I used to write. A lot. And it’s been a long time since I’ve been so excited about something. My other blog was down for more than a year and I really didn’t care. Life was go-go-go and I barely made time to write my columns for Blue Skies Magazine.
Since we started our Research Bender, I have been more compelled to write. Even if it’s only to document this process for ourselves, it’s really nice to get back in the swing of things. This year has been a rough one, probably the hardest of the years I’ve been on the planet. It feels like we’re losing friends left and right, massive (for us) financial setbacks, and everything pretty much created the perfect storm. There’s a lot that has happened this year, both really really awesome (Barry getting promoted) and really really sucky. A roller coaster, for sure.
Our good friend Adam died on August 1st. Without getting too far into it, his death rocked me to my core. At 23 years old, he had his shit together. He was dreaming big dreams, living those dreams daily, and gave everything to everyone, without expecting anything in return. When I heard of his passing, it caused me to take a good hard look at how I’m living life.
By any definition, life for us is pretty freakin’ sweet. We’ve already managed to break free of the things that would inhibit us from living the life we want to live: largely with our careers. We’re making enough money to keep a roof over our heads, food on the table (and in the dog bowls) and have some leftover for fun stuff. We get paid to do something we’re wildly passionate about, which is a blessing in itself. But with Adam’s death, I know that my list of things I want to experience isn’t getting any shorter, and we aren’t gaining time on this planet in this life.
Realizing that there is a lot we want to see/do, coupled with some Who Is Sydney soul-searching on my behalf, led to this journey with our tiny house project. I’m still processing the fact that Adam won’t come strolling on to the dropzone this weekend, or that he won’t respond to messages if I sent them, and I find myself taking pictures of healthy stuff and thinking “Adam would be stoked on this.”
I had to make some tough decisions this year. One of my teammates was injured early in our training season, an injury that, when the news was delivered, was supposed to keep her on the ground through (if not beyond) the USPA National Skydiving Championships in September. A big part of me was bummed out, because we were on a hot streak with our development. But I couldn’t ignore the tiny voice in my head that was relieved. Committing to the team and the schedule we set was a huge financial commitment, and while we were making it work, I was actually okay with the idea of being able to save the money.
In the months that we weren’t training, we didn’t try to find a replacement. We assumed everything would be good to go and then we’d go about our business and go compete at Nationals. And that plan would have been fine. I could have just held on to the money I would have spent and saved it and a trip to Nationals would be no big deal. But then we had a million and a half unexpected expenses all at once: account theft, car repairs, mishaps with technology that needed replacing, etc.
All of this, and then Adam dies. I’m a huge believer in silver linings, and I’m usually annoyingly optimistic, but 2014 has felt like one blow after another, a fight I just can’t win. We found out on the Monday following Adam’s death that his memorial services would be in Chicago that Friday. This was an absolute no-brainer, not even a discussion point, we were going. As anyone who travels at all can imagine, buying flights for Friday on a Monday wasn’t exactly a walk in the park.
But as soon as we bought those tickets, a little bit of the fog was lifted. As soon as we got to Chicago, saw our friends, and started the healing process together, things started coming into view. Suddenly I could appreciate the memories we were making, and I wasn’t preoccupied about everything else that was going on. There were a lot of tears shed, a lot of “what is your favorite thing about Adam” recalled, and all in all, it was a life-changing trip for us.
We got home and the team needed an answer about whether or not I could make it to Nationals. Before Adam died, I had said that once I saw the numbers (registration for the event, my share of our coach’s/videographer’s expenses, our coaching fees, travel, etc), I could make a better decision. Once I saw the numbers, my heart sank. I knew I couldn’t make it to Nationals. Did I have that specific amount of money in my account? Yes. But if I went, then I would have completely drained my account in order to do so. I couldn’t justify that expense or that decision. I tapped some of my trusty mentors to tell them where I was at, and get their opinion on the subject.
One of them said (loosely): “Think of it this way. If you spend all that money (that you don’t really have to spend), and you haven’t been training for months, are you really going to be happy there, or will it you hold resentment because you’re spending money you know deep down you shouldn’t have spent? If you choose not to go, this isn’t the end of your competitive skydiving career. You’ve been to Nationals once. And, that’s a lot of money to go ‘for the experience’ when you’ve already been there, seen it, competed. Also, if you don’t go, and you hold on to that money, you could be opening yourself up to other opportunities that could better serve your interests, that you might not otherwise be able to pursue if you went to Nationals.”
That conversation, and a few others, helped me see what I needed to do for ME, not what was expected of me, or what I thought was expected of me. And that is something I’ve been challenged by for most of my life – I’m a people-pleaser at heart. I took some time to process what was at stake, both positively and negatively, and let the team know I couldn’t go to Nationals.
Well as it turns out, that mentor friend of mine was totally right. I don’t remember what was the tipping point exactly. Suddenly, the tiny house thing was all I could think about. I had freed myself of the weight of the pending Nationals decision, and with it, came more clarity. Our friends Raelynn and Travis are building a tiny home as well, and seeing their excitement really lit a fire under my ass to get some ideas down on paper and figure out how to get our “someday” plan in motion. What started with a simple “you (Raelynn), Travis, me, and Barry. Costa Rica. Living completely sustainable.” before they moved to Oregon last year, had somehow manifested into this full on obsession we’re in now. Maybe not Costa Rica, but thoughts are things, and now all the pieces are starting to come together. More on that in the coming weeks, and months.
For the last week or so since I started building out this website, my mental commitment to making this dream a reality, I’ve actually been up super early with no problems. It’s really, really nice to have something to look forward to, a (new) reason to wake up in the morning. Other than waking up next to Barry with the Puggles strewn about the bed, of course.