2017 Goals

Online dating definitely is not for those who mind getting bruised. I don’t mean that literally, but it is true that my ego has taken a few blows over the past months. 

I have some personal goals for the year now. I am trying to not have them be reflective of anything other than what I want for me. And I am also trying to remind myself that I am tough and awesome even as I am now, because seriously — raising a kid on your own is hard work. My ex is still recovering from surgery and is not able to help a lot. I have no local family. *Anything* I am able to accomplish in the way of personal goals is therefore automatically badass ×5. Even if outsiders don’t see that, I do.

Anyway. My goals:

1. Do the Bruneau Dunes race this year… Maybe 13 miles? 

2. Get my bike fixed and use it. Take my kiddo on the greenbelt and try some foothill trails.

3. Use my park pass. Visit Craters of the Moon, Grand Teton, Arches… At minimum.

4. Go camping at least 3 times this summer. This is sort of implied in the last item. But I want to make that normal again.

5. Survive my first year at a scary new job. It is scary now because I feel like I need to prove they made the right decision in hiring me. I am feeling a lot of internal pressure right now, and I just have to push through that for a while.

Adventures

First day at the new job today. I am really excited about the position and think it will be fun and challenging work, surrounded by a good group of people. As a person who has turned away from a natural resources career and toward education, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be able to teach kids about nature. 


The downside to this job, if I have not mentioned it before, is the very limited time off. I suppose it is comparable to a lot of other jobs in the US in that way, and I will have a somewhat more flexible weekly schedule than most people could hope to have. But as somebody who used to take jobs with 8 days on / 6 days off schedules (or 4 on / 3 off), I know the value of a real weekend. 2 days off is enough to do some things, and I will embrace the schedule I have for the next couple years. But I daydream about an education job that will give me summers off. I wish there was some in-between… Environmental Education and a 4 on / 3 off schedule? I don’t know…


The part of me that wishes for free time also is looking at this thing with the Backpacker… And not even just the Backpacker himself, but the kind of guy the Backpacker represents: Well-traveled, regularly challenging himself with new outdoor adventures. He’s ambitious about the outdoors in a way not unlike I used to be, and we hit it off largely because we both have the same enthusiasms about hiking, and we both have an internal voice that says, “Adventure is not the result of avoiding inconvenience and discomfort; it is the result of embracing those things.” But… I have to plan for myself and a kid, and I do not have a job that will let me roam around the west for weeks at a time the way I used to. Even with compatible mindsets, there is a world of difference between what the two of us can logistically accomplish. Today at work I learned about a potential new nature teacher who could be working under me. I haven’t met her, but she apparently teaches skiing in the winter and is looking to do environmental education in the summertime. She could be the definition of the kind of girl the Backpacker and other outdoorsy guys look for: adventurous, unlimited in her ability to do … basically anything. It makes me feel a little sad, and old. (And yes, I know… I have value too.)


The only way I can combat these blues is to start coming up with some challenges for myself this year. Not just challenges — Bucket list activities. They don’t have to be things I have never done before; they merely have to represent my best use of the time I have to find adventure. More on this to come.

Employment Upgrade

I got a job offer today, and I accepted it. All this school year I have been working as an elementary substitute teacher, and I have started studying for my alt route to certification teaching exams. Everything has been going decently well, though my income as a sub is not quite enough to get by on. In addition, I have felt a little adrift since I stopped pursuing land agency work. My biology degree has felt — not useless, but not well-used. I figured (and still think) education is the right course for me, because I want to have summers and holidays that match my kid’s holidays as he grows up. I want to have time to go on big outdoor adventures, like I used to do for so many years. Teaching public school is a path to that dream. Right now, though, I am taking a detour… I will be working as an education coordinator for a local conservation-type organization. It is year round work, FT, and should enable me to pay my bills, even though the pay is not high. This will give me stability for a few years, give me some work experience that will *hopefully* make me a stand-out candidate for a public school position, and allow me to take my time in choosing what job to jump into next. I will not have that adventuring freedom, but …one step at a time. This job is a blessing. And the people I will be working with seem really nice.

This weekend I am taking my toddler to family day at a local hotspring as celebration of the new job. Between feeling cooped up with winter weather and exploring the world of online dating, I have been distracted in his presence this past couple of months. I realize how much when I do give him moments of full attention and he opens up immediately with smiles and giggles. I don’t want to take this time with him for granted, or to lose sight of how important he is to me. I don’t think I really forget, but when I am struggling to make space in my schedule for a simple coffee date and I talk to a cool new guy who has the freedom to travel and have adventures like I used to do…. It does make me wistful. Though I was there once, looking at the different life paths, and I knew parenting was an adventure I wanted to experience in my lifetime. So — am I wistful? Yes. But I do not at all regret my choices.

Backpacker is in the field until next Tuesday, so I have a little freedom from thinking about guys for a while. I could see his schedule and personal travel plans (frequent as they are) as a bad sign for somebody I am interested in, but I don’t. My ex and I adventured everywhere together for years, just the two of us, and it was lovely and I would never trade in those experiences. But we were so tight that we had nobody else, and I am really enjoying my independence as a divorcee. If Backpacker and I work out, I think some of that independence and breathing space would not be a bad thing. Of course, it is too early to know anything about where this might or might not go.

Sunday, Sunday

I am very much liking my life these days. I really am strengthening my connections here in town and I am having an easier time finding ways to get out and people to get out with each week. Today was less eventful than Saturday but I did host a hike with a local hiking club in the evening. We walked about 4 miles on a dirt road in mud but the company was good, and the sunset and distant city lights were pretty to look at.

I am still trying to figure out the Backpacker, but maybe he really is just a little awkward? (Opinions on this may change.) After I basically said I was interested in meeting but not interested in texting forever he did step up, a little. He said he wanted to meet, and then a (slightly painful and reminiscent of the sloth DMV scene in the movie ‘Zootopia’) rambling discussion about where and when ensued. He is not a fast text responder most of the time, and his responses tend toward “I don’t know, what works for you?” (That isn’t very promising, is it?) I lost my phone in the middle of this prolongued text dialogue and only found it again this evening just before midnight, so nothing has been settled yet. But hopefully it will be settled tomorrow. Maybe? Good lord. Who would have thought “Let’s get coffee” would be this complicated.

The Toddler Test – Day 3

I signed a new apartment lease today. It is the first time in my 30+ years that I have been on a lease entirely by myself. It will be only the second year in my life that I have lived alone… Well, I say alone. Just me and the kiddo.

Backpacker messaged me out of the blue today after several days of radio silence. We had talked about potentially getting coffee next weekend, but just like last weekend when he had said he might be able to manage something on Sunday and then never got back to me, I highly suspect next weekend is not going to happen, either. Today he simply asked me “how are you” and talked about the icy roads. And then back to silence. I am a little annoyed. And yet I still would be excited to meet him. *Sigh.* Ugh.

Identity

I just put together a small photo album of places I have explored over the past decade. I didn’t come close to including all the places I have been, and yet, I was so proud of it when I was done. I have been to some pretty amazing localities, and when I look back on those memories I have to smile. Despite my personal struggles with social anxiety and self worth (which loomed large in my vision for a long time) I have lived a happy life. And that was due to having a best friend and a hobby we were both very invested in (hiking).

My photo collection tapers off around three years ago, when I was about to become a parent. It is weird to lose the records there, because soooo much has happened in those past three years. My ex and I became parents, my dog was diagnosed with cancer and struggled with it for eight months before it was time to say goodbye. I was a stay-home parent dealing with sleepless nights, baby food sensitivities and bloody diapers, as well as physical therapy for my kiddo. There was the hazy period of endless failed job applications and there were the road trips to visit my ex during her summer field work. There was the Americorps job I finally took and the long stretch of time before my ex left us that was shadowed by her depression and resentment. There was the first year I spent as a single parent, working through grief and finding peace in my new home. I joined a community garden, took my kid to the pool and parks and trails. I started leading hikes occasionally with local hiking groups, and I made an effort to build connections with the people around me. And I did hike. All through these past three years I continued to hike, because that is what I do. It is what I always have done and likely always will do. But I no longer have the photos and the grand adventures feel far away. Some of the voices around me seem to be telling me that things will be different now. My inner voice says that adventure is still possible. But when I describe myself to people, especially in the context of online dating, I sometimes wonder what person I am describing. Is it the new me or the old me? Do I have the right to claim my hiker title anymore? Who am I going to be going forward? I know I want more adventure. But how much of that want is daydreams? How much of my personal image is based on my past with a partner who was an obsessive and excellent trip planner? Who am I now? 

Life According to Bridget

Bridget Jones is very important to me. Not the movie Bridget so much, though really, what better moment is there than the one where Colin Firth, as Mr. Darcy, says, “I like you just as you are“?

It’s the books I love most (well, ignoring book 3). There is a quote that says something to the effect that finding stories about people like you gives you the vocabulary to explain your life. Bridget Jones is very different from me in a lot of ways: She drinks a lot, smokes, dislikes exercise, is obsessive about her weight and diet… and she is more uninhibited and fun than me. But, there is also so much about her and her world I can identify with: from her friend Magda, who is a parent and cannot have a conversation on the phone without pausing every few moments to say things like, “In the potty! Do it in the potty!”; to her dread of work social events; to feeling old and a little “past it” in her 30s; to her procrastination; and to her sense of humor and self-knowledge as she navigates the world of dating and relationships. She describes so many things accurately, like how she gets obsessed about improving her life after a breakup…. Only to realize a few days after making unrealistic commitments to self improvement schemes that, really, the schemes are just appealing because she wants to feel like her new and improved self would never have been dumped or cheated on the way her old self was.

…Yeah, that. So much that. At least Bridget makes me want to laugh at myself rather than cry.

After I realized Coffee Guy had dropped contact with me I felt a mixture of sadness, embarrassment, frustration, and pragmatism. He was a good guy, and honest. Really, I don’t regret anything… Except possibly (probably) making the dude uncomfortable. It is easy to start dwelling on the whys of the situation, and it isn’t fun when somebody you like stamps you as ‘reject.’ But a couple weeks of messaging regularly followed by a roadtrip and sex don’t exactly add up to heartbreak. What makes me sad is the lost possibility of trying activities outside my normal sphere of existence with a new friend. As Coffee Guy told me about his hobbies I imagined doing yoga, road biking, bouldering, and dancing together at concerts. Going on a roadtrip with a stranger was exciting… It was an escape from the monotony of my regular life, and it felt like I was breaking away from my personal hangups of not being good enough or interesting enough.  I was living, doing something new- and that felt really good. 

In the aftermath of that adventure, and with the new year upon me, I have been thinking a lot about personal growth and goals. Bridget is in the background, smiling a little, or maybe she is ready to leap into change just like I am. I have had a lot of adventures in the past; with the right company (i.e. somebody who is also really into hiking and exploring on foot) I can roll out story after story, discuss places, discuss gear and logistics… With somebody who has a broader range of interests, my life feels just a little one-dimensional. Some of that may simply be a compatibility issue, but I realize that I have been in a rut for a while with my adventuring. I want to do more than lead the occasional hiking club hike with my meager spare time. I want to hang out with more people than just parents and hikers. I want to be a different version of myself than I was in 2016 – more adventurous, more fearless.

I have some thoughts about goals for the new year, though I am going to wait to voice any of them. A lot depends on whether I can find schedule flexibility with my toddler. My ex is going to undergo a major surgery this January, and in between her recovery (which will be slow) and her reduced spring/summer visitation time with our child due to her work travel schedule, I am not likely to have a lot of personal freedom. Also, I need to focus my energy on getting certified to teach so I can *hopefully* get a career off the ground and be able to adequately support myself and my kid. Finances right now are tight, and I don’t want to be dependent on my family for help any longer than I need to.

Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts. More substantial updates to come. It is, after all, a new year.