One Week, 11 Years Ago

Island Park

I normally don’t post on Saturday, but I’m on vacation and I just felt the urge. I’ll beg your pardon from the beginning because this post is mostly self-serving. I’m revisiting a place I haven’t been to in almost 10 years, and I’m struck by how fast time goes by. The last time I visited Island Park, I’d just completed my freshman year of college. But it’s an even earlier trip 11 years ago that’s stuck in my mind. The summer between my junior and senior year of high school, I spent a week in Island Park with two girlfriends. To put the time in perspective, both have since married. One has two children, the other a little girl. I’m rarely in touch with the latter and have lost contact with the former. Time does march on.

But it’s a crazy week I’ll never forget. One night, driving around Henry’s Lake we ended up at a crossroad. Turn right and head back to the condo for the night, or turn left and head into Montana. Staying true to a youthful sense of invincibility, I turned left and we drove into the night, wearing our pajamas, without money, cell phones, or common sense. We ended up in Ennis, Montana, driving down Main Street right at closing time based on the chairs being stacked in the bars. A quick u-turn sent us back the way we’d come. That was it. We were in pajamas. Our daring only went so far. We made it back without hitting wildlife or getting pulled over by the police. I could perhaps explain the attire, but explaining the lack of a license would be trickier.

This vacation has stuck in my mind. We didn’t do anything particularly exciting (random road trip excluded). We swam, fed the fishes, and walked through West Yellowstone. But the memories stick because it was a time where I still believed I could do anything. Few people retain that belief as they grow older. They recognize that responsibilities and restrictions can hamper choices, making it harder to believe. That summer, that week to be precise, also marked the beginning of a seven-year relationship with a boy (and I knowingly use “boy”). Short story—it didn’t work out. That week sticks because it was spent with people I cared about. Even though it was the beginning of summer, in some ways it was a farewell. My friends had graduated a few weeks earlier and were headed to college in the fall. I still had a year of high school left. As the saying goes, things would never be the same.

I’m definitely on a nostalgia trip, but more importantly, I’m reviewing where I’m at in life. I can’t say that at 17 I knew exactly what I wanted, but I don’t think I could have predicted where I’ve ended up. I’ve started my own business. It’s young, and I’m sure I’ll hit bumpy spots, but the experience has been very empowering. It’s helped restore that earlier belief that I can do anything. My life has shown me that in spite of the nonsense that invariably crosses your path, amazing things can still happen. You can still experience a renaissance, and it doesn’t have to wait until you’re 40.

Right now, we’re at a point where reinventing yourself on a regular basis is acceptable. Doing one thing in your 20s and another in your 30s causes fewer eyebrows to rise with each passing year. From what I can see, more people are pushing back against the notion that who you think you’ll be at 40 isn’t necessarily who’ll be at 50 or at 60. Access to information and expanding technology only make it easier to reinvent, to cast yourself anew. My feed reader is filled with stories about people creating their own worlds, defining their idea of success and happiness. In spite of the ugliness that fills the news, I feel like there’s never been a greater time to be alive. The possibilities are endless, as are the challenges. But that’s what makes it so exciting. It’s not a giveaway, but options exist today that didn’t exist 10 years ago. I believe the same will be true 10 years from now too.

This trip has reminded me that a lot can happen. Life doesn’t always go as planned. And unexpected things can happen, shaking up your world, and changing how you see things. Today, I’m not entirely that girl from 11 years ago, but I’m happy to discover that the parts I liked most are still there. I’ll be curious to see what changes the next 11 years bring.



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July 2007
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