So I’ve been thinking again. Mostly about my age and people around my age. Prepare for this to take a turn. Not like a gradual turn, but like a hairpin turn.
The twenty-fifth was my twenty-second birthday and it was a different one. Nothing weird happened—it just wasn’t like others. I think back to the birthdays I had when I was younger. They were always so celebratory; running around, eating gluten-filled Scooby-Doo cakes, and jumping on trampolines. That progressed to friends staying the night, tossing a football around in the street, racing go-karts, and playing video games all night until our sugar intakes knocked us out. Eventually, I wouldn’t really celebrate at all. Last year’s was a special one, though—the big one. My actual birthday was spent at work with a pounding migraine, so that was eventful. Some friends of mine eased the pain by bringing me gifts and gluten-free cakes. It was incredibly thoughtful. The following week, when I felt better, I went to the bar with my friends from work, planning on only having a cider or two so I could wake up for my 8 a.m. midterm the next morning. I don’t remember that night too well and that Wednesday I was over an hour late to class—in great discomfort—to find that my instructor posted the exam online and extended its completion date. I got lucky.
This year was mellow in contrast, but honestly, one of my favorites. It was so simple and enjoyable. After an amazing dinner, I was headed to Cripple Creek with some friends of mine. Not to gamble or drink, but to take pictures. Honestly, I would have gone alone, but it’s just not as fun getting eaten by a mountain lion without company.
I love Cripple Creek. Even though it’s designed for adults, the majority of my memories there are from my youth. I remember walking up and down the streets, hiking around the abandoned railcars and houses outside of Victor, writing rhetorical analyses in this little coffee shop that might not actually be there anymore. I need to check on that, I liked that place. I think it’s beautiful. I love the atmosphere.
Even when it seemed like there was nothing to do, there was so much to do.
To my surprise, many of the sculptures from the previous weekend’s ice festival were still standing. I mean, some of the figures looked like they had laid eyes upon the Ark of the Covenant, but that’s to be expected with cloudless, abnormal February warmth. I was giddy, probably more excited than I should have been over ice, but hey, I thought I missed it. And I think I got some decent shots.
The colors were phenomenal. They were so vibrant and did wonders reflecting through the different textures of ice. I’d never seen such beautiful iridescence and fracturing. The best part was the emptiness. We had the entire stretch to ourselves, minus the occasional geriatric towing his oxygen tank outside for a smoke break. Don’t believe me? Go to Cripple Creek sometime, you’ll see.
I never understood that. Why would someone who has such trouble breathing smoke? Especially in such close proximity to a compressed oxygen tank? Have they smoked their whole lives? Does it take the edge off of the free drinks and money loss? Is it an anxiety thing? Why aren’t they vaping like all the cool kids? Is it a part of their identity? Was there some event in their life that lead them to smoke? Does it bring back memories of when they were younger?
And there it is. The turn. I promise I won’t do this in every post. Mostly because I don’t think I have enough emotional fuel to burn long, drawn-out, deep paragraphs. But yeah, I got to thinking again. I’m twenty-two. When my grandparents were my age, they had children. Not just babies, but children. My friends are off traveling the world, getting married, moving up in their careers. What am I doing? What have I accomplished? Initially, not much came to mind. I mean, I graduated from college, but the two job opportunities I had in my degree field weren’t feasible. I’ve adopted two dogs and paid off my truck, but that doesn’t further my career. Lately, I’ve put so much thought into my accomplishments and failures. Imagine all of the books I could have read. Or all the paintings and drawings I could have completed.
Look at this house. I’m sure this thing was beautiful when it was first built. It was probably a real accomplishment for someone. They housed their family, their life, their belongings. But what if that wasn’t what the person who built that house wanted? What if that’s what everyone else was doing and they surrendered to that path? He could have been a writer, an explorer, anything, really. But instead he probably settled down, worked for the mine or a casino, and left all of those pages between the start of his book and the end unfulfilled; not blank, but incomplete. Look at this house again. It’s beautiful in it’s own way and it’s foundation has endured all of these years. I’m not saying that those who are on those paths are wrong. Everyone is entitled to live their lives how they want. I’m just saying that those paths are not for me. There are some gorgeous mansions in and around Cripple Creek. But for every one of those there is one of these. Ten, or twenty, or thirty years from now, I don’t want to be found boarded up where I started. Twenty-two is old in some areas of the world. Here, it is young.
I’ve realized something. I am here, alive, doing whatever it is that I’m doing now because of all the things I did and didn’t end up doing in the past twenty-two years. I’m not in jail. I haven’t hurt anybody. I haven’t hurt myself. I don’t have any addictions. If I had an opportunity to move to the other side of the world right now, I could. I’ve made some wise choices. I’ve got it good. Sure, I know people who seem to have their lives figured out and I’m proud of them, it’s a rarity. They had the courage to pursue their interests. However, I also know others who are trapped. Some of them don’t have the foresight to see the corrosiveness of their actions.
I’m going to jump back to the house metaphor. I feel it needs elaboration.
I. There are those who build their house upon a strong foundation with diligence. They do it themselves or with the help of others. Keyword: diligence.
II. There are those who have their houses built for them by others. They realize their fortune or are corrupted by the ease. Keywords: built for them.
III. There are those who want to build a house but cannot. They lack the resources or are less fortunate. Keyword: cannot.
IV. There are those who do not want to build a house ever. Keyword: hipster. Not really, but you get my meaning.
V. There are those who build houses for others. They have a house of their own or do not have one at all. Keywords: build for others.
VI. There are those who never build a house of their own, but instead are transient in the houses of others. Keyword: transient.
VII. Then, there are those who like the idea of building a house, but aren’t prudent in their approach; leaving it to collapse or be taken from them. Keywords: aren’t prudent. These are those I reference.
I have no idea how my house is being built, at least not yet. I think I’m laying a foundation, but I won’t know its strength until a storm blows through. I wonder what that guy with the cigarette and oxygen tank’s house is like.
I’m twenty-two and I don’t know what I want to be doing ten, or twenty, or thirty years from now. I don’t know what I want to be doing now. I know it involves traveling, writing, and photography, but I don’t have my heart set on any particular end goals. I feel like I’m going to have to build a career for myself in order to do what I love. That is terrifying, but I’d be lying to myself if I dropped everything and committed to just one path. I think it would be limiting. I don’t know. For now, I’m just going to enjoy that I can look up at the stars, relaxed, in this moment. Some people don’t have that option.
I like the picture above this. The one of the road and all the blurriness. I took this in the middle of CO 67 looking towards the backside of Pikes Peak around 1 a.m. I relate to it. All that is in focus is the beat up road immediately in front of me, but even then I can still make out where it’s headed. It’s not clear by any means, but it’s beautiful. And there’s light on the horizon.
I’m going to leave a quote. Not John Muir, but another wise, old man. Gandalf. I’m going to quote Gandalf, or rather, J.R.R. Tolkien. These words have resonated with me for months now. Not a day has gone by that they haven’t passed through my thoughts.
“All you have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given to you.”
© Jordan Poole Photography
2 thoughts on “Blame the Guy with the Cigarette”
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I laughed out loud at number four. Keyword: hipster. So good. Also, from a twenty something a little further down the road, I don’t think it ever gets clearer. We can only really focus on what we are doing right now because it’s all we have. I love reading where you are at. It’s encouraging to me, and I hope I can encourage you that life is really just a bunch of nows strung together to make something beautiful.
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