It was Saturday night and we were careening down a curvy road headed towards the Cache National Forest. We’d planned on going to Causey Reservoir the following day and figured why not turn it into all-out soiree that included camping under the stars, sitting around a fire, and being one with nature & shit. Once off the highway we began winding down rural roads, the kind that make you remember that Salt Lake City is an actual city, and appreciate that only a stones throw in any direction you can get away from it all. We’d gotten a late start, so it was dusk and the mountains were just starting to get shadows from the setting sun. It wasn’t a particularly vibrant sunset, it was the variety that looks like a watercolor painting where the hues are muted and run into one another in a very soft and pleasing way.
‘Box of Rain’ by the Dead came, one of my favorite songs, and suddenly Jerry Garcia’s voice was floating through the canyon along with us. I thought about the last few months of my life as the scenery rolled by and it all felt a blur – there were ranches full of cattle quietly grazing in fields, the smell of sage brush in the wind, and I could feel the temperature had already dropped significantly which was satisfying considering this summer in Utah was one of most sweltering I could remember. It was one of those instances in time where you take it all in and feel like: “This is life, going absolutely perfectly.”
I looked over at my friend Natalie who was driving and staring out at the same pastures – we hadn’t spoken in a few minutes but it was the kind of silence comfortable amongst good friends. “What are you thinking about?” I asked her, imagining she was also having some sort of profound introspective experience and dwelling on the idiosyncrasies of life. Her response?
“I’m thinking about that hamburger…it was so good.”
We’d stopped at ‘In-N-Out’ on our way for a quick bite while on the road. She went on: “I just keep seeing all these cows, and it’s making me hungry again.” In the polarity of what we were internalizing I could only laugh, appreciate the authenticity of that moment and affirm that indeed: “This is life, going absolutely perfectly.”
Upon waking we made the five-minute commute down to the reservoir where we unpacked four kayaks, five humans, and two dogs. Our first matter of importance was paddling out to the cliffs. I hadn’t been to this particular spot in some time although I used to love throwing myself off into the ambiguous unknown, hoping only that my feet would hit the water and then trusting my body would push up through the surface as anticipated. I pulled my boat against some rocks to ensure it wouldn’t float away and scrambled to catch up with my friends. They had absolutely no inhibitions scouting out our first jump and I clutched my life jacket and tried not to let my legs shake as I casually said: “Yeah, this seems like a good starting point.” Todd went first and flew off the edge with no concern of what would happen once his feet left the ground. Natalie stood ready to follow but I stopped her before she could hurdle off the edge and said: “I need to go now.” She didn’t say a word, or ask a single question and simply stepped aside as I took two long strides and launched forward before I lost my nerve.
Now it’s not to say you have a ton of time to think when suspended in mid-air, but man the seconds sure slow down. I took that leap and I was aware of every fucking nanosecond. My feet slid easily into the water but I flailed and when I hit – my inner forearms essentially did the equivalent of a belly-flop. Immediately I could see the broken blood vessels and imagine the bruising that was to come but I didn’t care. It was done. The rest of the day was devoted to finding higher vantage points, and even bigger triumphs. We kayaked for miles, explored, and adventured until we were too exhausted and sunburnt to continue.
I realized, that is life sometimes – letting your feet leave the ground and not existing anywhere, even if just for a moment in time. Maybe leaving the surface is when we get to go deep. I have a friend who is going through a difficult time – and we all know I am the emotional equivalent of the Titanic. One second we’re having wine on the Grand Staircase followed by a Turkish Bath with Leonardo DiCaprio, and the next we’re ass up in the Atlantic Ocean staring at an iceberg. “I’m feeling so strange,” she said. “I feel like I don’t know myself at all. I’m sorry for all the calls and texts lately, I just feel so off kilter.” This was my response:
“Here’s how it’s going to go: you’re going to have a few shitty weeks or months. You’re going to drink too much and you may legitimately think you’re going to lose your mind. You won’t feel connected to anyone, and you certainly won’t feel connected to your own soul. You’ll try – you’ll do the things you love to do but it feels more like going through the motions than actually doing them. Keep doing them anyways. You’ll push people away because you don’t want them to see you like this – you don’t want to be a burden, or admit that you’re not doing so hot. You’ll put on a nice outfit and you’ll smile and try to put on a good front. But guess what? One day you’ll wake up and you won’t be pretending anymore. You’ll remember joy and who you fundamentally are. Who you are is ALWAYS there even if it gets buried for awhile. You are going to remember, I promise you that. Until then, yeah it’s not going to be ideal. All you can do is wake up everyday, do the best you can, keep some good humans around who aren’t afraid of the facets of you that are imperfect, and survive – knowing that one goddamn random day, you will just be okay. Once you feel okay, you can start feeling good – and eventually you can feel great. So don’t worry about the crap shoot your life is right now.”
Things change, and quickly. Keep faith that your worst times can lead to your best – even if it takes awhile. All life is a jump and happiness can be found down any rural road or in Natalie’s case; with a really good cheeseburger. Gratitude and joy are like guided missiles – they want to find you, so let them. Be grateful for the good, be grateful for the bad, take a million leaps, and always remember – Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.