Well single reader, after 10 months of consecutive work (the most I’ve worked in one year since graduating college!), I am home. My last day at Mesa Verde for the season was the tenth, I spent the eleventh packing and cleaning, the twelfth driving across the state of Colorado to visit with my brother in the front range, and the thirteenth on a plane to Florida. Yesterday I celebrated my 24th birthday. And today it’s finally starting to sink in that I am done. If I decide it’s what I want to do, I won’t have to work for six whole months.
I’ve got lots of plans, lots of exciting prospects lined up for my time off. I’ll enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday at home before I get on a plane to the Dominican Republic to spend Christmas and New Years with family there. Afterwards the plans get a little fuzzier, but I’m fairly certain a plane ticket to Mexico will be purchased in the near future. And if I am able to find the time and motivation, I may begin to fill out some graduate school applications.
In the meantime though, I’m left contemplating the last beautiful six months I’ve spent in Colorado.
I’ve loved Colorado for a long time. My first visits were in middle school, and I was instantly captivated by how different the landscapes were from what I was used to. I grew up a flat-lander surrounded by salt water. The first time I viewed those jagged rocky mountains I found myself staring to make sure they were real and not made of cardboard and plywood like the sets of the theaters I worked in throughout high school. At first I loved Colorado because it was a novelty, because it was so different from everything I knew. Now that I know these mountains well I find myself wondering what exactly has kept me here.
The obvious answer is the physical place itself – the endless trails, the dry climate, the four seasons, the fresh-water rivers, the greens and the reds and the golds, the snow, and the glorious average of 300 days a year of sunlight.
Yes, the beauty of this place is enchanting. But you know, I don’t think it’s actually that that continues to bring me back. The ability to recreate outdoors will forever be a priority in my life, but I believe you can easily find beauty in every place. What really makes Colorado stand apart to me is the people.
They’re friendly, they’re healthy, and they’re happy. While I spent my 4 years in Boston going out of my way to not make eye-contact with people on the street, in Colorado I regularly strike up pleasant conversations with total strangers at the gas pump. People smile and greet you on the street. They’ll lend a helping hand without hesitation. Although there is beauty in every place, Coloradians appreciate their mountains and make regular use of them. I think there is a direct correlation to that and their pleasant demeanor.
Maybe it’s that the Rockies are so huge in both size and beauty that they are impossible to ignore. And being reminded that beauty exists on a regular basis is great motivation to be happy. And being happy is great motivation to be kind, and healthy, and all the other things I value in life and in people.
There is no reason we can’t all live this way. But I challenge you to spend a week in the Colorado Rockies and not find yourself with a stupid grin glued to your face. Something about those mystic mountains seems to take the choice out of the situation. And as someone who strives towards positivity, but doesn’t necessarily find it easily in her natural state, the mountains themselves act as a battery pack for that happy place. So often I hear stories of people who came to Colorado on vacation and never returned home. I completely understand what may have spurred the move.
So as I drove across the state and through the mountains a few days ago, I asked myself why I was leaving. I’ve spent the past few winters in this beautiful high place, and as I passed through those familiar mountain towns, it almost pained me to wonder when I would spend another snowy month here.
But here’s the thing, I’m way too young to get comfortable. There’s plenty of time for that. Colorado has become a safe place for me, but where’s the challenge in that? And what is life without a little challenge?
I am sure that one day, perhaps very soon even, my path will take me back to Colorado and those beautiful mountains. But now it’s time to explore, and I’m confident that I’ll be able to retain those lessons the Rockies taught me wherever I go.
There’s beauty in everything. Find it. Revel in it. Be happy for it.
I love Colorado.