February 24, 2006

the only thing more painful than learning from experience

I've been on my way out of the city I used to live in for two and a half years. When I graduated from college, I thought I would need to choose between doing wilderness stuff and having friends.1 For a while - maybe two years - it seemed like I'd squared that circle: I was working for an outdoor program, helping address the tremendous social needs of the city I lived in, and living in a community that meant something really important to me. By the end of it, I was in a kick-ass relationship. I was really happy most of the time.

After a while, I realized that I needed to work somewhere else to keep learning; I also realized that I wasn't getting enough or serious enough wilderness. So I left. Here I am, with plenty of access to wilderness, a program that's teaching me a lot, and no friends. And because I've been imagining this as something that will come to an end in a few months - as a temporary way for me to learn more, get some perspective, and be somewhere gorgeous before I returned to the city and a different job - I have no real sense that it's fair or even possible to start relationships with people here when I'm going to be gone so soon. So I've been spending my time alone. I've read two and a half books in 24 hours, gone for a two hour walk, made myself breakfast and lunch, read way more internet crap than is reasonable, done practically nothing productive, and despaired of finding something I want to do for the evening.

Nevertheless, I have this strong sense that being out here, doing outdoor stuff all the time, is something I need to do eventually. So do I do it now, when I'm here? Or do I return to my city and hope that there will be a time in the future when I can leave with a whole heart? How do I learn from what's going on right now?

1. Lest you think either of those is trivial or easily replaced by, say, new friends or a new leisure activity, they're not. My friends are my family in a way that's hard to explain unless you've read a couple of books and seen situations like it, and being in the wilderness is how I restore my soul. Teaching about the wilderness - being an outdoor educator - is a pretty awesome way to keep me there, and also lets me pass on one of the most important experiences of my life.