Many years ago when I worked for the C&O Canal National Historical Park in Maryland, I had an interesting conversation with a co-worker, Lorraine. I always enjoyed talking to Lorraine, because she was one of the kindest people I knew.
“So Lorraine, how long until retirement?”
“I only have one year, eight months. I can hardly wait.”
“So what will you do with all your free time?”
“Well, I’ve bought some land out in Montana, and I’m hoping to build a house out there. I just love the big open skies and the wildness. Just visiting there brings me so much peace.”
“Sounds amazing. We will miss you, but I know you will love it.”
Fast forward a year and a half later, after Bryon and I had moved to Colorado. I received an email from my friend, Sam, who still worked at the Canal.
“Leslie, I have sad news. You probably remember Lorraine, who did payroll. She had a heart attack and passed away last week. It’s so sad because she was only two months from retirement.”
My heart broke. Lorraine never got to live out that dream of her peaceful home in Montana. Lorraine became another victim of the “Some day….” mantra.
I’m not a big fan of planning life around “some day.” I’m more of a fan of the “Carpe Diem” model. Seize the day. Because today is all we have. And we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and some day may never come.
I’ve often been asked how my husband and I ended up in Nederland. Our journey to Nederland definitely is about seizing the day. I’ve loved the mountains since I was a small child and my parents brought us on vacation here from Missouri. The Rocky Mountains filled me with a sense of awe that I had never experienced in my young life. I never forgot that feeling.
In my twenties, when I felt at a loss for direction in my life, a friend abruptly moved to South America. As a journalist, he had always wanted to be out in the field, pursuing stories in the wilds of the Amazon and other places. The way he put it, “This is my dream, Leslie. I’ve always wanted this and I have to give this my shot, or I’ll always regret it.”
At the time, I worked in an administrative job for a large consulting firm in Washington, DC. I got paid well, but I hated the work. Hell, I didn’t even like DC — it was crowded, with lots of traffic, and the summers were intolerable due to the heat and humidity. I pondered, what did I really want to do?
I learned to ski in college and fell in love with it the first day I went skiing. As I continued to go skiing, I met people — ski bums — who worked at the resorts and skied 100 days a year. They seemed to love it. That’s what I really wanted to do.
So I sold my furniture, gave up my apartment, and moved to a small Sierra town in California, Mammoth Lakes, to be a ski bum. Despite making minimum wage, I had the time of my life, that winter. I never regretted it.
Soon after that, I began a career with the National Park Service. Initially, I worked seasonal jobs during the summer and fall as a ranger, and still did my “ski bum” job up in Lake Tahoe. I remember hiking the trails among the big trees, Giant Sequoias, and feeling a sense of gratitude. I can’t believe I get paid to do this. Never mind, that the pay was a meager $9.50/hour.
Eventually, I decided to pursue a full-time NPS job.
My journey with the NPS led me to parks all over the country — Oregon, Cape Cod, Philadelphia. But I never forgot that feeling of being in the mountains, of hiking through the forest, gazing up on the peaks, and feeling my heart sing.
I pursued a “some day” dream while living in Philadelphia, hiking The John Muir Trail. After 220 miles of toting a 40-pound backpack through snow, rain and up and down 13,000-foot passes, I knew where my heart belonged.
It was that feeling and the recognition that “some day” might never come, that led Bryon and I to buy our log home here in Nederland. We didn’t even have jobs in this area, when we bought the house, but knew that we both loved being in the mountains, and the opportunities it afforded us to do what we loved right out our door. We didn’t want to put our some day off any longer.
If you have something that’s been niggling in the back of your mind, that thing you have wanted to do — to go sailing, to visit the Redwood forest, to climb a mountain — take today and make a plan to bring it to fruition. Today is all we have, and making today our “some day” could bring greater happiness and rewards than we could ever fathom.