Tackling the 2016 Slope
At first, I couldn’t figure out how to write this post.
I wanted to talk about the past year without being pretentious, to reflect on the past twelve months without preaching. 2016 was quite the journey for me, filled with stunning peaks and devastating valleys, as I transitioned from depression to elation and back again, to finally finish the year in the latter. I was pulled up and down, left and right, questioned who I was, what I’d become, and what I hoped to be. And this isn’t even taking into account the massive changes that our tiny little Earth and its people as a whole have experienced.
Then I realized the perfect metaphor for this past year: skiing.
More specifically, the recent ski trip I went on with Emma to Discovery, right outside of Philipsburg, MT. Long story short, I told her that I’d gone skiing a couple times back in college, but didn’t elaborate that by “a couple” I meant “once,” and by “college” I really meant “high school, almost ten years ago.” Telling her this as I put on my rental boots and skis wasn’t the best decision on my part, but I digress.
I came off the lift like a bat out of hell. I figured that water skiing was comparable to downhill, not taking into account that an object in motion stays in motion, and that said object should try stopping eventually to avoid plowing over preschoolers who, by the way, end up passing said object anyway. But much like I thought both types of skiing were similar when they truly aren’t, so did I go about my job hunt at the beginning of the year in much the same way as when I was unemployed after college. Throwing your resume and seeing if it sticks may work after college, but the same doesn’t apply for an unemployed professional in his late twenties. Like my many wipeouts on the first run down the hill, none of my resumes stuck.
So I changed tactics. I networked, called friends of friends of friends every chance I had, attended happy hours and alumni events. I upgraded to LinkedIn Premium, which, to my chagrin, actually worked. Basically, I changed my way of tackling the slope. Instead of sharp cuts that didn’t slow my momentum, I took longer carves, “slower” and a bit more controlled. Not perfect, far from it, but with a few less spills it got the job done when I landed one in San Francisco.
As an aside, it’s worth mentioning how tough it was for me to leave DC. In hindsight, I see it in my post about returning to the city by reading between the lines, see how it hit a bit harder to leave my friends. But my sights were set on SF. It’s comparable to when I knocked the wind out of myself on my second run down the hill, when Emma asked me if I needed a break and I stubbornly replied “no” and kept on going, because California was calling me, and I had to keep going and move on from DC.
After three runs down the hill, I became cocky. I’d found a routine, a way of tackling the slope with minimal falls. I convinced myself that I was in good shape, gave myself a false sense of confidence like the one that I had in San Francisco. I’d already explored the city, eaten/drank everywhere/anywhere I could, ran Bay To Breakers, got into trail running, and transitioned into the new job. I was starting to make this city my own.
Then the job turned on me. Or rather, I turned on the job. Similarly, I turned on the slope, tried tackling a route with minimal coverage and was taught a quick but brutal lesson through a double ejection yard sale, my body flying through the air in a blizzard of snow, ski-less, pole-less, the sky and ground alternating as I tucked and rolled in front of a group of strangers. Back to School season at work did much the same to me: twelve to fourteen hour days that sucked the life out of me; customers who beat me down, stressed me out, and knocked me around; and a workload that rapidly buried me in an avalanche of frustration and resentment. It was bad. So bad in fact that even my family noticed how stressed out I was, how on edge and tight I’d become, and all of this at one of the most relaxing places in the world, Hawaii.
I needed a break from the slope, from the job, and found it with a beer and chili fries in the cafeteria, and a job in development in Montana, respectively. San Francisco left me bruised, battered, and bloody. Not the city itself, but rather my experience of living there. I was gearing up for Montana and another chance to figure out who I was and who I wanted to become.
So I got back on the slopes. I stumbled a few times, still had some spills, but I’d checked my pride at the door while nurturing my confidence. I had some doubts about moving to Helena, doubts fueled by worried friends and family who questioned me, a social butterfly, moving from a city of 850k to 29k. I stumbled at first, almost burning down my kitchen and getting lost on a few trail runs, among other misadventures, but things were finally shaping up.
And they still are. I can say without a doubt in my mind that, at the end of this year, I am content for the first time in a long time. Like the final run down the hill, where I made it to the bottom without any wipeouts, I am now hitting my stride.
In 2016 I lived in three cities in three separate states, held four different jobs, was unemployed twice, traveled to two countries and six states, and fell madly and deeply in love with a girl who surprises and challenges me every day. I’m both relieved and saddened that this hurricane of a year is over, but I’m also excited and a bit apprehensive for what the next one holds.
I’ll just have to figure out the 2017 slope as I go.
And take my wipeouts as they come.
Beer I drank: Badfinger Imperial Stout by Philipsburg Brewing Company
Book I read: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance