Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Untethering

I’ve been known to make impulsive decisions before, especially when my car and the interstate system are involved. But since moving back to my hometown for a real-world job in Sports Information, the chances for adventure have been few and far between. When I’ve had a rare speck of free time, I’ve been more likely to spend it on the couch than the road.

Something about May in the northern states, however, breathes restlessness like the trees rushing almost visibly to leaf out during every warm day.

So I eagerly planned my escape. As soon as the Amherst College baseball team ended its season, I was headed for the Midwest and as many reunions as I could fit into a week or so. But as we all know, sports are wonderfully and miserably unpredictable. And when sports dictate your schedule, sometimes the rest of the world has to be put on hold.

 Baseball postseason was easily the highlight of my year.
And so I rode the wave with our guys through an unexpected conference title, a surprise shipment out of New England to NCAA Regionals in upstate New York, and a pair of Cinderella wins over two of the nation’s top teams. Along the way, I battled with iMovie, covered some magical games, and generally reminded myself why baseball is one of the greatest gifts humanity has ever given itself.

But that’s not the point, really. Despite my affection for our baseball team, I went into the postseason half-grumbling that their success might delay my personal date with Lady Adventure. But somewhere in the middle of it all, she came and found me ahead of schedule. Somewhere between the crumbling woodwork of a minor league press box in New Britain, Conn. and the raucous Friday night crowd at Curley’s Bar and Grill in Auburn, N.Y. I was actually having a hell of a time.

This was the first instance in which my job had brought me the kind of exhilarating new experiences that I had condemned it for denying me. Of course, it was still too little too late. A couple weeks of travel don’t make up for months of late nights and lost weekends, and I’ll be hanging up my SID spikes and heading west come July – more on that in a few paragraphs. Still, the chance to hit the road for work was a reminder that with an open mind, great adventures can surprise us in unexpected forms.

So when the Jeffs finally went down two wins shy of a trip to the College World Series, I was actually disappointed that I wouldn’t be covering them longer. I should have been mad that their deep run at the tournament had sidelined my plans to be in Wisconsin already, but instead, with a peaceful mind, I packed up the car after the last paragraph was written and drove through the night to salvage what I could of the trip. And when the opportunity arose to stay there for another week and cover the track and field team at nationals, I asked for the new assignment without hesitation.

I’ll be 23 for barely a month longer. Most of this year has been spent wishing I had more time to act my age, to make the kind of memories I knew my college friends were making together as active young adults in Boston and Seattle and Madison. So now that the athletic season is over and my work schedule dwindling, I’m starting to make up for lost time. Last weekend it was a concert-and-camping trip to New Hampshire that screamed to me between barefoot bluegrass and midnight barred owl conversations just how much I had missed my old hippie ways. Soon, I’ll be reviving that side in a much bigger way.

Summer on the Colorado Trail. What could be better?
Once my employment at Amherst ends on Friday, June 28, I’ll be b-lining it to the Rockies, reuniting with Denver friends and family for a few days, then leaving everything else behind but my backpack. My friend Rhys is hiking the entire 486 miles of the Colorado Trail this summer before spending a year in China, and I’ll be joining him for some sizable chunks of the journey. It’ll be a time for camaraderie and for silence, for perspective and regrouping, but mostly for fun in the mountains.

After that, question marks still abound. I’ll be moving to Madison in August, living with some great friends in a great city, and taking the rest as it comes. The job hunt is in full swing but seems less important than it probably should. Maybe one of these resume recipients will take the time to find out what a Sports Information Director really does and I’ll be back to a full-time grind. Maybe I’ll work part-time and focus more fully on applying to graduate school, an inevitable turn in my path whose approach I grow more excited for daily. Maybe I’ll say screw it after the fall and head west for the ski bum winter I’ve always craved.

What I do know is this: it’s time to let people and places take priority for a while. It’s been two years and two days since I graduated from Carleton and my whereabouts for the bulk of that time have been determined by jobs. For as long as I’m fortunate enough to have some cash in my pocket, that’s going to change.

I will be thankful long past my next chapter, however, for the way that this one is ending. This last month at Amherst – from the relationships I’ve strengthened to the fact that more people watched my NCAA baseball broadcasts than the college’s graduation live stream – it has shown me that no matter how frustrating a job, a place, a relationship might be on a daily basis, flexibility and a desire for new challenges can bring out the best in it.

Wherever you are, Adventure is there for the taking, my friends. You might just have to get creative about finding her.

And that’s a lesson that will last far longer than any team’s season.