Subtitle: Leap and the Net will Appear
The whole tale has ins and outs, and I usually boil it down for visitors to my booth. Parts of the story begin in 2015, some in 2013, but I think it starts in 2006, when my friend Kristina and I visited Colorado on vacation. It was my second time in the state, but the first time was part of the epic family trip the summer before 5th grade where my Dad drove a loop in the ’80’s-something blue Chrysler New Yorker south through Mesa Verde, lost brakes over Wolf Creek Pass, north to Idaho and back east through the Black Hills.
[Maybe the story really started as a youngster watching the original True Grit over and over again; it was filmed in the San Juans.]
Back to Kristina. She and I had a great trip, as much as one (Kris) can have after sustaining a sprained ankle while mountain biking in Vail. That’s a whole other story. Here we are driving east back on I-70 to DIA and I am crying, sobbing really. She’s a New Yorker herself (no relation to the Chrysler) a Long Islander, and she says, “Why are you crying?” (Imagine a NY’er saying it, the cadence a little brusk, but completely full of concern and bewilderment.)
Well, the simple answer was that the scenery was just so beautiful. A place had never worked its way into my soul. Yes, there are beautiful places on the east coast, but to me there was nothing more majestic than those mountains.
In 2012, I took a road trip with the dog, my own out and back loop with the destination of Granby – for a stay in a yurt at Snow Mountain Ranch. We camped on road for the way out, it was August, and just divine. On the drive home I stopped in the Colorado Welcome Center to pick up some literature. Completely unprompted, I told the lady behind the desk that the next time I’d be back would be with a moving truck.
And so, that came a lot sooner than expected. Fall of 2012, a discussion began with my employer about the end of my employment. I had the where-with-all to say something along the lines of keeping me on till the new year as Jan 1 would be when I hit full vestiture with the stock plan. Each day past January 1 my anxiety level rose, I couldn’t sleep, I was distraught as I knew a layoff was coming, but didn’t know when. I feel sick just writing about it.
On January 10th, 2013 I was finally let go.
I was in grad school, with a targeted graduation of December 2013, and by the grace of God, my professors and plain old chutzpah, I made a revised plan to finish in May; write and defend my thesis; pack and move out of my house, and get a renter. Then, past graduation I would find myself a job in Colorado.
I graduated, and spent the summer on pre-retirement with my parents at the beach. I did get a job offer in Steamboat Springs the same day I defended my thesis. It was for the local paper, and the “salary” range was $16-18/hour. I was offered $16. WTAF? I turned that down.
Come August, no offers were coming in, and I came to learn that offers were rarely made to out-of-state’ers because of the vast amount of people moving to the state. And so I went, with no job and no home.
I picked up a few contract positions, found a cute studio apartment, and was able to put in applications with a legitimate Colorado address. An offer came in for a law firm, not dissimilar work to accounting firms. I think I said something along the lines of “herding cats” in my job interview. To be honest, it’s more along the lines of mitigating the ego of old white men.
I ended up following a co-worker to another law firm, and as it so happens, the were working through branding and egos from a merger. Caught in the cross-fire, I was offered another lay-off (the alternative was to work there part time for some dumb hourly rate.) This was January 2015.
This time I was more prepared to deal with the layoff, as I had found 3 adjunct classes to jump into as soon as the word came down.
Valentines Day, 2015, I saw a job description for a camp counselor for the Girl Scouts. The partner I was with at the time encouraged me to apply, in fact, he said, “Dooo it.” Without his support, I wouldn’t have been able to do it, and no one could have predicted just how pivotal 8 weeks in the forest would actually be.
I was the camp photographer, tucked in 880 acres in Pike National Forest. It is both hard and easy to talk about, and I will point to a blog post I wrote after summer was over to describe it a little more. Bottom line: I wasn’t going to return to an office ever again. I did, of course, but it was part of the transition, a bit of a safety net. Prior to the office, I spent a year as a Visiting Professor and on the side I started making my pieces. I realized at the end of the school year that pursuing a tenured track position was not for me, and low and behold the same school was offering a part-time position for Art Department tech support. And thus began the hustle. There will be more about this experience in future posts. The experience warrants so much more than this paragraph, but I’ll treat you to some visuals matching my work with my inspiration; the image above was my view morning, noon, and night at camp.
For a year and a half I did my part-time role, taught adjunct classes, and refined my designs, and created a range of pieces, while living in my rented home in Denver.
The beginning of 2017 brought more changes, including a break-up. Meanwhile, in the back of my mind I had been sussing out my art show/festival calendar, RV living, remote work, etc. RV living was something that had been considered in the relationship, but moved to the back burner when it was over. The end of April was when the lease was over and I was halfheartedly looking at other apartments, room mate situations, and I was just coming up short with committing to living in Denver. On a phone call with my friend Liz, she simply said, “What about the RV?”
I am not sure what came out of my mouth, but in my memory it was something like, “Well what about the damn RV!”
With in a week I had a deposit down on Sylvia, and had traded in my Santa Fe for an F-150.
She was parked out side my house for two weeks before May 1, and moving was part adding items to the trailer, removing furniture from the trailer, and trips to my storage unit.
The banner picture at the top of my site was Day 1. Pulling into a parking lot after leaving the home on Steele Street to practice backing up again.
I stayed in the Denver area for just over a year, I kept my part-time position (because #benefits), and was close to the conveniences I was firmilair with. I could pop to mountain towns for weekend shows, then roll back during the week for work and meetings. This past April I really took the leap and left that position. I did feel guilty for dipping into retirement savings in the spring, but as a friend, co-worker, and fellow artist said, why not? I didn’t deplete the nest egg, and I needed it. Better to use it now then never.
My mom asks when this will be over, to be settled.
I know there have been the unexpected hurdles, things break or leak, but they also do that on a house without wheels too. And I have one of those still – the basement has been leaking… maybe I should have been a mermaid with all these water issues.
But. The bottom line: I am happy. I am making it work, and I love my life. The time I spend with friends is so much sweeter. I get to experience new places, and I am making my art. My art.
I don’t know when it will be over, and I am okay taking it one month at a time.
Along with making, I am teaching online at two different schools. I am making it work, and am taking one day at a time.
I feel so lucky to have learned this lesson now. There’s the path that is laid out in front of us, the norm. I did that and found that it wasn’t quite right for me, and really how many of my peers have been shoehorned into whats “normal.” Sure I’ll be settled one day, and that will be great too, it will be on my terms, not what’s expected of me.
I am making, exploring and being content in a place that inspires me. To me, that’s what happiness looks like.