“I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page and I could do anything I wanted.” -Jack Kerouac Dharma Bums
As much as I want it to sound like I left with a drop of the hat, it wasn’t quite like that. Well for the first time. I was working the warehouse job and saving up a lot of money. The end of the job was nearing and so was spring. I knew I had to leave but I really didn’t know how or I was super scared to pick up and leave. The movies and books make it seem so easy! Haha!
About this time, I had been with a girlfriend for about 5 and a half years. She graduated a semester after me, but was in no rush to find a job. Which I thought was perfect. The job was to end at the end of march and if you stayed the entire time of the project you were gonna get a bonus. Sweet! Even more money for my journey.
Since my girlfriend wasn’t doing much, I kept asking her if she wanted to move out west and start fresh. But it never appealed to her. She valued her family a lot and didn’t have the desire to move out of reach of them. I didn’t quite understand that at the time since I have never really been close with my family. I kept bringing up moving and pressuring her to go with me. What was a good relationship quickly went bad with the more I talked about it. We never really argued leading up to that point in our relationship, but then it all of the sudden it became daily.
The job was just about finished and I applied for a summer job in the Grand Tetons National Park. I’d be washing dishes at a pizza restaurant but the plus side was that living expenses would be paid for. It seemed like a great opportunity to go west, live and to try and figure out what my purpose in life was. But with a very long term girlfriend those types of decisions were difficult. The company that I would be working for sent me a postcard. It was a beautiful picture of the Tetons and on the back it said “this will be your new backyard! We can’t wait to meet you!” I had a deadline to accept the job. I kept looking at the postcard every night after I got it, wishing the decision would come to be all of the sudden. Of course I waited til the last day to officially decide.
Scared to accept the job, I turned it down. Well what’s the plan now? I had a couple of friends that moved to Denver the year before and got a place together. Corey and Justin both had the itch to move west and spent time saving up money before they moved. Both of them loved it there, so I figured Denver would be the perfect place to go. I already have friends there and maybe they could help with getting me a job. And it would be right next to the Rocky Mountains, so I’d be able to do a bunch of hiking. So Denver it was! The decision was honestly that quick. But I still had that monkey on my back… I mean girlfriend. Haha!
There was no changing her mind about moving. She wasn’t having it. But yet I still pressured her to come. I finished up the warehouse job and all I could think about was Denver. “I’m moving to Denver!” I told everyone.
I set a date as to when I would leave, that way I wouldn’t push it back. The plan? Pack up my clothes in my car and stay with my friends. I was gonna job search and apartment hunt like crazy when I got there. Once I established myself there, my girlfriend said she would consider moving out there.
Just before the take off date, I met up with a friend, Jon, who recently quit his job in Florida and moved back home. His brother actually lived in an apartment just next to out friends, that I would be staying at. Jon was talking about going out there as well but didn’t know if he had enough money to go. I wanted to wait for him to come along for the ride, but I didn’t want him to influence or push back my departure. I told him what day I was leaving, but he didn’t know if he’d be ready. So it looked like I would going solo. Fine with me though! I was really looking forward to driving across the country by myself.
But let’s hold up for a second. Did I mention I was living at home? So my mom was worried as hell about me driving for two days alone. “What if you get tired and fall asleep?” Were the constant questions I got. So to make her happy, it was decided that my girlfriend was going to ride out there with me. She would spend a few days in Denver and then fly back after the weekend.
Alright! The plans were set in stone and I was getting closer to finding out what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. We left super early on a Thursday morning. I literally packed my trunk full of most of my clothes, my hiking gear and some books that morning. Nothing else really. I felt just like Chris McCandless in the movie Into The Wild when he was leaving Atlanta! I too was leaving Atlanta.
To this day I still have the Jack Kerouac quote written on a piece of paper in my wallet. I forget it’s there, but every once in awhile I see it and it reminds me there is always the choice in life to do what you want.