Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Meaning of Life

I strongly believe that happiness is the most important thing in life. We get one shot at life; no mulligans or second chances. Whether it’s passing up an opportunity to perform a random act of kindness like helping a stranger, or doing something just because the money is good rather than what makes you happy…those decisions change your life forever. You pass through this world but once and you should do as much good for yourself and others as possible. Go sail, go paint, go to Thailand, go count your socks, go stop world hunger, or go read the almanac, do whatever it takes to make you feel like the best version of you.

Our world is facing one of the toughest economic times in recent memory. The United States of America is struggling to keep it’s character, it’s personality, and it’s purpose. The American dream brought the world together once, and it needs to again. You can see the struggle everywhere. People are keeping ideas to themselves and acting selfish because it’s a “tough world out there.” “It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there,” people say. Why? Why can’t we have a “dog-help-dog” world out there? We’re facing problems that none of us can handle alone. As humans, we can’t survive without each other. These economic times have stunted our growth as a species. Instead of helping each other and sharing ideas, we’re keeping them to ourselves because we’re fighting over promotions or paychecks or salaries or benefits. The real benefits are the people that are right in front of us.

Since Ben & I have moved to Aspen, we’ve received nothing but warm, helpful, and friendly reactions from everyone we’ve introduced ourselves to.

For example, we hiked the Ute Trail today. It was a tough hike; must’ve been over 1500 ft change in elevation over a meager 1-2 miles. It was refreshing but brutal, and rewarding yet humbling. We reached the top of the hike and sat in the glory that is the Rocky Mountains with the town of Aspen sitting quietly in the valley below and, while looking back at pictures and thinking back to being there, I realized that it was a very introspective view that ignited insightful thoughts and new perspectives in my head.

Ben and I met this gentleman that had been sitting there for just a few minutes before we arrived. He spoke, not eloquently, but genuinely. He had modest clothing, long gray & black hair with a scraggly beard and he gripped a wooden walking staff that looked every bit as home-made as he did. His soul seeped from his pores like sweat and his words sparked thoughts in my head like fireworks. We spoke of work, life, local problems and world problems. The conversation was brief, but rich.

It’s never been about quantity, but quality. That phrase has always stood out for me in life and it has really taken shape in recent days. Anyway, the point is that this man is just one of about 50 people that we’ve met here that almost immediately became our friends. And I’m not talking about the kind of friend that you meet randomly in South Florida, or New Orleans, or London, where you meet a million people a day and only one or two will maybe become your actual friend. I’m talking about someone willing to stick their neck out for you within five minutes of knowing you. Quality over quanity strikes again; the quality of people here absolutely crush the quantity of people that I’ve met anywhere. I said to Ben the other day, “Could you imagine how difficult it would be and how long it would take us to make this many friends anywhere else in this country? Could you imagine growing up somewhere like here and deciding to move to a big city like Miami? How tough would that be?”

Everyone here almost seems to know the meaning of life; which for me is quickly becoming happiness and belonging.

I read an article this evening that really hit home for me and for once, made me put this life, and the coming generations lives in perspective. It sparked the idea for this entire post in a matter of minutes.

The main subject of the article is this: Before the end of this century, our world will be facing the largest drought in this planet’s history (click here for article). Whether or not we will be prepared for it, is impossible to foresee. The dustbowl of the 1930’s will seem like a flowing river of Evian compared to what our children, and our children’s children will be facing.

The snowpack in the Rockies will diminish, skiing will be no more, and mountain life will be near impossible without enough snowmelt to provide fresh water during spring and summer months. Florida is slowly being swallowed by the ocean, parts of our rainforest will become desert, and over-whelming precipitation will drown parts of our world.

My message here isn’t to give up. It’s not to become a pessimist or stop doing your part to counter, what should be called “global-boiling” at this point. It’s to live your life to the fullest. We don’t know how long humans will be on this planet for, or even if we will see tomorrow’s sun.

Find your happiness, your true-self, and enjoy life to the fullest right now.

You get ONE chance to find your own meaning of life.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Big Move & The All-American Food Tour

After not getting the long-term position with Biscayne NP that I had hoped for, I really had to sit down and weigh my options. Now that I knew what the best job in South Florida felt like, would I be happy with anything else? Did I want to live in South Florida anyway? Where would I be happiest?

I knew how I felt when I spoke to people about my year in Utah. About the endless weekend trips into the wilderness, the incredibly diverse terrain, and the endless powder days in the Park City…ohhh the powder days. Quite simply, it brought out the best in me whenever I had a chance to talk about it. No matter how my day or week was going, the minute someone wanted to talk to me about any of my experiences in Utah, I was thrown back into those times with an a ear-to-ear smile on my face.

I decided that I needed to be in the mountains. I couldn’t see myself being happy in South Florida in the long-term. I couldn’t imagine having a family there, or even getting a job there that I would be happy with.

Now that I knew that I wanted to be in the mountains, I had to decide where to go. Park City again or maybe somewhere new? After researching ski towns around the country for opportunities to help me develop as a professional in my field (and not just as a skier), I decided on Aspen, Colorado. As one of the most renowned and accomplished environmentally sustainable cities in the world, Aspen was definitely the right choice.

I decided to sell my car and move out there with my long-time buddy, Ben. Once the decision was made, we were stoked. We secured housing in Aspen before we left, loaded up Ben’s new Subaru with our belongings, and hit the road.

We had both driven cross-country before (three times between the two of us) and we knew we wanted to take a different route. We still wanted to hit Gainesville & Tallahassee first to say hello & goodbye to our old friends, so we did just that. We went to Gville and had one of the most nostalgic visits in my recent memory. We saw friends, some that we hadn’t seen for over a year, and some that we saw last weekend. We walked around town, recollecting amazing game-day memories and debaucherous moments, and we ate our favorite Gainesville lunch…Flaco’s Cuban Gator (still my favorite Cuban sandwich in the whole world…if you haven’t had one, go get one right now!!). With our hearts a bit torn and our stomachs full, we said goodbye to Gainesville and headed to Tallahassee.

Apart from being a bit behind schedule, the drive was going wonderfully. Right when we were just getting into the drive, the Subaru decided to throw a temper tantrum. The cruise control shut off, the traction control warning light went on, and the parking brake light was flashing like crazy. We pulled over and tried to decipher what the problem was with the car’s manual, but to no avail. It was tough to stay positive at this point. Would we have to turn back? What would I do? I already sold my car! I told myself that if it's not meant to be, it's not meant to be. So we carefully drove the car to a Tallahassee dealership, handed the car keys (with our entire lives in the trunk) over to the mechanic and waited….and waited…and waited. About 1.5 hours later, the mechanic came back and said, “Your gas cap wasn’t screwed on right.” We laughingly sighed with relief, took the keys, said “Thank you,” and hit the road. We had some serious time to make up if we wanted to get to New Orleans at a reasonable time, so we had no choice but to skip Tallahassee altogether. It was unfortunate that we couldn’t see our friends at FSU, but we had to do what we had to do.

We arrived in New Orleans around 10pm and decided to go out to Frenchmen Street for a bite to eat and a little live music. I’d only been to New Orleans once before and that was during Mardi Gras. Needless to say, it was an extremely different atmosphere this time. New Orleans blew my socks off yet again anyway. The rich culture and energy seeping from every dimly lit street, the soft jazz and hard blues around every corner, and the amazingly delicious Café Du Monde came together to give us one of the best 10 hour stays in New Orleans, or any city for that matter, that I’ve ever had. Special thanks to TD for awesome accommodations.

The beignets at Café Du Monde were UNREAL!

The Remnants of our "Beignet Massacre"

We took off the next morning for a legendary BBQ restaurant in Memphis, Tennessee called Marlowe’s. We got there just in time for them to open their doors and had what was probably the best BBQ meal we’ve ever had. The ribs fell clean off the bone, the corn nuggets blew Sonny’s out of the water, and the pulled pork absolutely melted in my mouth. Marlowe’s will have a special place in my heart forever.

After having an amazing lunch in Memphis, we hit the road again and headed to St. Louis for the night. St. Louis was super fun, as usual (special thanks to Amy for a great time). The next day would be the greatest challenge of the drive; 14 hours straight from St. Louis to Denver through the exhilarating state of Kansas (nothing’s quite as exciting as corn fields and windmills!! hahah)!

We did have a nice break in Kansas City for some more BBQ. We stopped at Arthur Bryant’s and although it was delicious, nothing could compare to the southern hospitality and “melt-in-your-mouth” BBQ that Marlowe’s gave us.

What else would a legendary BBQ'er bring to the pearly gates??

Long story short, we made it to Denver that night. Exhausted and excited, we spent the night there and left the next morning for Aspen. We drove through Independence Pass at the perfect time of year. The contrast of the bluebird sky against the changing Aspens was mind-blowingly gorgeous.

We’ve been in Aspen for a little over a week now and it’s been everything we had hoped for (and more). We've accomplished a lot in this short amount of time . Just this past weekend, we participated in the 10/10/10 work party in Aspen! Ben and I helped plant new spruce trees to restore part of Independence Pass. It was a great time!

In the process, we found a great group of friends that play a level of Ultimate Frisbee that could only be compared to the UF's Club Team's excellence. It was incredibly tough to keep up, especially at elevation but we'll get there! Lookin forward to playing with you guys the rest of the season!

The people are amazing, the weather is immaculate, and I’ve even managed to land a job with Aspen Ski Co.! Aspen is definitely treating us right so far!

I’ve made some great connections and I’m still hoping to land a position where I can begin to develop a career. Wish me luck!

Thanks to all that helped and supported us in our trip across the country to chase our dreams!!!

Come visit us in beautiful Aspen!!!