and time again that with traveling, there’s really nothing to worry about.

Lastly in the exercise, the two objects were to “size each other up” and consider establishing some type of common ground between their philosophies.  In the end, we agreed that while both sides looked a little weird and odd to each other but they could both live harmoniously and be non-judgmental towards each other.  And of course, the native mask won out and I skipped town for four months on my grand adventure.

Flash forward 4 months after I return.  I’ve finally landed some work with a small company that I think will offer me some flexibility with my time.  I’m making less than I was before, but I’m also much more relaxed with the people that I’m working with.  Up to accepting this opportunity, I really struggled with interviewing for work. None of the opportunities felt like they were that perfect or interesting to me.  In fact the current opportunity I’ve taken is not perfect either.  I know I shouldn’t expect so much.  But it’s Friday night and I’m lying in bed thinking about the native mask and the khaki pants and realize that the khaki pants don’t even resemble khaki pants anymore.  I’m not even sure they exist.  If they do exist, they’re probably brightly colored with Polynesian hieroglyphs painted all over them.  It’s an indicator.  I don’t feel comfortable dressing up in a business suit that doesn’t represent who I am as a person.  And then trying to create the best impression knowing that I must be careful in how I represent myself.  Talking about taking off for 4 months will only be met with curious looks, glazed over eyes, and worry by the corporate establishment.  It could very well look like someone in khaki pants looking down at me dressed in a native mask and a loin cloth.

It’s interesting when you finally realize that no company is ever going to give you the life that you want.  You need to create that for yourself.  In the interim, I’m trying to surround myself with other people that have scaled back their life and exited the corporate world to work for themselves.  I have projects and passions that I hope to dedicate more time to.  And of course, there’s travel.

There will be other adventures.  With each step on my journey, I hope to do things better and to open myself up more to what this life has in store for me.  It’s an odd feeling returning home.  When you initially return home, nothing feels different.  Everyone and everything around you feels the same.  In fact, you’re so happy to be home, that even you feel very much the same.  And then it hits you, 4 months after you’ve returned home, you realize that nothing is the same.  Like those khaki pants, you’re now unrecognizable.  Your personality and feelings are now brightly colored and painted with the hieroglyphs of the experiences that you’ve experienced along the way.

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Acceptance, Nebraska

“It’s better to have an amazing relationship with your house plant than a horrible relationship with another human being” — My sister

The weekend after Memorial Day, I decided to go on a little trip and visit my sister and nieces in Gering, Nebraska.  Wanting to make time for myself and have a little adventure along the way, I opted for renting a car and driving to Gering, Nebraska, rather than take one of the puddle-jumpers from Denver.  Also, I wasn’t keen on the possibility of getting sick flying in a small, unstable plane like I had the year before.

IMG_7657Upon arriving in Denver, I picked up my car and headed out on Interstate 76 and up County Rd 71 to Nebraska.  I happened upon a farm of windmills unlike any I had seen before. It was amazing considering I’ve always been fascinated by renewable energy, and had never seen more than one or two windmills in a particular area.  I took a quick break, stretched my legs a bit, and finally took some pictures.  I continued onward towards Nebraska.

I arrived at my sister’s house in Gering around 1pm and after dropping off my luggage, gave my sister and nieces a hug.  Next, I gave my nieces some handmade necklaces my friend from Minneapolis had made for them at my request.  With family reunited, I settled in for a long weekend of accomplishing absolutely nothing while enjoying the company of my family.  The afternoon was spent catching up. My sister quickly gave me the ground rules of conversation topics.  No politics or religion – this was obviously due to my left-ish leanings.  But I respect my sister for working to maintain the peace.  Early in the evening, my brother in law arrived back at the house and we all congregated for a pizza dinner and watching Napoleon Dynamite.  My nieces and I couldn’t even get through the opening credits before starting to quote the movie.  Channeling my best Napoleon, I offered “IDIOT!”.  My nieces responded in their best Kip voice “Napoleon, you know I’m training to be a cage fighter.”  Giggling, my sister shouted “No quoting the movie while it’s playing!”

IMG_7677I should mention that my sister does not have WiFi in her house.  Actually, this isn’t that weird, but for someone that spends a lot of time on their laptop, it would be a challenge for me to get through the weekend without checking my email.  So, I headed out to the nearby coffee shop, The Daily Grind for some work.  I was surprised to see they offered Chai tea latte’s on the menu.  I set down my laptop and began to do some work.  I like staying in places where the pace of life is slower, however, because the pace is slower, you can expect the businesses to close early, even on a Saturday.  So, I wasn’t surprised to find out the coffee shop closed at noon, which was fine considering my sister was planning on taking my nieces and I for a walk along the river in the afternoon after I returned.  So I returned to the house and we all piled in the car for an afternoon of skipping rocks in the river and catching glimpses of Nebraska wildlife, namely some frogs and even a small turtle.  Once we finished, we headed back for afternoon naps.  Later that evening, we had barbecue pulled-pork sandwiches and some potato salad.  While looking through my bag, I discovered that I had forgotten my mouse at the coffee shop.  I could only hope to retrieve it on Monday as I was heading out of town.

Sunday was spent chauffeuring my sister around to do some errands.  After returning, I took a long nap and then continued reading my book A Guide to the Good Life {the ancient art of stoic joy}.  Later, my youngest niece and I finally went head-to-head playing some Mario Kart.  It wasn’t much of a competition as she beat me what seemed like 95 percent of the time.  I wish I could say that I let her win, but alas, I am no match against my niece on a turbo-powered scooter that shoots turtle shells.

IMG_7681My sister and I closed out the night catching up and talking over a glass of wine.  We talked about our family, the state of our lives, etc.  Among all the topics we discussed, I found my sister discussing the topic of Acceptance to be one of the most interesting.  We talked about some of the frustrations in our lives and the need to be accepting of the things that we cannot change.  I’ll be honest and say I’ve always had a difficult time accepting things.  Being someone that is passionate about many things, I’ve often picked battles that were completely unnecessary.  I found the conversation interesting considering the book I was reading had a chapter on not expending energy on the things that you’re powerless to affect.  We wrapped-up the conversation around 11 and bid each other a good night.  I pulled a blanket over myself on their incredibly comfortable couch and after feeling a cold breeze reach through the window to kiss me goodnight, I fell fast asleep.

IMG_7682The next morning, I awoke, showered, and hung out with my nieces one last time before shoving off.  I wasn’t sure which way I was going to take to go back to Denver.  I hugged my nieces goodbye.  I left my brother-in-law with a firm handshake and my sister with a kiss on the cheek before driving off.  I stopped at the coffee shop before leaving town and happily discovered that they remembered me and had held onto my mouse. After ordering a celebratory Chai, I left the coffee shop and Headed south on Highway 71.  After seeing the sign for the turn onto Highway 88, I thought “what the hell”, and decided to turn west to head towards Cheyenne, Wyoming.  I had 8 hours before my flight took off and I felt like squeezing in some sight-seeing before jetting off.

It’s interesting – I don’t really care for driving anymore, especially in the cities.  But, driving long distances through beautiful country is still very enjoyable and meditative for me (as long as the traffic is light).  I arrived in Cheyenne, poked around for some lunch, and after deciding I wasn’t that hungry, decided on Starbucks instead.  I ate a fruit bowl while I quickly checked my email.  I wasn’t feeling Cheyenne too much.  Thinking that maybe I could find something that would strike my fancy for a late lunch in Fort Collins, I decided to continue my adventure elsewhere.

IMG_7685I stopped at the Colorado Visitors Center outside Fort Collins and received some restaurant recommendations.  I finally decided upon the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant for lunch.  Driving through Fort Collins, I made a note to myself to return someday as it seems like a fun town to experience.  I was running out of time, so, I quickly inhaled my crab and shrimp enchiladas and left the restaurant to make my way to Denver.  I returned my car and headed to my terminal.  With my adventure over, it was time to return home.

This, I believe is why I love travel.  No matter now long your trip or how exotic the location, it gives you time to reflect and meditate.  Travel opens up your senses and helps you welcome the world with open arms.  That’s a difficult thing to do when you’re inundated with work and daily chores or distracted by people and things.  It reminds you of your role in this world and prompts you to perform to the best of your strengths and abilities while reminding you to accept the things that you cannot change.  I need to accept that everyone has a different perspective than I do and that perspective is borne from that person’s personal history.  I am starting to accept that despite my many offerings, there will always be people that don’t want anything from me.  Yet, it reminds me to focus and run towards those people that do want my talents.  I accept that no matter how hard I try, I cannot be happy and content all the time, so maybe it’s better if I don’t try so hard or at least try with less intensity.  And lastly, I accept that given this life, I am obligated to try and make this life the best and most interesting life that I possibly can.  Next stop: Home, where I’ll need to accept that to my next big adventure will not be attainable without at least another year or more of work and strict savings.  I’m looking forward to whatever life has in store for me.