What time of day do you feel most awake? When do the ideas flow? Perhaps in the shower? Or as you sip your first coffee? Maybe you get your high from running? Perhaps you sort things out on your morning drive? All just in time to begin the grind.
3 degrees, the green digits displayed from the dash. I cranked up the music. I prepared for the 10th round of the fight. The slam of the door erupted into the night. With every step, the frigid wind bit. My socks were soaked. My knees screamed. I threw a weak right hook toward the handle, I missed. I tried again.
The bell rattled. My call to action. "Guest wants three comforters and two humidifiers." "Shit!" I wanted to quit. I tightened my fist.
The door to the rec room was propped open by a towel. A trail of half crushed beer cans led outside. A group of rowdy southern frat boys sloshed around in the foamy jacuzzi. "You kickin’ us out?" One of them slurred. "Yep. The pool closed at 10." "Ah come on, just five more minutes." another one said. "It's quarter till eleven, I've already given you 45." They finally left. Round Eleven.
I grabbed the tarp. A sheet of ice. It ripped in pieces as it scraped my bare hands. The phone chirped again. "Fuck!"
"Guests say their tv is broken. Please assist."
“One more hour of bullshit to go.” I told myself. Just another night on-call.
A spot opened up. I needed a change.
For the past week, I've been working days.
Suddenly the conversations flow. I smile from time to time. Hell, this afternoon I even caught myself nodding blissfully to a song. There hasn't been much sun, the sky’s been white. But I can finally see! And what a time for it. The entire resort is buried in snow. It's breathtaking. I’ve been packing my camera with me.
The shifts are still long, but I haven't dozed off once. Nor have I slammed a single door. Yep, I was right, working days is much more natural. There’s just one problem. By the time I slip off my soggy shoes, my tank is completely dry.
I've tried to write a few times, but my thoughts are a mess. I've tried reading, but I can't concentrate. I've even tried watching Netflix, but I don't care enough to decide. After ten hours of walking the resort, all I want to do is sleep.
With every hour of this past week, the anxiety has grown. In vacant lots between calls, I’ve tried to slip away. But each time I’m called back to work by that god-awful chirp. In the evenings, it’s all I can think about. But my fingers are either paralyzed, or drunkenly dumb. They’re far from sober now. But I can’t take it anymore. I NEED TO WRITE.
And so, I've realized. Nights were tough, but they were worth it. It's not about what you get paid for, but what you prioritize.
For three months straight, I filled my mornings with productivity. I'd wake up around 8 or 8:30. Stretch, read, study Japanese, and write. Sure, I was always exhausted by the time I clocked in, and it was always a grind, but that shift just was overtime.
For three months I was a writer who paid the bills with some temporary gig at night. Now, in this week working days, I feel like an employee. I’ve lost my identity.
What's your most productive time? When do your thoughts flow? What do you think about most? What are your goals? Identify. Prioritize. Do what you have to, to pay the bills. But don't ever sacrifice your identity. In four weeks, I leave on (self)assignment.
My keys were still stuffed securely against my ribs. My phone still played music. Anxiously, I patted myself down from the chairlift. Something was missing. I spotted it. The small zipper on my right thigh was slightly open. “Shit.”
With two frozen fingers, I probed the wallet pocket. My license and credit card were still there. So was my earbud case. Hell, even my chap stick. It seemed everything was accounted for. "But wait, wasn't there something else?" "Of course, the pen!"
"Well, if you're going to throw it away..." I'd accepted it with reluctance, from a friend who'd come to visit from out of state. I'd purchased them in the past, and I was aware of the dangers of their convenience.
No, I’m not exactly what you'd call a stoner. At least I hope not. But I have taken advantage of the liberal Colorado laws with regularity. Rarely ever more than one breathe. I see small doses of THC as a means of clarity. More akin to a cup of coffee than a shot of whiskey.
Unlike in past stints, this winter, I've taken several breaks. Most recently, I avoided any intoxicants for three weeks.
But last week, while rummaging through my sock drawer, I felt the cool metal pen. I inhaled. I released. The feeling was mild. Only recognizable because we'd met previously. Things were a little clearer. I was more observant than usual.
The next day, I hit it again. The third day marked a trend. I couldn't come up with a reason not to, so I did it again. And again. And again.
On the lift, in the blaring Summit County sun, I couldn't see my breathe. "Is this thing frozen?" I thought. I couldn't tell if it was working. Uncharacteristically, I inhaled several times. As we unloaded the chair, it hit me. I'd taken too many. I felt the anxiety.
On the way back up, I realized it was gone. But I was far from upset. Instead, I laughed at how at times life gives us signs. In just thirteen days, I leave Summit County. Four days after that, I board a flight to Japan.
In Asia I won't be able to get a pen or any other form of cannabis. But that's quite alright. Because you see, when you travel, your eyes are open, as is your mind. When you escape the comforts of a routine, in a way, life gets simpler. There's no time to think about "what ifs" or "whens". Your body’s just trying to figure out how to find the essentials and survive.
When you're on the road, you meet people, and interact outside. There's no time to sit around and get lost in your own mind. When you're challenging yourself, everyday becomes an eternity. At the smallest successes, like finding your way in a foreign subway, filling your stomach with a piping hot bowl of foreign cuisine, or even sharing a smile on some foreign street, you feel deep satisfaction inside.
I’m addict. I want it daily. I get this urge to experience it, that I’ll hopefully never satisfy. At home, I find this mellow baseline.
When I travel, it’s not all happy. There’re valleys, and canyons, who’s depths may make you question why. Oh, but the peaks. There’s no feeling quite like being tuned in to the highs of life.