Riding the chairlift the other day, I had plenty of time to myself as it glided 1,610 feet up the mountain. My mind wandered to how lucky I am to be able to do that any given day. I also have access to snowshoeing, and cross country skiing-and all world class, at that.
I like to think of it like this: I live where you vacation. Every weekend of mine or half day off before work is your dream vacation played out. That one you wait all year for. Now that is living.
My commute to work is a 25 minute ski in crisp mountain air, which invigorates me on the way there and helps me relax on the return trip. The late night ski back after a long, stressful night of running around the restaurant is often the favorite part of my day. A couple of times people have offered me rides, to which I respond, "I wouldn't miss it for the world."
I am in my best shape since swimming in high school. My diet has been almost exclusively vegetarian, varied, and delicious. My cooking skills get a little better every week with the addition of new recipes to my repertoire. Work at Devil's Thumb is stimulating and challenging, yet not usually stressful, and next summer I will be returning to Mountain Sky Guest Ranch up in Montana, a place where I could not be happier.
In a nutshell, things have never been better.
Rewind to my senior year of college, with graduation fast approaching. I had no clue what direction to take. Everything sounded OK. Nothing sounded great. The position at Mountain Sky came out of the blue of an internet search one day in January, and was meant only as stepping stone between college and...a career.
Only looking back can I see how close I was to jumping on the hamster wheel. The mainstream go-go-go of Western culture. In other words, a position at a random company that I would adopt as 'a great place to work and that values employees' that would pay a decent salary I use to buy a house, a car, etc. My time consumed by work would not be unpleasant, I would spend my days in a cubicle/desk, and my precious free time would be spent 'recreating' myself and escaping the city or at least the indoors.
What a fine and praised existence according to our society. That is what I was expected to do, especially a student with a 3.95 GPA who graduated with highest honors. Climb that corporate ladder!
Instead, during my year and a half after college I have learned more important things, namely, what I really value, not just the things they spoon feed you in college. As well, I have spent my time learning to ride horses, hiking the great wilderness of Montana, skiing my butt off, and learning to make bagels, among other things. Maybe not career furthering skills, but they have been very interesting and rewarding for me.
All this leads me to believe that this is what really matters in life. My finances are in order, and despite how comparatively little I earn compared to a corporate job, the perks of my positions really add, but are hard to quantify. How would you value being able to run on endless trails in the woods compared to running on sidewalks city block to city block? How do you value waking up to see a sunrise like this in Moab?
Or fly fishing some of the finest waters in the world on my morning off?
Money cannot be used to value these things. This really perplexes some people. Their measure of value is money, and so I appear poor in a relative sense. You could be making good money doing __________ (insert shitty job here). They only see the dollar signs $$$. They see the dollar bills and miss the forest that was used to make those dollar bills. The forest I hike through on my way up the mountain to the priceless view of this beautiful land we call Earth.