Updated: May 10
The Origin Story (2020-2021):
In August of this past year, my girlfriend, Abby and I left the comforts of our childhood hometown to pursue an adventure. What we saw as an opportunity to explore was available, through Abby’s occupation as a Registered Nurse, and her ability to sign travel nursing contracts anywhere in the country. It seemed as though a Golden Ticket was presented, and both of our name’s were stamped on it.
At the point of decision and commitment - May of 2021, I was finishing my second year as a Middle School English teacher. My first two years in the profession were a roller coaster ride, with all of the normal lessons learned, and the added responsibility of teaching through a pandemic. In many ways, the Spring months of 2020 were a blessing. While I gave my all in my profession, and strived to serve to the best of my abilities, the opportunity to work remotely was one that provided much clarity, at a time where my future seemed hidden in a dense fog.
May 2020 marked the end of my first year as a teacher, and with the option to throw in the towel available, I made the decision to return for a second year. While I knew that I may not do this for the rest of my life, I was convicted by the fact that there was still so much to be learned; experiences that would be gained through the profession, and would apply to my future endeavors, no matter the next steps.
This decision was the right one, I have no doubt in my mind of that. It provided me with a greater, more diverse skill-set, built a level of confidence that was lacking in my first year as a professional, and helped me to establish a level of financial stability that would aid in mine and Abby’s travels. This is not to say that I didn’t experience struggles in my second year, I did in many ways; but through these experiences I became stronger, and since leaving the profession, I’ve needed to rely on every bit of this strength to continue developing into the man that I intend to become.
Westward Expansion (August-December):
The target destination quickly came into focus: Colorado. And after reviewing job opportunities, the best spot for us was Louisville, Colorado, sandwiched between Boulder and Denver; what we’d quickly learn is an amazing town, filled with great people.
This would be mine and Abby’s first time living together, and my first time living away from family for any extended period of time. We were aware that challenges would accompany all of our excitement, but the lessons that would be learned, and the emotions that would be experienced over the course of these eight months could never have been predicted; and that’s exactly the way that it should always be.
Shortly after getting settled in our new hometown, I got a part-time job at a local Colorado run specialty store, Runners Roost. While I can say without a shadow of a doubt that retail is not my preferred area of specialization, the opportunity to work in a run-centric environment, surrounded by people who are passionate about running, something that was quickly becoming such a pivotal component of my life, was an experience that I didn’t intend to pass up.
My time working in this environment will always hold a special place in my heart. I became friends with amazing people, from diverse backgrounds, all possessing their own unique skill-sets. I embraced the power of community, and the ways in which tragedy can bring groups of people closer together, as was the case following the December fire that destroyed entire neighborhoods worth of houses in the towns of Louisville and Superior. And I developed interpersonally, learning how to better meet the needs of the customer, and helping people to problem solve around potential limitations.
From the outside, leaving an established career-field in pursuit of a part-time job may appear to be a step backwards. Yet, a lesson that was quickly learned is that you get out what you put in. If you make the agreement with yourself that your role doesn’t matter, then it won’t. But if you agree to make every action mean something, then you will create waves of positive change that far outweigh others’ perception of the title that you possess.
In my time at Runners Roost, I invested time and energy, to a level that was well above my pay scale. I did this not because I had anything to prove, or that I was seeking some level of external gratification. Rather, I simply wanted to provide value to people who deserved immense goodness in their lives. If I could enhance the quality of one person’s day through a commitment to my job, then I was going to give it everything that I had. And if in-turn, I could become a better man because of the experience, then I would gladly wade through the hardships.
For Abby and I, the first four months of living together were an absolute dream. Our apartment was imperfect, and we loved every square foot. The experiences that we created, the ways in which we comforted each other in times of need, and the routines that we established will all continue to serve our relationship in the years to come.
From August to December, we celebrated Abby's birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the entirety of the Fall season, all on our own. There were countless times that we missed the comforts of our families, and wished that we could be home to experience traditions together. But above all else, we embraced what was ours. We made the most of every opportunity to show up for each other, and we made quite the spread for our first (and potentially last) solo Thanksgiving. Fond memories were made, and at the end of four months, with Abby’s first travel nursing contract coming to a close, we faced yet another decision - where to go next.
It felt like momentum had been gained during our first four months in Colorado. Connections had been made, new areas became familiar, and our intuition said that there was more to be discovered. Because of this, Abby and I decided to return, as opposed to exploring elsewhere, following a one-month break at home for the Holidays.
We would be moving out of our apartment, and into a new place in the neighboring town of Broomfield. The difference of location was only a four minute drive, the apartment was, by all accounts, nicer, and coming in at a lower price point; a winning scenario. I would continue to work at Runners Roost, and take on more hours, while Abby would shift from working in Boulder, to a hospital in Littleton. Some changes, all seemingly minor, and the belief that we would pick-up right where we left off.
Abby and I were thrilled to resume life together once more. In coming home, it felt as though we pressed pause on the American Dream of today’s world, our mid-20’s version of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness; allowed ourselves a break for the Holidays, banking some much needed family time; and once mid-January rolled around, we were eager to continue in our pursuit. It felt as though nothing was going to stand in our way. Full speed ahead.
Life will continue to humble you, no matter how well you stack the cards in your favor. We act as though we understand exactly what we need, and believe that the fulfillment of these needs and desires will connect us with a state of happiness that has yet to be achieved. We view this as a form of development; but the real development in life is found through realization and adaptation. Realization that there are lessons to be learned, hard experiences to be lived, and moments of lacking clarity. Adaptation to stress, uncomfortable situations, and transformative experiences.
When we strengthen our perspectives through new realizations, and develop our mind and body through adaptation, we can stand atop any challenging situation. There is nothing easy about this understanding, but to know that it can all be worth it in due-time, will hopefully provide peace of mind as you fight life’s toughest battles.
Coming into the new year, I made the commitment to show up for myself, in pursuit of purpose, passion, and fulfillment. A commitment to consistency, where my daily actions would be an investment in a greater version of my future self. I was and continue to be focused towards my goals, but am removed enough from our time in Colorado to reflect on a few lessons learned. I’ll use these lessons to tell the story of our second stint in Colorado.
Lesson #1: The person who you choose to spend your life with will see you at your best, and at your worst; and they will help you wade through whatever stage of life that you’re experiencing.
For me, Abby is that person. We’ve always been accustomed to sharing deep, meaningful conversations together; it’s a part of our relationship that I am extremely grateful for. However, the discussions of these few months were harder than any that we’d had in the earlier stages of our travels. They were hard because they centered around problems that had no immediate solutions. Questions of identity, purpose, and ownership were asked, and the only answers to be found were rooted in the future. We both understood that there were no short-term solutions, and that all we could do was keep moving forward, intentional action by intentional action.
We comforted each other as we both struggled with home-sickness, and a search for meaning. There was always a shoulder to cry on, or an open ear to complain to when life seemed to be boiling over.
Near the end of the second rotation, Abby so eloquently described this period of time as a sense of groundhog day. The repetition of the same things, over and over again. Very little novelty; just the same daily process. Action led by misunderstanding; good intentions clouded by frustration. We did the best that we could, but at the end of the day, we missed the community of our friends and families; the purpose provided by people who love you.
We developed, both individually and together. We overcame, and arose victorious, above the hardships of this chapter in our lives. Even before it was over, I knew that these months were a blessing. They will continue to serve us in the future, as we seek deeper meaning and understanding of the lives that we’re so blessed to live.
Lesson #2: Life is a matter of problem-solving. The evolution of not knowing to knowing is only initiated by actions taken towards discovery of the unknown.
There are two approaches to problems that we take as a society. Either you use avoidance tactics to hide from potential risk, or you identify and aim to solve the challenge. Whichever option you choose, chances are that you will practice this same approach with each new problem that presents itself throughout your life. We become automated, falling into a habitual approach that guides thought, action, and the story that is ultimately written. In order to seize control of our lives, we have to bring awareness into each situation that arises.
Problems seemed to abound in the three months that we spent in Colorado, January through April. Yet, they weren’t the types of problems that you see from the outside. In many instances, it was even a struggle to put the emotions and frustration into words. For both Abby and myself, the hardship presented itself as an inner conflict. A state of paralysis by analysis where negative emotions were felt, internalized, and compounded over weeks and months worth of time.
It almost felt as though we wanted it too much. We expected to not just pick-up where we left off, but to make everything happen at once. We would build a dream life, achieve our goals, and make noticeable progress, all in the span of three months. It was an unrealistic vision of what could have been, but can never be. You don’t achieve anything of lasting value in such a short amount of time. Noted.
Progress and development, the type that fulfills and sustains you, takes years of dedication, perseverance, and belief in the idea that the pain that you feel now will eventually be replaced by pride. A sense of pride that is earned through endurance of the mind, body, and spirit.
You can’t run or hide from a problem. It will hunt you down and make its presence felt. Problems, however, are not inherently bad. It is our approach to the problem that determines the positive or negative return that is yielded. Choose to derive strength from challenges. With each problem, you can continue to build from the ground up, a structure that is firm in belief and action.
Lesson #3: The ability and willingness to protect time and energy is a value that will allow for further, more meaningful investment into the things that matter most to you.
I’ve found, the more that I aim to complete in a day, the less time that seems to exist. Around every corner, it feels like there is someone or something seeking to drain you of time, energy, and resources. Perhaps, the greatest determinant of succeeding at a high-level or not is the ability to guard your time.
The feeling of being constantly behind, stressed, and over consumed is no way to live life; and yet, many people do it, every single day.
What we’re truly seeking is understanding. Knowledge that provides us with the confidence required to say no to less valuable uses of our time. The challenge is that success in this field requires repetition. We have to struggle enough if we are ever to gain the wisdom necessary to lead a decisive, action-driven life.
The harder I worked, the more frustrated I became. 40+ hours per week at the running store, marathon training, some semblance of content creation, the desire to dive into a coaching business, and my basic human need for connection with Abby, all stacked like a Jenga tower, seconds from crumbling to the ground. It wasn't pretty, and my performance in each individual area suffered.
I began to see how crucial time was, as a component to success. And while we may fall prey to the belief that a lot can be accomplished in 24 hours, the truth of the matter is that it can’t. Not if you’re giving your best focus and effort towards a task. Chances are, the objective that you expected to meet in 2 hours will take double the time. In the best cases, the reason that you worked for longer than expected is because you found your flow-state. You became immersed in the act of creation; found a deeper level of yourself that simply takes time to tap into.
The less favorable case is that you got distracted. Pulled away from what actually matters, and into a craving for dopamine. In either instance, you’ll wish you had more hours to work with.
Our only solution is to become better guards of our time and energy. Yes, we have 24 hours each day, but we don’t have 24 hours worth of energy, focus, and commitment.
We must be able to make the hard decisions, if we desire high-levels of impact and achievement. Decisions that revolve around saying no to potential opportunities, leaving low-value relationships, and setting the standard for what you’re worth. If you allow yourself to establish this precedence now, you will discover deeper levels of confidence and fulfillment in the areas of your life that you say yes to.
The Chapter is Over, But the Book is Still Being Written (May 2022-Beyond)
No one is going to explain to you how strong, resilient, and capable you are. You have to discover it for yourself. This experience has shown Abby and I both that life is best lived fully.
We could have played it safe. We didn’t have to leave the stability of our jobs, the love of our families, or the comforts of the familiar. How it’s always been could have remained how it will always be. But that’s not the life that we intend to live. To live fully is to understand what fills your heart with excitement, and to run towards it. A full life is one that is lived in the welcoming embrace of all that is yet to be discovered. We will hide from nothing, because there is something to be gained from everything.
Over the next few months, Abby and I will build a life together, once more. This life will neither be what it used to be before we moved, or what it was in Colorado. It will be even better, because we are much stronger. Will we ever travel again? Time can only tell. We both have a firm belief in intuition. We are guided by what our hearts say, because the brain talks too much.
No matter the place, there is purpose behind each action. By all means, we are simple people. We want to love, to be loved, and to have a positive impact on those that we surround ourselves with. What that impact looks like is sometimes unclear; and it is surely everchanging, but by the grace of God we will give it our all.
If you’ve read the entirety of this story, thank you. I hope that there was some value that could be gained from our experiences. My documentation of this journey was necessary for me, as I continue to reflect, appreciate, and make the most of all that was over the past eight months.
Words are valuable. My final encouragement to you is this: Tell your story. Be unapologetic.
Your life experiences are valuable. They are yours and yours only. But if you lack an understanding of your own story, the journey will diminish with time. Share all that you are with the world, even if that world is only your family and closest friends. Share it, even if it’s only through pen and paper. Reflect on the past, because it will allow you to enhance your future.
Gratitude is a powerful emotion. Build your life upon a foundation of thankfulness and love. It will all make sense once you do.
All the best,