Nearly a year ago today, I moved to this little place called Aspen. (And no, I still have not seen Dumb and Dumber but it’s on my to-do list.) Despite the fact that I’ve decided to move on to my next adventure, it doesn’t take away from the love I have for the town that changed my life – that lit a fire in me. I never really knew the meaning of the phrase, “if you love something, let it go,” until I made a life for myself in Aspen. Now, I get it. The past year has been a roller coaster, and despite the speed bumps and detours, I have had a stupid amount of fun, met some of the most amazing humans in this world and feel like I’m finally becoming the person I was always meant to be. I know that I will always have a home here if I decide to come back – but there are so many more places left to explore before I settle down. Here are three of my biggest takeaways from my time in Aspen:
Nature is clarity,
like my dear friend Eliza Kane says, and Aspen is chock full of it. There’s nothing wrong with oceans or deserts but man, have you ever spent a day in the mountains? They’re magical. There is no lack of fresh air, blooming flowers or public parks in this mountain town oasis. Standing at 11, 212 feet at the top of Aspen Mountain is like standing on top of the world – you feel nothing less than infinite. Living among the mountains, breathing their air and basking in their beauty has bestowed more curiosity, creativity and inspiration in me than I ever thought possible. Whether I’ve reached a fork in the road or I can’t decide what to have for dinner, I can be sure that after a hike or a pit stop in the John Denver Sanctuary I’ll know what’s up – or at least have come closer to knowing my next move. The breathtaking beauty and sheer size of the mountains are enough to inspire humility and deflate the ego in anyone – even Kanye. Well, maybe not, but you get the idea. Once you’ve removed ego from the equation, add some humility and throw in a few summits, Aspen trees and wildflowers, you’ve got clarity. Boom, baby.
A fresh perspective.
Until I moved to Aspen, I had a very specific view of how my life would unfold. This can be attributed in equal parts to spending the first 22 years of my life in the Twin Cities surrounded by people of similar circumstance and life experience, and being a rigid, anxiety-ridden Type A kind of girl (I’ve since then become a lot less rigid.) Post-graduation plan: get a job, work my way up the ladder and make six figures, eventually. That’s all I wanted – to be married to my job and make the big bucks. A career was the only thing I dreamed of – well, that and seeing the world. It wasn’t necessarily because I was passionate about whatever I would be doing, it was more because that’s “what you do.” Or at least what is generally expected of people after they become adults. I don’t really know. I’ve definitely talked about this in previous blog posts, and I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but I think all of this is worth repeating. After living in this town for nearly a year, I’ve met more rad people than I can count - people who work to live, not live to work. Most of the people I’ve met are in retail, hospitality or the service industry (sometimes all three at the same time!) and are spending every second of their free time pursuing their passions – traveling, skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, and dirt biking, to name a few. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to have someone ask me, “What do you do?” and have them not mean work, but what makes me happy. People here are ALIVE. They love every second of their lives, and they make the most of their time by filling it with what they love, and what can get them more of what they love. I’ve learned that I don’t have to have the cookie-cutter-type-of-life; I can do it my own way.
The art of balance.
If there’s one thing that Aspenites are known for – and really, really good at – it’s working hard and playing harder. Talk about Aspen extreme, you guys. You get all ends of every spectrum out here. You have extreme athletes, extreme partiers and everyone in between. To be able to afford to live out here and finance all of the cool sh*t you want to do, you have to work your ass off. This means working two, three, four – or even more – jobs at a time during on-season. Dayumm. This also means every second that you’re not working, you’re making the most out of what precious time you have to do what puts a big, dopey grin on your face. Oh, and Aspen is a really, really great scene for nightlife and socializing. Like, so much fun.
I got caught up in all of it, naturally. I worked as much as I could fit in my schedule, I drank like I was still in college and whenever I did have free time, I was so exhausted from it all that I was too drained to do much of anything. I faked being happy for so long I almost started to believe I really was, but at the end of the day I wasn’t. I wasn’t making time for the things that light me up. It was a highly unsustainable way to live, to say the least. Eventually, I figured it out. I realized I could have it all and not have to sacrifice anything along the way. I could work hard to pay my bills, spend time with friends and have plenty of time for the stuff that feeds my soul. A lot of this was due to the fact that I learned how to say no. I stopped working when I wasn’t at work, I put a limit on how many nights I go out in a week, and I made time for ME. It’s really easy for me to let the things I love slip through the cracks when there are a million other “more important” things I could be doing. It’s also really easy to write off happiness as something that will come once I’ve checked off everything my list, but why wait? What’s hard – but a non-negotiable to being happy – is choosing it. Letting go of the “shoulds” for a while and doing something for the sole reason that I want to, because it brings me joy. Setting some sacred time each and every day for me.
So, that about sums it up.
I'm not saying everyone needs to pack up and move to a mountain town stat, but I'm saying if it's something you've always thought about then HELL YES. Do it. It will change your life and the way you look at the world, I promise. No regrets, right?
Thanks for all the mems, Aspen. It's been real.