Undercover Dirtbag

I am not a good employee. At 3:47pm on a Friday, I am frantically moving my fingers across the computer keyboard while simultaneously pressing the phone against my ear to order flowers for my boss’ grandmother while praying that he makes an early dinner reservation at 5pm so I can scoot out of the office, quickly. I have an expansive Yosemite trail map permanently hidden in my browser tabs on my work laptop (yes, really), and on any given weekend, I’m struggling to answer important emails from high in the Sierra Nevada or a local desert crag. In short, my mind is often elsewhere.

Take, for instance, the time I was midway through a marathon, 17 hour peak-bagging expedition, and I nearly jumped out of my trail runners when my phone buzzed as I descended to the saddle of Villager Peak. My boss was changing his flight to Utah 20 minutes before wheels up, and he had suddenly lost the ability to pick up a phone and call the travel agent himself. There was only one thing to do – quickly tap away on my smartphone while boulder-hopping up the next summit to get him squared away. I held my phone to the sky as though making an offering to the gods of Verizon, praying my service wouldn’t cut out, while my hiking buddies rolled their eyes in annoyance, clearly not impressed.

It is precisely this dichotomy that runs me ragged as I straddle the two worlds. On one hand, my inner romantic tugs at my mind to run away to the mountains in a van and like… live or write or something. Meanwhile, my left-brain loves the predictability of a steady income and the ability to afford all the fancy, lightweight gear that REI hawks each week in their newsletter.

This is the millennial, bohemian version of the devil and the angel perched vexingly on each shoulder. Only, in my ideal world, the phantom angel and devil are entangled in chaotic harmony, limbs akimbo as they fuck on top of my cranium. I can only pray that the child they foster is called balance.

My coworkers stare at me with vacant gazes when I explain to them that the skin peeling off my fingers is from bouldering on some sweet sandstone bluffs or that the reason I’m limping is because I tweaked my IT band on a 10 mile trail run. “Did you watch Ke$ha’s performance at the Grammys?” they’ll excitedly inquire on a Monday morning while my mind is still spinning from binge-watching every installment of Reel Rock and staying up until 3am, trying to will the sinewy muscles in my fingers to get burlier.

I once asked my roommate what he does to make friends at work, being a tatted-up burner, bisexual, and one of the weirdest people I know. His response surprised me. “I try to act like the most boring, normal person at the office, so I can get in and out of there as quickly as possible and get on with my life.” “Huh,” I blinked back at him, bemused. I hadn’t thought of that. I scratched my head and sat with it for a moment, but something about his strategy didn’t feel right in my gut.

Though it pains me to say this, I have a sneaking suspicion that my rampant dirtbaggery would not be as cathartic without the 9-5 assistant gig to rally my battle cry against. The striking differences between the two are what defines each version of myself, their inherent value bubbling to the surface more clearly when tension builds up. Even as I save for a van and a year away from city life, I am prepared for a bit of a rude awakening and a wistful yearning for the brilliant colors that only contrast can bring.

Perhaps getting older isn’t so much about finding balance, as it is about honoring all aspects of a life well lived. Challenge yourself, smile, and learn to say thank you to the dull moments in the great tapestry of your bold and precious life.

“Whatever you are, be a good one.”
William Makepeace Thackeray

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