Disclaimer: this is a more personal post, less to do with the outdoors (my usual genre) and more to do with my personal life and aspirations. You have been warned so proceed with caution. Also, there aren’t any photos, I used all words this time around.
If you’re anything like me, you were likely told growing up that all you had to all you have to do to succeed in life is go to college, then you’ll get a good job, a beautiful wife, a perfect little house with a white picket fence. Then you’ll have some darling kids, a dog of course, and eventually you’ll grow old working that same 9 to 5 and your life will be set. And while I wasn’t exactly told that growing up, the idea that education was synonymous with a comfortable adult life was more or less what I thought when I was younger and even through college.
Three years ago tomorrow I graduated from college which is likely why this topic is so much on my mind. You see, our parents, the baby-boomers, come from a different generation, a generation that if you got some education you likely got a good job and you stayed at the job for the rest of your career. You worked hard, no doubt, but there were jobs to be found.
I graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in psychology in 2012, a bad time to graduate with an even worse degree to graduate with. I loved my education, I lived in a world of theories, ideas, interesting research and knowledge housed in a beautiful and massive library. I wouldn’t trade my education for anything, except maybe a secure job market and economy, I kid. I remember my graduation day, I had worked hard, received good grades, worked in research labs, written hundreds of papers, and now had a piece of paper to show for it; a piece of paper that guaranteed me a good job and a comfortable life. Man reality sucks when it hits you in the face.
I was lucky, I found work right away. I graduated on a Friday and started work the following Monday two states away. I am sure many that I graduated with were unsuccessful at finding work for months. I spend two years working as a Social Worker, I felt stuck and weighed down. My plan for grad school studying Psychology quickly lost it’s luster. I switched to Law School, applied got in, then realized the job prospects as a newly minted law grad were abysmal especially when the $200k of debt was heaped gravely atop the pile. Good thing too, I’m pretty sure I would’ve hated law.
It was about this point I think I realized that staying in one job for my whole working life would likely lead to an early death due to excessive stress resulting from boredom in the workplace. I think it was about this time I realized that what I thought I always wanted, that white picket fence, was not really what I wanted. Don’t get me wrong, I want a house more than anything right now, but the idea of staying put in the same house and job forever, no thanks.
If you’ve followed my blog at all you likely know what a struggle it was to get to my current position. I wanted to get out of the red tape of social services and into the outdoors, one of my greatest loves. Getting a job in the outdoor industry is easier said than done, however. Without any direct outdoor industry experience those hiring don’t care what degree you have, or what mountains you’ve climbed or which ultras you’ve ran. So Kyra and I took a leap of faith and packed up our little family and moved back to Utah to go back to school and work towards and MBA with the hopes of finding some outdoor industry work experience along the way.
I was fortunate enough to get hired on with TETON Sports which has been a fantastic place to work. So fantastic that after a semester of school I really saw no point in continuing to shell out thousands of dollars (actually, it’s more like going into debt with student loans for thousands of dollars) to get some education to hopefully get me a job in the outdoor industry. I decided to drop out of school and work full time. The experience I felt I was gaining at work was so much more than what I felt I was getting sitting in a classroom listening to teachers lecture. Sure it had that same energy of excitement as when I had been working on my degree years earlier, but I guess I was no longer naive to the realities of the real world and the magic dust didn’t stick; I was done with formal education.
It’s been five months now since I dropped out of school. Since then Kyra and I had our second baby, a girl we named Hudson, I started working at TETON Sports full time, and all our student loan money has been completely spend on tuition, bills, groceries and gasoline.
If this post feels random and all over the place it’s likely because it is. These are my thoughts and in this case I’m not looking to sugarcoat or edit my words, I’m simply writing as the thoughts come, in a sort of therapeutic way.
You see, growing up sucks. It’s an interesting and humbling experience to look back at what you thought your life would be and realize that it is nothing like that. Some things are not as you imagined because of you own choices, like my desire to avoid a single career/job the rest of my working life, but others are a result of the environment in which I live. Finding a job isn’t easy. Supporting a family of four on a job you’re lucky enough to find is even harder. Forget about saving for a downpayment on a house altogether.
Now, three years after receiving that little piece of paper from the University of Utah that Kyra proudly displays for me on our Walmart bookcase, where am I? Well, I have a family I love, three amazing girls I wouldn’t trade the world for. I’ve got a job that I love and enjoy. I pay nearly $800 a month for a 70’s style apartment with commercial office carpeting (not the coziest setup). I live 10 minutes from amazing running trails in the Wasatch Mountains. We end up putting groceries on credit cards with the hope of paying them off soon, along with my student loans for the two semesters I was enrolled in classes. We share a single car, as 2012 Ford Fiesta with over 100,000 miles on it from lots of commuting. We have a dream of having a small modest house with some chickens, a little garden and maybe even a puppy. We have a dream of being out of debt with enough money to actually cover all expenses every month with a little extra to put away for a rainy day.
Three years after graduating college my ideals have changed, maybe as a result of my expectations becoming seemingly unreachable, or maybe, and what I believe to be true, my goals and desires changing. I no longer want a big house on a hill with new shiny gadgets and toys. I want a small house that feels like home. A house that is earthy and real, that is touchable and was built by hands now covered in wrinkles, a house where my hands can work and where I can make it ours. Growing up sucks, because now I know the reality that money is tight (I actually wish it was at the very least, tight haha) even with a degree and that life isn’t a white picket fence waiting nicely for you at the end of each day. Yeah, life is a lot of work, a lot of stress, a lot of late nights wondering how you’ll get by, but my gosh, I wouldn’t trade what really matters for some security.
I wouldn’t trade my 4am trail runs and coming home to a quiet house, my three beautiful girls sleeping peacefully. I wouldn’t trade the feeling of holding hands with a supportive and loving wife who is an amazing women and mother. I wouldn’t trade two sweet little spirits who I am privileged enough to call my daughters. So, growing up sucks, it sucks a lot, or maybe the reality of growing up sucks, but what growing up has also brought me is a richness in life I didn’t know I could have. It has allowed me to realize what really matters to me, not security or a little house (but dammit I do want those things), but my faith, my family, and my health to run a few more miles before sunrise.