It’s a comment I’ve heard a lot over the years, usually while bartending on top of Vail Mountain and usually from patrons who are basking in their mid-vacation glow.
I smile and nod, yes, yes I am. But I’ll be honest with you, the comment just pisses me off. As I smile and nod, I squelch the quip I’d really like to fire back – it wasn’t luck that brought me here, it was a choice.
I know they don’t mean to imply it was an accident or some happy twist of fate that landed me in the middle of the Colorado Rockies; the underlying implication is more subtle, it’s that somehow I’m dodging “real life”, that somehow I’m avoiding growing up and responsibility by living in a place they consider for vacation only. And, frankly, I resent the implication.
For starters, anyone can make the decision to move somewhere else if they’re unhappy with their current locale. Yes, I know it’s not always that easy. I really do. But, look, I never wanted to stay in Michigan (sorry, Michigan!), so when the opportunity to move west came, I took it. It was that simple. And it was an opportunity – a chance that I took – not luck that landed me here.
The other thing is that, well, living here isn’t a perma-vacation. Yeah, yeah, it’s pretty awesome and I’ll admit that first year or so felt blissfully like college without the classes. There’s a lot of fun to be had. But it can also be tough.
Living here often means living far away from family (a family I love and miss every day). It can mean living in employee housing with too many roommates and even sharing a bedroom well into your 20’s. It can mean working two to three jobs at a time and never having enough money. It can mean wondering if you’ll ever find a job that could become a career and working as an unpaid intern in your late 20’s, alongside high school seniors.
I’ve struggled and grown and fallen down over the last nine years in this mountain paradise. And I’ve seen the same happen to my friends (who are my Vail Family). We’ve all gone through really tough times and experienced moments that shocked and challenged us. People have gotten married and had babies. People have moved away and moved back. We’ve had fights and made up. We’ve gotten jobs and lost jobs. Life has even been, at times, really quite mundane.
I assure you, life here is all very real despite the fact that so many amongst us are just on vacation.
So yeah, I resent the implication that by choosing to live in Vail my life is void of depth or responsibility. That it is charmed and without the struggles of life outside our valley, in the so-called Real World.
I resent that implication, but I have to confess, I do feel a little bit lucky. Allow me to explain.
My Grandpa DeWeerd recently told me something that resonated; I must have been going on about how wonderful Colorado is and he responded with something along the lines of, “you know, I’ve been across this country and all around Europe, I’ve even been to Colorado and stood at the top of Pike’s Peak. And, you know what? It was all OK, but there’s just nowhere as great as Michigan.”
This is coming from a man who has lived on the same stretch of land his entire life. Who was born, raised and will die in the same town. And he’s so happy, so content with it. Michigan is his place, it’s where his soul is at home. Growing up in Michigan I envied people who felt that sense of place, people who felt they belonged in the place they were born.
I recently thought about his words while snowshoeing on a sunny Sunday afternoon. It was unseasonably warm and the sky was clear. I was alone and basking in the simple joy of crunching through the snow. And it hit me.
I feel that here. This is where my soul is at home. This is where I’m supposed to be, where I feel comfortable and accepted. I can’t imagine living anywhere better. This is my best place on Earth. I might travel and enjoy other locales but I will always return here, I will always return home.
And because I know that, because I feel that, I am very lucky indeed.
Want to hear more of my thoughts about living in Vail? Click here to check out my interview with Ingrid over at Chockalife.