JOURNAL

Crater Lake National Park

Oregon

EMILY

In a different life, there were secret dreams I kept, bundled up in twine & made as small as they could get, tucked way, way in the back of my little head, in some dusty corner where the old lightbulb had burnt out & no one could really see without looking. I’d put them there long ago, on some regular day where I had woken up, rubbed the sleep from my eyes, brushed my teeth, looked in the mirror and thought to myself, ‘I give up.’ What was the point of trying, anyway? This is what life is about. I wake up. I go to work. I come home. Maybe I have casserole for dinner tonight. Maybe I make it a little different than the last time so I have something to look forward to.

The blueprint was already laid out ahead of me: a house. A partner. A degree. A job. A nice car and a beige garage with windows to put it in. I should learn how to refinance my mortgage and the best route home from work during rush hour. I should start saving for my future children’s college fund.  Maybe someday I can afford a vacation, but that isn’t what life is about. Life is about work. Life was about work. Life was about money. I didn’t see a way out. I didn’t think one existed. Something that was the same shade of depression settled on my skin, and I almost let it seep in. I almost let it take me. Almost.

But sometimes, in the ancient thick of midnight and saturated in hopelessness, I would retreat to that lonely corner with a dim light flickering inside of me like an old wax candle, and by that little glow, I would release my dreams from their cage and marvel at them. There were the mountains, tall and splendid in their pure purple majesty. There were bright green jeweled rivers where joyous mermaids sang. There were pine trees as tall as the rich blue skies above them. There were waterfalls in the middle of the forest, shrouded in wildflowers, and waiting for me. There were wild horses, and dusty red trails, and bright-yellow butterflies gilded by God himself, and soft, warm rain, and nosy sunbeams peeking through the gaps in the trees. There was adventure. There was freedom. After I had my fill, my longing heart would, once again, wrap my dreams back up, double knot the twine so none could escape, drag my feet outside of that corner and let the thirst set in again. No one could know about these dreams. They weren’t in the blueprint. They were far away, things that children thought about. I needed to grow up and have some responsibility.

Maybe I would still lead this listless life and maybe I would have found happiness in little, minute, everyday things like a budding red flower or grass persisting through the concrete and growing anyway, or some sort of far-off fantasy purpose on some other path. By the same standard, maybe, through careful evolution, humans would have also learned how to breathe underwater or pigs would eventually grow tiny, white-feathered wings that through some miracle would support their body weight enough to carry them to flight.

Instead, I found CoolWorks. It was some evening in mid-December, I was twenty-two and I was snowed in, laying on my friends’ bedroom floor.  “Do you think this is real?” I heard the voice of my dear friend from across the room. She flashed me her computer screen. “This website has postings for jobs in national parksranches, and summer camps. I think I’m going to apply.”

I was insulted. I was silly and I took it very personally. “Is there something wrong with our hometown? Am I boring you?” I was mad. I glared at her the sort of glare you evoke when you want someone to feel the way your eyes are without looking at you. Her leaving was a threat to my comfort and my comfort was all I knew. I was not ready for a change. I did not like this idea. I resented it.

“Hey, relax. What’s the harm in applying? Why don’t you take a look?”

And that was it. That was the very last sentence in a book about my old life that I don’t read anymore. I applied for just one job, thinking foolish things that dreamers do, “If I get this job, this is meant to happen.”

A few days later, I got a call. A few weeks after that, I booked a flight. I took these changes in stride, step-by-step, and they were scary, and I was scared.

I had never lived anywhere else. I had never had any other friends. I liked the linguistics of this place, and the beaches in the summertime, and I like my favorite coffee-shop, and I liked my job. What if I could never have any of this again? Is it worth sacrificing? These worries danced on my membranes for months, but I did not invite them in. My dear friend with the computer was my bouncer and she would kick them out for me. Her love and support carried me. My curiosity guided me.

I really surprised myself, and I boarded that plane. I got in that van. I put my new sheets on my new bed. I met my new co-workers, I explored my new home, and, within days, I murdered my comfort zone in cold blood. There were no witnesses, but if I were ever to go to court, I’d list CoolWorks as an accomplice. That was six years ago, and now, because of CoolWorks, I have drenched myself in sweat & real beauty climbing to the very top of those royal mountains. I have become the quiet mermaid on the rock, watching the river dance by. I know the supple scent of sweet pine needles being warmed by the hot, western sun. I have swam in those secret waterfalls, decorating my heart with it’s strange and rare collection of wildflowers. I have sweat out the longing that once haunted me in the heat of the summer on a twenty-mile hike. I have laughed with the butterflies, dispersing when I happen upon them on some secret hill they thought I couldn’t find. I called out to those horses. At last. I made my dreams come true.

However, my worries also came true. My idea of home was shattered. I took the pieces of what it once was and gave it to the friends I met through CoolWorks from all over the world. Now, wherever I go, I have a home in the heart and the beds of my friends from different cultures and interesting places that I would have never known or experienced if I hadn’t had the nerve to make a change and follow my heart. Thank you, CoolWorks, for the even suntan and the memories I’ve made and will continue to make. If you feel lost, this is your sign. Take the plunge. Make a change. Don’t give up on you. The flowers are waiting.

COMMENTS

Well written Emily

Reply

Denise starr

This is beautiful! Thank you for sharing your story!

Reply

Jill

Emily;

I too like many of us felt the same apprehension on the start of this new journey. Mine was somewhat different, instead of boarding a plane, I hopped into my 15 year old vehicle with over 100,000 miles that I had been living in and prayed.
The vehicle and I made it not too worse for wear. The money wasn’t the issue, it was thinking is this all there is. Although the job wasn’t with coolworks it was another company that is in the same business. Although reserved, I opened my mind and myself open to new people, cultures and ideas. I got to summit 10,000 plus mountains and play in the snow in July. I got to breathe the thin fresh clean air and regain muscles that were once atrophied in myself who I thought was in good shape.
Your words are true, relevant and poetic. Not only did you find the true you but I believe you are discovering a you that still is to be acknowledged and nurtured and that is in your writing. I don’t doubt there is a book in your future whether it’s published for the public to read or just a lasting legacy for yourself or children or relatives that may read it and inspire them in a distant future.
Right now I’m looking for my next adventure and when it comes I’m going to choose coolworks.
You seem to be very blessed so here is just another wish that your life continue to be blessed and memorable. Remember it really isn’t about the destination it is all about the journey.
May we all be able to look back in the winter of our lives and truly believe that we don’t have to think I could have, I should have or Why didn’t I.
God bless

Reply

Dan

That was some read…beautifully written…and I know about the euphoria…the intense longing for something different…the long amazing hikes…the as close to life, as one can wish…I am so glad…so happy to read about your happiness…National parks have changed my life…I fell in love with hiking…the people…and how beautiful my so called life…has become…Bravo girl…Bravo!!

Reply

Joe

Good on ya girl! I learned from a loved one that was over a hundred, that the secret to a happy life is too never pass up an opportunity. Keep taking them!

Reply

Joy

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