Monthly Archives: November 2011

Giving Thanks to the Past and Present

I'm thankful that I grew out of my fat stage.

Today has proven to be a weird one. Not so much in a bad way, but just in a different kind of way. I can’t really describe the feelings I’m having, but I guess it’s a melting pot of nostalgia, wonder, excitement and yes, a little homesickness. For the past 23 years, I’ve had the privilege to spend every Thanksgiving with my family. I know everyone says it, but I honestly could not ask for better parents, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and I guess my sister can be thrown in there too (just kidding, Suzannah, you’re all right with me!) So, when I came to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t be home for Thanksgiving this year, I did what any other person would do: I simply didn’t think about it. Nothing like suppressing feelings by pretending they won’t happen.

So, when my alarm went off at 6:30 this morning, I went through the same routine as any other day. I checked the weather (which lied to me again, seeing as it was substantially colder out than it led me to believe) threw on some clothes, grabbed my snowboard and boots, and headed out the door for the mountain.

As I drove down the road, I had to keep reminding myself that it was, in fact, Thanksgiving Day, and in houses all around me were kids watching the Macy’s Day Parade as their parents (or mothers – let’s be real) were slaving away in the kitchen. Still, the thought of it didn’t really faze me. Today would be my first visit to Keystone of the season, and I was excited to see what the mountain had to offer. I turned the stereo up, cranked the heat, and watched the ice that so frequently collects on the inside of my windshield slowly dissipate and drip upon my dashboard. Yes, it’s often that cold that I have to scrape ice from the inside of my windows. Awesome.

But as I pulled into Keystone, I was surprised to see the vast number of cars already situated in the parking lot. It wasn’t a bunch of mid-twenty-year-olds like myself lacing up their boots and adjusting their coats, but rather whole families. Moms, dads, kids, cousins – everyone seemed to be eager to go ride with each other bright and early on this Thanksgiving Day.

And that’s when it hit me – perhaps this was tradition for these people.

Suddenly, my imagination began to run wild like it ever so frequently does, and I began to craft intricate stories in my head to complement each passing family.  Who knows, maybe years ago someone’s grandparents decided it would be fun to take their kids and grandchildren to the slopes before they gorged themselves on turkey, stuffing, potatoes, pie and wine.

I pictured a family scurrying back to the car after a day of riding, all piled up in a station wagon with the smell of musty ski boots and sweat permeating with the running of the A/C. Little Johnny is crying in the backseat because he bruised his tailbone when he decided it would be wise to straight-line the moguls, and Suzy, who’s been forced to sit in the fold up seat in the trunk – surrounded by the musty boots and the sharp edges of her parents’ skis, which are ready to slice open her jugular if Dad were to slam on the brakes – is complaining about having to sit at the kids’ table again this year. I mean, she is 15 now, and that’s old enough.

I pictured them squeezing through the doorway of Dad’s sister’s house, juggling the skis, boots and helmets with the green bean casserole and bottle of wine. Johnny is complaining again because the tupperware container full of dinner rolls is hurting his tailbone.

“You’re arms aren’t hurt!” his mother tells him.

And as they get into the house, Dad naturally tosses everything to the ground and scampers to the basement where his brother-in-law is already tuned into the football game. It’s just about halftime, and he has to be caught up on every play, stat, injury and cheerleader uniform change. Neither one of them care about either team, but hey, it’s football, what else should they care about?

I’ll stop there, seeing as, at this rate, I could go on forever. But, as I created these seemingly ridiculous stories this morning about family traditions, I began to think about my own family and the little things that made holidays “holidays” for us. We were no different than anyone else. We were always late to get to my aunt’s house, my little brother would always be complaining about the smallest task – like carrying a tupperware container filled with painstakingly heavy dinner rolls, I would probably still be stuck at the kids’ table at the ripe old age of 23, but now with a glass of wine, and of course we had those lovable uncles who threatened to stuff my little brother in the turkey, or always came prepared with a flask of Crown Royal to any and all family gatherings – I love both of them for it.

I then thought about the ridiculous conversations we would have at the dinner table. We may not have seen each other since Easter, but we always seemed to pick up right where we left off. I thought about the time I drank an entire bottle of wine on Christmas a few years ago, and how we laughed it off the following year, despite my fear of being labeled the “family drunk.” Then I thought about family vacations – going to the beach and having not a single care in the world, save for the fear of getting stung by a jellyfish or the possibility that the ice cream man may be cleaned out of shark popsicles. I thought about the time when my cousin (who is now in college) pulled his pants down on the beach and literally pissed into the ocean. Good times.

And after reminiscing on all of this – and I continue to do so at this very moment – I fear that I’m missing out on some of these memories by being 1,700 miles away. Actually, I know that I’m missing out, and that’s what eats me up inside. At this very second – it’s 2:54 here, 4:54 in Maryland – my family is probably gathered around the table, recounting the same stories and memories that are circling through my clouded head. I think about an empty chair at the table and can only hope that my family misses my sarcastic, borderline not-dinner-appropriate comments that will get under my little brother’s skin and ultimately lead to my mom reprimanding my older brother.

But at the same time, I understand that change is certain. Traditions are never made if they are never started, and who knows, maybe snowboarding at Keystone on Thanksgiving will be something I share with my family one day – I just hope that we’re not all squeezed in a station wagon (and obviously my kids will be snowboarders, not skiers). Although our traditions may be different, they will still carry with them the memories and pieces of traditions that I held so close to as a child and now as an “adult.” And realistically, I have no idea where I’ll even be this time next year. I could be back home in Maryland. I could be here (I hope). Hell, I could be in Alaska.

Regardless, today has – oddly enough – proven to be the most meaningful Thanksgiving for me, and I guess I didn’t really realize it until I started to write it all out. In the past, I’ve been “thankful” for plenty of things: I’ve told myself to be appreciative of family, friends, my upbringing, all my opportunities in life, but I don’t think I was truly – in my heart – grateful for them. Rather, I knew I should be grateful, but wasn’t necessarily genuinely grateful – if that makes any sense.

I guess the age-old saying, “distance makes the heart grow fonder,” kind of applies here. Being disconnected from my friends and family on a day where I’ve become accustomed to having them close has certainly made me realize just how important they are – and just how lucky I am. I’ve been blessed with a great childhood, the most loving family, and the loyalest of friends. I’ve had opportunities at the age of 23 that some people will never see in their lifetime, and being in Colorado is definitely one of them. I could be at home, working constantly and blowing my money on beer and some worthless girl like I did all summer, but I’m not. I get to snowboard every day…and it’s only November. There aren’t many people who can say that. Sure, I don’t make much money as of now, but it’s a stepping stone, and on top of it, I’ve already met a number of people who I’m confident will be my friends for years to come. That’s priceless.

Today really has been strange. Part of me yearns for home, while the other part basks in the present. I’m torn between what was, what is and what could be, and it’s left me in a sort of confused frame of mind – but in a good way. I’ve had some time to reflect, and it’s definitely opened my eyes to a new perspective on life at the moment. I’ve learned that it’s important to explore and to be adventurous; to see new places and meet new people, but at the same time, I’ve realized that it’s just as vital to remember where you came from and who you came from; to stay what you are. And who I am is something  I think I can be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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More Pictures

Just a heads up, I updated the “Photography” page with some recent pictures I took. It’s a pain in the ass uploading them all at once, so I should really quit being lazy and just do it immediately. My procrastination continues to haunt me.

Anyway, I wanted to share this picture in particular. In Maryland, I was accustomed to the whole state  shutting down and preparing for the apocalypse in the event of the smallest snowstorm. At the very least, people would just drive like assholes, doing 10 mph down the highway on their journey to rid the local grocery store of bread, milk and toilet paper. Not here. This road has a 65 mph posted speed limit, and you better believe that’s what everyone was doing – or at least something over 50. And the plows do just that, plow the road. There is no salt, and if anything, the road crews simply spread sand and/or gravel. Definitely a different world.

Yes, This is a Post Dedicated to My Facial Hair

I feel that there comes a time in every young man’s life when he needs to grow a mustache. For me, that time is now. No, it’s not part of the whole “No Shave November” thing, because, in all honesty, my neck beard is gnarly as hell, and I’m not trying to completely scare away the opposite sex (or children, small animals, etc.). Also, my dad once had one, so that is reason enough.

The funny thing is, I never really planned to start growing one. In actuality, I’m just too poor – and too lazy – to buy new blades for my razor. That shit’s expensive. So, after a few days (ok, probably more like weeks) of disregarding my facial hair, the people around me started commenting on it.  It took only the first “Hey, sweet mustache,” to make my mind: it’s staying.

At this point, I can’t say it’s the most masculine ‘stache I’ve seen, nor is it the most attractive I imagine, but it’s getting there. In fact, as I type this, I find myself constantly distracted by the monitor light reflected off of its strawberry-blond fibers. Awesome. I would post a picture to complement this all, but I’ve decided to keep it under wraps until I go home next month. I want to present a (hopefully) pleasant surprise to my family before I end up parting ways with my whiskery companion.

In other news, since I just wrote three paragraphs about my sketchy mustache and no one probably really cares, I have been lucky enough to get on the mountain each of the past six days. Winter Park, which is just down the street from me, has quickly won me over in terms of where I call “home,” and I can’t imagine how epic it will be once it’s 100% open. Now, I’m just keeping my fingers crossed for that first monster snowstorm to hit – I need to test out my ‘stache in some extreme conditions.

 

Copper

Copper, I've missed you...

Back in February, I came out to Colorado with a bunch of friends and stayed in a house on Copper Mountain for 10 days. It was my first time ever visiting the state, and Copper was my first taste of snowboarding out west. It was a little disappointing that we never got dumped on with snow, but the week and a half that we were all there was arguably one of the greatest experiences of my life. I woke up every morning in a beautiful house situated only a stone throw away from the chairlift. We’d get up early, ride all day, and dream of the next day’s riding all night. At the time, I never really thought about how the trip may have affected my life, but in retrospect, it did. After getting a taste for that lifestyle, I was never really content with things back in Maryland.

I remember my first day back home, still hyped on snowboarding and anxious to go ride again. I went up to our local mountain, Ski Liberty, and took one run. One. After I got to the bottom – which took maybe a whopping 30 seconds – I had this awkward, unsettling feeling in my gut. Suddenly, the place where I called “home” in terms of snowboarding was strange. It’s still difficult to describe, but something just seemed off.

With that feeling, I called it a day and went back to my truck. After taking my boots off, I looked back at the mountain and said my goodbyes. It was late season, the snow was anything but – just a lot of slush disconnected with scattered patches of mud and rocks – and I knew it would probably be my last day on the slopes. And when I started to drive away, I had another weird feeling – as if I knew that mountain in my rear-view wasn’t the place where I would be spending my next winter. Don’t get me wrong, Ski Liberty holds more memories for me than probably any other place in the world, but I guess I just realized that it was time for a change of pace. Not just from the resort, but from everything that was home.

Before I get too off topic (I’m now reminiscing over all of the times I spent driving to Liberty, listening to ridiculous songs and overdosing on McDonald’s dollar menu food), yesterday marked the day when I finally made sense of all of these unsettling-type feelings.

Originally, my plan was to just go hike Berthoud Pass in the morning with my friend Brad, in hopes of providing him with his first ever snowboarding experience (he’s from Alabama, so skiing/snowboarding isn’t quite as commonplace for him). But somehow we ended up taking the drive to Copper and trading hikes in for lift tickets – I’m glad we did.

As we pulled into the resort, it felt like I had never left. The signs, the buildings, the landscape – just everything around me was instantly familiar. And when I finally skated over to the lift line, this wave of sense and comfort enveloped me. Admittedly, I’ve questioned my choice to move out here over the past two months, and I’ve really wondered if the decisions I’ve made were the “right” ones at this point in my life. I can’t lie – I miss my friends, my family, my dog, and just the little things that made home “home” immensely. But yesterday, my visit to Copper provided solace in terms of it all. Just being there triggered all of the feelings, excitement and memories from that trip back in February. I no longer felt as if I needed to question my decisions.

Nine months ago – while out here – I set an alarm on my phone. It was set for some random day in the winter of 2012, and actually, I don’t even have that phone anymore, but what I typed was this: “Tyler, you better be living in Colorado…or else.” In the past, I’ve created promises, resolutions, plans, etc. that would ultimately never materialize. Of all theses promises to myself, I’m glad this was the one I kept. I’m still not sure what the “or else” would have consisted of, but I like to imagine it would have been something extremely clever and horrible. Regardless, I’m out here, and I’m more content with my life than I ever had been over the past few years. Will I one day call Colorado home? I’m not sure. But right now, that idea seems quite inviting…

Here We Go…

Since moving out to Colorado, I’ve had plans to keep a journal of sorts – to document my daily thoughts, actions, feelings, revelations, ups, downs, moods and everything and anything in between. Well, after two months (exactly) of being out here, I finally reached deep enough within myself to squeeze out the motivation to sit in front of my computer and begin this “project” as I’ll call it. I will admit that it’s come with a little bit of frustration. What should I write about? What do people want to read? What kind of tone – serious, humorous, nostalgic- should it possess ? Maybe it should just be a stream-of-consciousness? Maybe I’ll just post pictures? I still am not sure.

I do know that I’ve been spending my time lately revisiting the works of Thoreau (I received a batch of books from some  hippie lady at what I’ll call a “stoner’s dream of a restaurant” down the road – they sell everything from tacos to salt water taffy, to egg sandwiches to fried creamed corn something-or others. I’ll admit, it’s all delicious, despite the painstaking hours it takes me to finally settle on what to order), and I considered some transcendental-I finally have a greater scope of the world-becoming one with nature-Coloradan perspective, but then I had to remind myself of a few things: I work at a YMCA. In reality, I am not some naturalist-tree hugging-quarter-life crisis having (ok, maybe I am suffering from a mild case of early-twenties confusion) lost soul, who’s decided to live a hermit’s life in a cabin in a quest for self-discovery. I work as a lifeguard, meaning I maintain the same position that 16-year-old high school jocks hold as a summer job in order to keep the car that Mom and Dad bought filled with gas…but I’d like to think I do so without suffering from the common “power trip” syndrome that is so common among such individuals. I also use an overwhelming amount of hyphens in my writing apparently, but I’m going to let them slide because I don’t feel like going back to make everything grammatically sound. Sorry.

Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is that I am not quite sure where all of this is headed, and I’ve developed the same sort of attitude in the way I look at my life. I’m just going to let both unfold naturally, and take everything as it comes. For years I’ve spent too much time and energy stressing over where I’ve been and where I’m going, and not enough on where I am. Well, today marks the start of change. Feel free to follow along, and if nothing else, maybe my friends and family will simply be able to keep up with me and my life.

…Or maybe I’ll just become that tree-hugging tent-dweller who survives off of books and miscellaneous munchies from the woman down the road. We’ll see.

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Good Morning

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Captured this on my way to work this morning. After getting about eight inches of snow last night, the sun decided to poke itself through the clouds. Have yet to see a sunrise that doesn’t amaze me.