It’s 9:00 am- the summer after my first year at university.
I am dressed in my Subway uniform. I’m at home in the same job I worked all of my high school career.
My friend calls: “Hey, what are you doing this summer?”
Me: “Um…I don’t know. Working I guess.”
Him: “You should come to Wyoming. I am leaving today.”
Him: “Yeah, I’m driving out there. I think you would like it. I think you would find a job.”
Internally my mind has more “what if’s” then deciding to repel down an 80 foot cliff for my first attempt at canyoneering.
What if we get a flat tire? What if we get lost? What if I can’t find a job? What if I don’t like it? What if I can’t find vegetarian food? What if I look stupid? What if someone is mean to me? What if I fall flat on my face and have to come back like a sorry sap?
I have an hour till I have to be at Subway.
“I will call you back in under an hour,” I tell him.
I remember lingering my way down the stairs and around the corner into our dark brown kitchen. Not needing my parents permission to go to Wyoming, but wishing to seek their advice and approval, I “casually” strolled in to ask their opinion.
“Hey mom and dad, just wondering your thoughts on if I quit my Subway job today and start driving West towards Wyoming tonight?”
No place to stay. No job lined up. No real plan per say other than a direction of travel and a desire to find a job out of necessity to buy food.
Having gone on their own youthful adventures they were supportive of mine. If I felt it was worth the chance to drive off across the country to see what would happen and thought it would make me happy, they would give me their good wishes.
Not wanting to burn bridges and leave myself options I called my boss at Subway. I told her that an opportunity had just come up to move out to Wyoming for the summer. I presented her with the idea that if I came in to work my shift that day she could then find people to cover my shifts the rest of the week. That way if this whole westward moving endeavour did not pan out, I could come back to my job on good terms. Surprisingly she agreed to this.
I went into work that day, finished at 6:00 pm, packed one suitcase, and hit the road at 8:00 pm.
Having barely driven more than a five hour radius from my home I was completely shocked by how different the West was. Mountains with treeless tops shot up from the ground. There was this thing called ‘altitude.’ With a body full of goose bumps I learned what would be warm enough clothes for Hornell, NY in June was not warm enough for Jackson Hole, WY in June.
I lived the rest of the summer in Jackson Hole in a car parking lot, spare floor space next to a washer and dryer, and in a hall way. It was one of the best times of my life.
I learned countless lessons that summer. Some I learned with grace while others I learned messily with the ignorance of youth. Yet the biggest lesson I learned- and that has shaped my life ever since- was I realized how it was possible to create a life I wanted to live.
Before Wyoming I felt like the life I wanted was always just around the corner. If I just finished university that would give me the feeling of accomplishment I sought. If I just got paid a little more my self worth would increase. If I just had a little more time in the day, I could do everything I wanted. If I just got a respectable job and worked at it really hard for the next 40 years I could then retire comfortably.
Prior to quitting my job to venture off into the unknown, Wyoming was just another state that was really far away. What I didn’t realize at the time was Wyoming would show me how to create the life I wanted if I was willing to pack the suitcase.