Monday, October 24, 2016

Let My Kelsey Go Surfing

When I picked Giselle up from Denver International Airport I immediately poured my thoughts out to her about my ability to go anywhere, because in that moment (and these moments, still) my whole life is packed in my car.
That's not really true, because my whole life is everywhere I've been. It's in a brewery in Flagstaff, it's at table 40 at The Kitchen - Denver, it's in the bottom of several wine bottles and it's in my blood I've (we've all) left behind in Joshua Tree. 

Giselle and I talked quite a bit about self-sabotage; the idea of it and if that's what I was doing to myself by entertaining the thought of not moving to Flagstaff. The thought of what if I just kept driving. I'll save you all the beatnik literature approach of consciousness that I fear I'm going to end up writing and tell you that I saw the life I was going to live in Flagstaff. It's not a bad life, it's an incredible one. Life in Flagstaff is everything it should be: it's life in a small mountain town. The running is incredible and the climbing is world-class. It's a life that I've missed and I thought I wanted to get back to. But it's a life I know. And what about the hundreds of lives that I don't know? I feel as though I have to go live those. Moving to Flagstaff felt like a glass ceiling and a limestone box. 

We talked about the life philosophy that is commonly found in writers. The idea that your life is a story, your story, and you are writing it as both the author and the main character. So far I have a pretty cool story, but if I were to pen fiction with Kelsey Elizabeth Gray as my protagonist, would I have her move back to Flagstaff? 

No. Absolutely not. Because deep down in her chest, below and behind her heart but in front of her spine, there's this urge to go. So I made her go.

Giselle and I packed so much into those 11 days that I have a hard time believing it is only 24 October. We ran 20 miles through the mountains in Crested Butte, climbed in Ouray, headed over to Moab for a few days where we allowed ourselves to create in between the runs and climbs and al dente tortellini. We bushwhacked the San Francisco Peaks traverse, all six peaks(!), in eight hours and leaned on each other during both mental and physical lows. We talked about how much we hate donuts and then ate donuts. I have never laughed so hard in my life, and she helped my heart heal when a piece of it broke off between Moab and Flagstaff. 

I said I was going to Washington and now I'm not, because I don't want to anymore and I don't have to. I've had a few people text or Facebook message me and ask if I'm "trying to find [myself] on a deeper level" and I hate that. I fucking hate that, because I'm not. I'm not searching for anything, and I know myself better than anyone. I'm not searching for answers, because I don't have any questions. 
I don't have anything to find, but I do have things to see and things to do, and I want to do it now. Right now. I don't want to wait until I can afford a plane ticket and a rental car and budget my meals dining out. I like to sleep in my car (or a Nemo tent), rely on my Jet Boil for a real meal and wake up with the sun. 
Most people thought I was moving to Washington via my Facebook post, even though that's not what it said at all. But people think that because they read without listening and they "listen" while talking over me. And I'm really sick of that. I am so sick of it that I've given up on telling my mother any sort of plan or idea I have. I am so sick of it that this is going to be my last blog post for a long time. Someone I used to be friends with, but haven't talked to in a long time (you know, those people, whose lives are so incredibly different from yours now that you cannot imagine you had one thing in common at any point) asked me "Where do you want to end up?" and that made me feel sick. The question itself suggests that the life that I live, that I love to live, has to end at some point and I will 'settle down', as they call it. And I don't care for that term, either. People that have a spouse and children and the "white picket fence", I think, are living the life that they want to live. And I think that's pretty rad. I wonder why people can't listen to my stories about a rock climb or run up to a summit the way they can listen and laugh with/to stories about a child asking an irrelevant question. Because that time we reached the summit with the prayer flags at 11:11 was just as special as the time a kid took a step. The time Giselle accidentally said "That scared the Daylight Savings out of me" is just as funny as a child babbling nonsense. That time we stared at the stars in Joshua Tree, bodies tired and hands bloody from climbs, listened to two guitars softly strumming together and felt the warm breeze wrap itself around our skin; that time is just as special as watching your child sleep. And that question of "If you could live on any star, which star would it be?" is much more relevant than "What about health insurance? What about your 401k? Where will you live? How much money do you have?"

Most people that I have met in the past two weeks don't ask those questions. They encourage me, and I need it sometimes. Sometimes a lot of times. They give me suggestions on what to see and when to go, and the introductions are just as genuine as the hugs goodbye. I can't imagine living a life more full than the one I am now.

As for now, I'm about to head over to the Marin Headlands, because that's where this all started, so many years ago. But we all know that. 

And then I'm going to go wherever I want. There's a handful of incredible people that have their arms open in Ventura county. And although I spent most of my 28 years living on a lake, I don't know how to surf. 
...For long.

[To Hannah, my cousin: Your comment on my Facebook post reads "As long as you (1) still come back to Michigan once in a while and (2) you're happy wherever you are in that moment." brought me to tears, and I wanted to quite publicly thank you. It is one of the most important things anyone has ever said to me. I want to give you a bone-crushing hug for it.]

Perhaps I'll write again tomorrow. Perhaps I'll die tomorrow. Or perhaps you will all read my book,  in which I will likely *not* rip off Yvon Chouinard's title. ;)


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

From pre-service to shifties, from July to October.

I have tried to write this post for a week and now I have to do it, because I am out of time.
I am out of time here. Just typing that sentence made my heart beat hard and fast.
And I don't know why I am the way that I am. I live in constant worry that I could be happier and that I don't have a lot of time. I don't know where that exactly stemmed from, but I do think it directly relates to the fact that I've always thought I won't live a long life.
And that's a tad morbid. I'm sorry, mom.
But maybe that's why I am the way that I am.

I love the service industry for so many reasons, and if you had told me I'd be making a career out of it a year ago, I would've laughed in your face. But that has changed for me, and TKD played a huge roll in that. For the first time since I had left Flagstaff and DSB, I felt inspired by who and what I was working for.
The service industry harvests a very special kind of people. They are, first and most importantly, hilarious. I think that laughter is the most important aspect of life. I spent years being self-conscious of my laugh and never laughing as hard as I wanted to, but I've learned to let go of that, because I think that laughter is the most genuine reaction as a human. You can't control it, even if you want to, or you should (shoutout to you, Sanders, re: Sunday night), and it should not be censored. There is a special bond in the service industry, and I've thought several times about what brings this about. I think it may be just the act of serving people and bonding through that, but I have no definitive answer. It's just a feeling, and I think that readers that are in the service industry know exactly what I'm talking about.

I walked out after a shift at The Kitchen Denver (TKD) a few weeks ago responding to a message about a job in Flagstaff with a quiet excitement. It was almost midnight and no one was awake for me to share my excitement with, so I walked quietly down the alley behind The Kitchen and held my phone close to my chest while smiling to myself. I knew I was leaving Denver in the beginning of September, but I couldn't bring myself to making it real until several weeks after.

On Monday night, two days ago, I walked through that alley and burst into tears. Because I am going to miss this city and the people at TKD so fucking much. It is absolutely unreal to me. Leaving Denver was not an easy decision. In a way, it was, because I am going back to Flagstaff, to two jobs that I love and believe in. But it was not easy because of TKD and the people that are there.

The odd thing is, is that Monday night wasn't even my last shift, but I really lost it when it came to emotions on my walk to my car. I worked Tuesday night (last night) and I work again, for the last time, tonight (Wednesday, 12 October). And leaving this place and these people is already breaking my heart. This post is for them.

For Queso (Casey Knutson)
After one of my recent blog posts I walked into the employee area and you were ironing your shirt and I was throwing stuff into my locker and you said "I feel like I know you on a different level now," because you had read my blog. And you told me that you struggle with the same feelings, and I told you that's why I write. What I really wanted to do was to throw my arms around your neck and cry and tell you capital-T Thank capital-Y You. I think it is exhausting to feel and exhausting to write and exhausting to share. It is comforting to know that no human is alone. Your snapchat is almost as hilarious as you are in person. Keep snappin', sweets.

For Maureen Daberkow
I found strength through you when I really needed it, and I don't think you have any idea. I have always been an anxious person, as I've alluded to above, but my heart has felt restless in Denver and that was hard to deal with until I had a particular conversation with you. I'm not sure if you remember that conversation, and perhaps it is more special if you don't, because you should know what a positive impact you have by just being yourself. I admire you, and I think you are so goddamn fucking hilarious. My first night at TKD, before I was even hired, I remember you sat down at pre-service and asked, in the most calm, inquisitive and endearing manner if "anyone has any idea about llamas?" The conversation that ensued still cracks me up when I think about it. But laughing about that right now brings about my tears, because now I am leaving. You have made me a better person. You have made me a smarter person. You have allowed me to be a happier person. I don't think there are words to express that gratitude, so I will sit here and cry at my computer and have to trust that someone (hopefully several people) in your life have made you feel that, too. Thank you.

For Kirsten
You're the first person that made me want to work at TKD. I staged (is that really how you even spell that word) with you and was hired on your recommendation, so in a big way, I feel like I owe my experience to you. I wish your dog didn't break your finger so we could've had more time together because you are so wonderful. I hope you never feel like you aren't funny, because you are - and most of the time it's without words. Which, I think, takes a special (read: best) kind of personality.

For Skylar
I honestly have no idea if your name is spelled with an 'e' or an 'a'. I think it might be an 'a', because I wrote it on your plate last night and you didn't correct my spelling. I don't think you'll even ever read this, but OH MY GOD. I think you're the only person I've met in a REALLY long time that understands a very awesome part of my sense of humor. And I think you know exactly what I'm talking about. I wanted to slaughter you last night with table 91 and you knew that and we both thought it was hilarious. Even though I was pissed. It was totally something I'd do. And it was great. You're great. The fact that you and Kirsten are dating makes me so incredibly happy. Normally I don't care about who people date, but when perfect people date another person that I think is perfect, it makes me feel like the world is perfect. I'd call you a Power Couple in the best way.

For Abigail Butler
Miss Butler. You have, I truly believe, the most shining soul I have ever seen in a human. From the moment I met you, when you trained me, I truly thought and feel like you are one of the best people I will meet in my lifetime. You have a calming sense about you, always!, and know exactly when to laugh and when to sneak in the perfect zing into a conversation, even from the sidelines. It would break my heart if I never saw you again. However, I think that I will. I am happy that our last interaction was a wine shot. I absolutely adore you.

For Alice Fallon
I don't think anything brings two people closer quicker than sharing the same annoyances. Thankfully, our friendship extends FAR beyond that. You are one of those people that I will see a year or two from now and it will feel like absolutely no time has passed since we last saw each other. People speak of this feeling a lot, but I think it is very, very rare. You made my heart swell with happiness and sadness when we were sitting on the patio with Cholsi at Next Door and you looked at both of us and said "I hate when people I love move, because it's so sad, but I love when you can see the excitement in their lives when they talk about it. And I see that in both of you." I literally just cried while quoting you on that. I think it's such a beautiful way to see a person and life changes, and it shows what an incredible person you are. Not to mention the hilarity that you and your husband create! God. Please tell him how funny I think he (and you, of course) are. I love you, always.

For Cholsi
Nichole. Cholita. Cholsi. For weeks (months?) I didn't know you well because sometimes I just simply could not hear you, as you talk so softly most of the time. But one magical afternoon we day drank together and I don't think I've felt a faster friendship grow. You are so funny, and you inspire me to keep following my heart and dreams as you move on to Seattle. Your voice may be soft, but you say powerful things. Don't ever forget that. And please, don't ever forget me, because I will be hitting you up as soon as I visit the PNW within the next year.

For Amber Sachs
This one, I think, is the hardest to write. Which is ridiculous, because you are the ONE PERSON I know I will absolutely see multiple times, especially within the next year, and likely very soon. So, I think for the sake of everyone else reading this, I have to speak to just the reader for a moment, and not just you.

-->Ultrarunning is an incredible sport. It's also FAR dominated by males. It's also increasingly becoming an ego-booster for many people and conversations are dominated by times and wins. So, to find a female that you enjoy running long distances with, is first, quite rare. To find a female that you enjoy running with that runs similar to you, is even more rare. To find a female that you enjoy running with and that runs similar to you AND that you love talking to and laughing with, is the rarest of rare. Amber is all of that, and more. <--

There has been once in my life that I have felt that I knew I would be friends with someone for the rest of my life, and someone that inspires truly inspires me so deeply - and that is Giselle. You are the other. I am absolutely hell-bent on doing that stage race in BC, and I know you'll be there to pace me for my 100 and I will be there to pace you for yours. And in-between now and all of that, I will see you several times. I don't have the ability to thank you enough for the laughs we've shared, the limited (but soon to continue) time on trail, and the countless (feels countless, but is actually quite countable) shifts we've shared at TKD. I am going to miss you so much. The poetic part about me leaving, and me missing you so much, is that you are the only one that gets it. You are the only person that knows that it's like to be a runner and be so in love with mountains and be able to live in a small mountain town. So I guess that makes it easier. But, you know, it also makes it harder. See you soon, my dear.

For Matty C
MCMATTYC! I love it so much. Your wine key will be at TKD by the time you come back from Europe, one way or another, I promise (oh, the mystery!). Every time you called me 'Miss' I wanted to call you 'Sir' but I'm not fast enough with my Proper to retort with it. But I want you to know the thought (not so much effort, per K Gray usual) was there. I know you're having a blast in Europe on your wine excursion, but I had to reach out and let you know that I will miss you. Like, truly miss you. Not just "Hey, I'll miss ya!" but like "Hey. You made an impact on my life because you're an incredible human. Thank you, and I will truly miss you." Because of you, I will more-than-not refer to wine as 'juice'.

For Zach Beyers
Yikes, this is another painful one. Some people you just 'get', you know. Thank you so much for all of the sincere laughs. I know you manage tonight, and I fear that I will accidentally cry when you say something hilarious. I wish so much that I had more time for Amber and I to get you on the trails and away from the roads, and to befriend your wondrous wife. But I don't. Thanks for keeping my secret about having a wild crush on Sanders, and for a) catching my quick-wit comments b) responding with quick-wit comments c) sharing the moment of a stare-down when both people say something hilarious and d) laughing after. You're one of the very few people I feel like I'll see again. That makes me quite happy. Thank you for feeding me so much information about wine that I have absorbed, and thank you for being both a great manager and wine director, and an even better friend. Even if it was for a short amount of time.

For Zac Sanders
I had a wild crush on you. Keep rocking those bow-ties, and I know that you know how awesome you are, deep down. Keep saying quick comments and jokes that people don't understand right away, and keep writing the strips.

For Adam Scroggins
I feel like I keep thanking people for being hilarious and it may be getting redundant, but SERIOUSLY THANK YOU FOR THE LAUGHS. Mitten pride is always fun to share, but I especially loved that there was someone I could talk beer with while everyone else ran wine through the grid. I am sure we'll see each other again through the world of beer and Michigan, and I am excited to see what you do with your career. If I could sum up our friendship through one interaction, it would be that one time when we made eye contact during pre-service and busted up laughing while everyone else was quiet. And neither of us remember why! But we both remember the moment. An infinitive "Cheers" to the direction life takes you, and I'll see you soon.
And it'll feel good. So good.

For Hilliary Grace
Despite the unnecessary 'i' in your name, I love you so much. Always keep your chin up. You're good at it, but I know sometimes you forget to. Let the haters hate on how much you talk (like last night, "I love the sound of my voice, that's why I talk so much"). You're a powerful soul, and you are a positive light. I have no idea where you'll be in a year, but I would really love to stay in touch. Much love, babes.

For Laura
I don't think you'll ever read this, mainly because we're not friends on Facebook. But I admire you for following your passion and for having the ability to realize when a profession forms into a hobby. I honestly hope all of the best for you, and that your smile keeps shining through Denver. ...Because it really does shine!

For Crystal 
I just feel like around Christmas time I'll be getting hammered with you in Phoenix before my red-eye back to Michigan. So I think I'll see you soon. BUT DAMN you are so funny. Your small stature makes your sass and power come through even stronger, and I admire your passion for the industry and your bartending skills. I will miss your sass, and that ...ass.

For Kaya
I will always, always remember how much you made me laugh, on so many fronts and counts. Especially on Tuesday, October 11. Life is always hard at some points, but I hope the rest of yours is extra incredible.

For (Michael) Collins 
From your note on Hot Schedules, to your jaded attitude and to you texting me, two days ago: "I've been living my day in complete happiness. I need someone to ruin it. I thought of you." Thank you. God, thank you so much for the laughs and for the zucchini that I think might still be on top of my locker. Like most things pertaining to you, I forgot about it.
Unfortunately, I'll never forget you. And like my friendship with Skyla(e)r, words of hatred and annoyance are translated into friendship and appreciation. I will always think of you, now, whenever anyone orders a Tom Collins, simply from the name. Thankfully it's a classic cocktail which few people ever order.
You know how much I'll miss you.

Thank you, everyone, for the knowledge, the laughs, the endless coffee and bread. Thank you for the incident reports, the broken wine glasses and the late closes. Thank you for the support, the understanding and the inspiration. Thank you for the hugs (despite me hating being touched), thank you for the shifties, and thank you for the tears that are sure to spring from my eyes tonight. I can only hope I have left a sliver of the impression on you that I am taking with me.