(Preface: Written on, or around, June 16th, 2015 in Fort Collins Colorado)
I haven’t been in Truckee in nearly six months. But no matter where I am in my life, physically, mentally, or emotionally, I take comfort in knowing that our little haven exists, snuggled into the magnificent Sierras; a place where I can retreat to clear my mind and find answers to my most pressing questions.
Truckee will always be my hometown. It will always be the first place that welcomed me and gave me opportunities to love. I never cease to find peace and solace in this place. There’s an unexplainable healing quality to the air. While I still can’t fully describe the specifics of what I’ll call, ‘The Truckee Effect,’ I am yet to host a single visitor that couldn’t feel it, at least to an extent.
Now, as I sit in Fort Collins, anticipating returning to Truckee next month, I can already feel the pull of the ‘effect.’ It’s a healthy effect. It’s a healthy place. And there are many small havens just like it all over the world. But Truckee will always be my first love.
The familiar smell of the pines, the refreshing waters of Donner Lake, the hustle and bustle of a busy summer weekend, the river flowing from that massive expanse of water over the ridge to the south, and even the frustrated locals shouting at the tourists that struggle to navigate our roundabouts.
It’s all a beautiful scene. It’s art in motion; human poetry; people going about their daily chores, creating a flow of people, cars, bikes, boats, paddleboards, and other readily available forms of transportation. But it rarely gets so massive as to cause considerable frustration. It seems to remain relatively peaceful and serene.
At any point, one can choose to take a hundred steps into the forest and feel as though no mass of human population could compromise the beauty of such a place. At any point, one can drive up to the Martis Peak lookout and gaze upon the dominant mountains that keep our little town tucked nicely in its place. At any point, one can sit along the river and simply observe the water flowing downhill.
This flow doesn’t often stop unless we have a hand in it. The river, the trees, the mountains. They will all outlast us, so long as we stop doing everything in our power to destroy them. I love Truckee. The place itself has played a large role in my development. I still have connections here. There are still many people I know and love here.
This place taught me how much hard work and sacrifice it takes to achieve a long-awaited goal. It taught me how to pick myself up and move forward when I fell short of these dreams. I learned what a healthy, vibrant community looks like. I learned what it truly means to love the place you live.
This isn’t a privilege enjoyed by everyone. Not everyone knows the pleasures that come from an existence that, for some part, unfolds within a small, comfortable bubble. Nowadays, the world feels much bigger, and at times, much crueler than it did while I was growing up in Truckee. The world offers so many possibilities, almost too many to choose rationally, but it also offers risk, danger, and the reality of death.
Of course, we must take risks if we wish to grow. Making a conscious effort to minimize risk, however, can prove beneficial. Sufficiently clearing the mind so that one may do so, however, can prove incredibly difficult in many places. The hectic pace of the cities I’ve experienced, for example, offer little space for the peace of mind that is necessary to tune into our innermost desires. Truckee, though, always manages to give me that space.
She tells me that everything will be as it will be. She tells me to walk among her forests and weigh my options. She tells me to go out and be merry with friends. She tells me to swim in her lakes, sit by her river, and breathe her clean air. She asks me what exactly it is that I want at this moment, and she tells me there’s absolutely no reason why I can’t have it. She lends me confidence and she reminds me of the beauty that exists in the world.
She doesn’t judge me for wanting to leave her behind. She reassures me that she’ll still be here when I wish to return. She knows eventually I’ll be back. She knows I can’t stay away for too long. She knows I’ll come back to climb her mountains and frolic through her meadows. She knows I’ll return to fish her streams and dig in her dirt. She knows that I feel an intimate connection with her beauty and kindness.
She feels, even from afar, the intense love that has grown, over many years, from our connection. She saw me sometimes return from other places dejected and downtrodden. She knew how bittersweet it always felt when I turned to leave, but she knew the healing that always took place in her presence. She will always welcome me back with open arms. And I will always be hard-pressed to find another place that evokes such strong emotions. A decade of growth in one place is more than enough to instill an infinite love for that place, if, of course, that place is worthy of love.
My path since leaving Truckee has taken me to some amazing places. I wouldn’t go so far to say it’s taken me ‘far and wide’, but it’s been seven years since I walked out of that high school, ready to take on the world and learn what I could in the process. I spent the first four years in San Diego. Despite above average weather and so many beautiful women that one often pondered the idea of shirking class altogether in favor of a sunny afternoon taking in the beautiful scenery, I often felt trapped by the immensity of the city.
Without fail I returned to Truckee every summer. I didn’t feel the same connection to that place, and I couldn’t help but listen to the call of a family that has always been there to provide love and support, a summer job that kept me active and outdoors, and friends with which I was always at ease to explore, laugh, and love.
Eight months in San Diego and four months in Truckee, for four years. Such was a significant phase of my life, and yet it feels like such a blur as I sit here now. I do remember, quite vividly, the sudden approach of the completion of my degree. I’m still not too sure how it happened, but I found myself suddenly faced with the all-important questions, “So what are you planning to do with your degree?” “What’s the next step? Where are you applying for a job?” I had no idea. No clue. I was drawing a complete blank.
Four more years of “education” and I still couldn’t tell you what I was passionate about, what I wanted to do for work, what I could hang my hat on. I needed something more than San Diego could offer. I needed another place uniquely my own, but I came back to the only place I knew I could love at that time, Truckee.
I came back because I was unsure. I came back because I was scared of the world. I came back because it seemed like the easiest thing to do at the time. I came home because I couldn’t handle the pressure of making a “career decision.” I came home because, while I enjoyed what I studied, I clearly was still undecided about pursuing a career in that field. I came home to take my “old reliable” summer job at the rec department and to try to “figure it out.”
One of my biggest internal questions at the time: “Where does love fit into this picture?” Sure enough, as it’s always easy to say in hindsight, I found myself in a relationship by the end of the summer, and the decision to stay in Truckee through the winter was never in question. I threw myself fully into the throes of love. I loved, with everything I had at that time, and I worked, at jobs that brought me an array of unrelated experience, but at nothing that sparked my sincere interest.
Eight months passed. I worked at the Rec Department through the summer. I cleaned clubs and carts at Old Greenwood Golf Course from late summer into early fall. I took a job with a Crestwood Construction in Martis Camp from late fall into the middle of winter, and I worked at the Nordic Center at Northstar for the remainder of the winter months, where I picked up a few tips on tele skiing and shared stories from my childhood in this town with interested tourists on snowshoe tours.
All the while I was spending considerable time with an amazing women, and her family. But a stagnant feeling began to creep into my being as winter turned to spring and spring gave way to summer. I began, somewhat obsessively, to consider what I was doing, personally, to better myself. Worst of all, I began to feel that, as much as I didn’t want to accept it, the pursuit of my personal development would mean that the pursuit of this relationship must come to an end.
Still, I tried not to confront this internal truth, though at the time I wasn’t able to verbalize my trepidations in this manner. I tried to ignore these feelings. I tried to eschew my intuition. But when the gut tells us, over and over, that we must make a change, we cannot easily ignore this feeling forever. My internal conflict culminated with a “secret” application to the Masters in Tourism Management at Colorado State University (CSU). My general plan, at this point, was to pursue an online degree while holding down a steady job in town and continuing to work at my growing relationship.
Something inside me must’ve known that my investment wouldn’t be worth the potential return if I didn’t take the leap and move to Fort Collins to immerse myself in the program and the community. As was my style, however, I continued down a path that would’ve kept me in Truckee until, thanks to my ex, who knew what needed to be done better than myself in that moment, the decision was made for me.
My relationship ended early in the summer, and, in August, I went off to Fort Collins, with two of my childhood friends in tow. Well, not ‘in tow’, really. That sounds as if I dragged them along against their will. I assure you they came on their own accord. And I can assure you it’s been a positively engaging learning experience ever since.
I’ve acquired a new skillset that has enabled me to work from the comfort of my home, the spacious accommodations of local coffee shops, or anywhere else I’m able connect to functional Wi-FI. I’ve taken on the challenge of running my own business and learning the lessons that go along with that challenge. I’ve grown closer to two friends I hope will continue to be a large part of my life for many years to come. I made a number of new connections, and who really knows what will pan out with those?
After nine months in Fort Collins, and a second piece of formal “degree paper” in my hands, I spent a month hiking the John Muir Trail, two months back in Truckee, a week on Oahu, nearly three months on Maui, another week in Oahu, a month in Truckee, a month on the road hopping around Southern California, two months back in Fort Collins, three weeks in New Jersey, a week driving my grandfather, in a rental RV, from Jersey to San Diego for my cousin’s wedding, another week driving the RV back to Jersey, one more week catching up on work in Jersey, and I finally find myself back in Fort Collins, but only for a little more than two weeks before my roommates and I pack up a U-Haul and hightail it back to Truckee for 4th of July.
I come back because I’m looking for stability, and I know it is always a place that can provide me with that. I come back to see my family and the plethora of friends that have made their way back this summer. I come back to bike into town on the Legacy Trail. I come back to play lunch ball at the Rec Department. I come back to hike around Castle Peak and up to Paradise Lake. I come back to sit beside the river and contemplate my next “plan of attack.”
If the last six months of my life have taught me anything, it’s that there are many beautiful places to visit in this world, and there is no shortage of beautiful people. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to decide where I want to be; what place will best facilitate my health, my happiness, and my growth. The answer to this question, at least in the short-term, is still unknown.
What I do know is that, throughout your lifetime, you’re likely to find many new places and meet many new people that move your heart, that make you feel as if you belong, even if only for a brief, fleeting moment. But there will only be a select handful of places that you can truly call home. And Truckee, for me, will forever and always be home.