Saying “YES!” to opportunity means sometimes having to throw more logical or rational judgement out the window in the name of adventure, but sometimes it’s merely carving out moments in your day for new experiences in your life. It means eating questionably potent LSD while paddling the Shenandoah River, and eating at almost every deli within 0.5 miles of any AT road crossing in New Jersey and New York. But it also means choosing to absorb your surroundings with an open mind instead of letting yourself freak out internally because you found yourself somewhere fairly far removed from your comfort zone. As I get older, I’m elated that I can still find ways to move through doors of opportunity, but more importantly, after my Appalachian Trail journey last year, I find myself more aware of the doors in the first place.
Saying “YES!” (which also can be “Umm, alright, but I’m not sure” or “Sure…wait, what?”) is what got me out of Kansas after nursing school. When we had to register for the national board exam, we got to choose the state from which we would be issued our first license to practice. WHAAA?! I was under the impression that it would be based on our address at the time of registration. So I chose California, because why not? It has great weather year round, beaches, beautiful people, beaches, movie stars, and did I mention beaches? Anyways, I packed a U-Haul truck and my mother, brother, and I made a three day journey to Moreno Valley, CA. Believe me, that trip is one of my favorite stories to tell, so I’ll add it to my list of future topics.
Anyways, I’ve never shied away from moving to just about anywhere. I’ve lived in Los Angeles (Moreno Valley, Rancho Palos Verdes, and Silver Lake), Oakland, Chicago, and Kansas City prior to living in six different places in the Albuquerque area. I’ve learned from these experiences that your location is an adventure in itself, and if you don’t have roots planted then leaving every few years becomes an option if you need a fresh start. But some of those moves were a coping mechanism in order to avoid dealing with deeper rooted issues. I wasn’t ready to be honest with myself about my feelings of being “not enough” for anyone I cared about, especially any serious relationship with men (and even the not-so-serious ones, as well). I had evolved since childhood into a chronic people-pleaser, and eventually found myself in a long term relationship with a narcissist. My first four years in New Mexico with him were profound game changers when I look back at them with objectivity, but at the time they were the most painful years I’ve ever lived.
After crawling out of that downward spiral into a healthier authentic life, I’ve found that finding the doors of opportunity is so much easier on both a larger and smaller scale. I always knew that I can go just about anywhere I want to work as a nurse (though I choose to stay in New Mexico for now because I love it so much here). But I also chose to find ways of expanding my story-capacity by being more present each day, and paying closer attention to the details in life. Working part-time after my AT journey has afforded me the opportunity to be more in tune with my needs as I practice the lessons I learned on trail. I have begun to see opportunity more often because I’ve been choosing to. It keeps life fresh and fun. Because I have zero desire to grow old with all sorts of regrets about the decisions I didn’t make. I’m young enough to still be able to have physically challenging adventures, and old enough to realize that it really is the small things in life that mean the most. Like coffee in a real mug, or a chair with a back.
Since returning to Albuquerque last fall, I’ve waded through waist deep pools to get to Nambe Falls, ran some legs of a 70-something mile relay around Sandia Mountain, climbed Cabezon Peak with new friends from my job at REI, cruised the fine art galleries of Canyon Road in Santa Fe during a serene snowfall on New Years Day, shared my heart with a really awesome guy, began this blog, and sat in on a session of the Expression Salon (a fledgling group of artists and creators who discuss what expression is to them, and share their thoughts/works). All of those experiences required me to say “YES!” to an opportunity that would put me in situations where I’d have to keep an open mind and experience new things with new people. I find that even though I love to talk, I listen a lot more that I used to, and I no longer feel compelled to keep up with the Joneses in any way shape or form. In other words: I’m owning my weird and loving it. Sharing with you these stories of lessons learned and opportunities taken excites me, as it’s yet another door that I chose to open that, so far, has shown that I have a real interest in writing and the desire to continue.
So who around you is still saying that old dogs can’t learn new tricks? Or that 41 year old women shouldn’t ride scooters after doing whiskey shots (and many beers), or get a stick-and-poke tattoo from a 20-something at a secret shelter on the AT? If you limit yourself by constantly turning down opportunities to have fun or experience new things outside your comfort zone, you just might find yourself wondering how the years passed so quickly. Because one of the lessons I learned on my trail journey was that time really slows down when you pay attention to every step you take. I’ve tried to slow down time since being back by working less and doing more things I love. Ultimately, that’s all we have, and all we have to share with others. And giving my time is valuable to me now. Perhaps the most valuable thing I have to offer. And maybe that’s the most important opportunity that I’ve taken lately. The opportunity to fully invest in myself and my whole body well-being. I love me. I love the me who gets to share herself with everyone else, unapologetically.
What opportunities have you said “YES!” to lately? Instead of making lots of plans weeks and months into the future, I now like to keep it vague, and look forward to what each day presents. Of course I still have some plans for running adventures with friends this summer that had to be made well in advance, but they are still opportunities I chose to accept that will allow me to have great adventures with great people. Remember that time is our gift, and to honor it each day because it’s precious. And if you feel that opportunities don’t ever present themselves to you, then it’s time to take the reins and create some. Big or small, the choices we make to feel happy and authentic are the the most important ones that we will make. So go ahead and just eat the river water-soaked acid. It will probably end up being one of your favorite stories to reflect upon.