Skip to content

Confessions of a Grateful Heart

2010 November 25
by shana

As I write this, it is approximately 20 degrees with the sun shining and the wind blowing. This is a welcome respite from the below zero temperatures of the past week. My original plan had been to head toward Arizona this Fall. (But then, my original plan had been to keep up with my posts too.) I guess sometimes things don’t go as planned and sometimes life has something else in store for us.

I wanted to take a moment today to write an update, not of my trip to Alaska, but of my current place. You see, when I first set out on this trip I was full of grand ideas. I had it all planned out, or at least loosely outlined. I felt compelled, I felt inspired, I would even say I felt guided. The trip to Alaska was supposed to be my trial run. Would I like traveling solo? Would I like living in a camper? Would I like being on the move? Would I be able to manage the feelings of separation from family and friends? Could I make this work?

The answer to all of those questions was a resounding yes. I loved it. I loved seeing new things and having new experiences. Traveling solo has both it’s advantages and disadvantages, but for this trip, it served it’s purpose well. Being on the move was balanced by having my camper – a space that was mine and was constant. I loved my little camper – even with all of it’s imperfections and ailments. Feelings of loneliness or separation was eased by emails, text messages, and of course, meeting new people. Sure, I would need to figure out my electricity and internet access a little better, but overall it was great.

There was just one flaw – one major flaw. Despite all my ideas, I had not figured out a solid plan to finance this trip. Sure – I had enough ideas that could have had money coming out my ears, but instead I found myself depleted. I had only a small reserve, and with unexpected camper woes, unexpected vehicle expenses, and things that I just couldn’t have anticipated before I set out, I went through that reserve quickly. I won’t analyze it here, but for some reason I just found myself spinning without gaining much traction.

The irony is, I found myself having some of the most amazing experiences in Alaska because of my financial situation. I won’t write any spoilers now because I want to give those experiences the space they deserve. Sure, I would have rather had the money I needed to comfortably travel through my days, and to allow me to continue on this path, but the truth is that I wouldn’t trade the experiences I had in Alaska for all the money in the world.

However, the reality of the situation had become that I needed to find a job for the winter. This was something I had considered a possibility as I set out, but had hoped I would be able to find a way to freelance or otherwise work online enabling me to work while I traveled. I started out looking for jobs in Alaska, but ended up coming back to Montana before it was too late to drive. It was sad leaving Alaska. It was beautiful, I had met up with old friends, made new friends, and loved the landscape and the energy there. There was a part of me that was worried that if I stayed I might never leave. On one hand, that would be great, on the other… I wouldn’t be completing what I had set out to do. Life is just a series of choices right?

When I got back to Montana, I started looking for jobs for the winter. I had applications out all over the state. I was about to go crazy if I had to fill out one more online application. Sure, it is easy if you only have to fill out one. But one after another, after another, after another… put me out of my misery!

As it worked out, I got back to Montana at just the right time to stay with my grandparents and help out as my grandpa was recovering from shoulder replacement surgery. With my open schedule, I was able to drive him the 30 miles to his physical therapy appointments three times a week.

While he was out of commission, he said I could turn his wood shop into a temporary art studio. I finished a couple paintings out there, and then started working with metal a little bit again. I hadn’t had the opportunity to do much with it for almost 10 years other than a small project here and there. It felt amazing! Everything flooded back to me in waves, and I found myself almost in a trance like state working in the shop completely oblivious to time, hunger, or weariness. And, with the prospect of posting them in an online shop and a small craft bazaar, it allowed me to feel as though I was being productive and proactive about my financial situation as I was going through the job application process.

This is one of the funny things about life. I had applications out everywhere. And yeah, times are hard, unemployment is high, there are more people applying for the same jobs than ever before… I realize all of that. But, I wasn’t having any luck and was trying to stay positive. I was trying to smother the feelings of anxiety of getting trapped in a cycle of barely getting by in a job that slowly suffocated my soul. I was trying not to fall into negative thought patterns and feelings of failure and defeat.

I know there are people who think that quitting my job and setting out on a trip like this with debt and without a solid financial plan was incredibly stupid. And, I realize that trying to explain to them that I “needed” to do it, that it was important for my soul, and my life experience, would be like speaking to them in a language they do not comprehend. But, I will say anyway that I needed to quit my job, I needed to pursue my dream, I needed to experience both the independence and the struggles.

A few months before I left on this trip, I had a dream about a leap of Faith. In this dream, I was scared, I tried to argue against jumping with reason, logic, research, and even proof. But sometimes Faith defies logic. I jumped. And in this dream I lost everything, but I came out stronger because of it. I woke with this dream so vivid in my mind, and felt it through my entire being. This dream had wedged itself in the back of my mind, and every time I felt as though I was failing, or was defeated, I remembered this dream and it gave me hope that it was all going to work out in the end.

One of my favorite Marilyn Monroe quotes: “I believe that everything happens for a reason. People change so that you can learn to let go, things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they’re right, you believe lies so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself, and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” I am not sure I necessarily agree with the trusting no one but yourself line, but I do like to believe that everything happens for a reason and that sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.

During the process of job hunting, I kept reminding myself to have faith that I would end up exactly where I needed to be. Oddly enough, I found that I had driven approximately 8500 miles to end up exactly where I was back in 2003. How did that happen? And even more odd, is that with all the job applications I had out, and the jobs I was waiting to hear back from, and only a few hours after I picked up a thick application complete with several additional hoops to jump through… I received a phone call for an interview just a few miles away from a place I didn’t even apply to. Life is funny, because there were so many different possible scenarios, I would like to believe that everything else was just stalling until the right opportunity came along.

I am not sure what the purpose is, or what the plan is, but I also realize that sometimes we don’t get to know. It is more about making the most of the situation you find yourself in. What I do know is that I have so many things to be grateful for on this Thanksgiving Day.

While I was staying with my friend in Missoula, she asked me if I missed having an apartment with a couch and a bed, etc. I immediately realized that I didn’t. It was nice to visit, but the thought of renting an apartment, signing a lease, and furnishing it overwhelmed me. If I wanted to continue traveling in the Spring, the last thing I wanted to do was sign a lease, and spend money replacing the things I had sold before I left only to have to try to sell them again in the Spring. I didn’t want to fuss with all of that. I am really grateful and have been really fortunate to have options and offers from family and friends to allow me to stay with them for the winter so that I can focus on getting back on track without having to sign a lease to live in a furniture-less apartment.

Again, I am not sure what my future holds at this point in time. I have barely had time to think about it between working a new job and working in the shop as much as possible while I have the opportunity. I am so incredibly far behind on my entries in this blog it is not even funny, but I do plan on continuing to post my experiences from the trip and hope that you will continue to share in them with me. I would also like to think that I will get into a better flow of posting after the holidays.

I want to conclude this post by sharing my gratitude on this Thanksgiving Day. I am so grateful for wonderful family and friends, for the time spent and the love shared. I am grateful for the open doors, open arms, and helping hands. I am so grateful for the experiences that this life has offered me, and the many it still has to offer. I am grateful for the friends met, and the friends yet to meet, the road traveled and the road yet to travel. I am grateful for all the blessings in my life, even those disguised as hardships for the lessons and strength they provide.

Happy Thanksgiving!
May you have a day filled with acknowledgement of your blessings, and shared love and gratitude.

(The present letter is a very long one, simply because I had no leisure to make it shorter. – Blaise Pascal.)

Bookmark and Share
One Response leave one →
  1. January 20, 2011

    Shana – This is such a great post. Life doesn’t make sense… and hopefully we are too busy living it to try to make sense of it! Everything does happen for a reason and we never have any idea. That’s what makes it so much fun. Thanks for sharing!

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

Rss Feed Tweeter button Facebook button Flickr button Youtube button