Farming and traveling. For the last two years this is what I have done, and now I am doing neither. Shortly after returning to Vermont from Alaska, I decided to work as a ski instructor with my brother, Jeff, at a nearby resort. I am happy that I have a job, but I miss the rhythm of growing food. Working at the resort, I find myself constantly asking, “Why am I doing this?” There is something about this job that keeps me stressed–a multitude of things perhaps–like the constant shuffling of the schedule and the uncertainty of getting a lesson on slow weeks; the pulling of rank that happens among instructors and supervisors; the feeling of working at a place where a guest may spend more money in one week than I will make fore the entire season.
For the first time in my life I am noticing the inequities of money close-up, enhanced by the fact that I am also paying rent, which I have never done until now. My first week of living here, between rent, food and car repair costs, left $5 in my bank account–a number that sent an empty shock to my stomach. Now, after a month of work and weekly paychecks I am comfortable again, though the number for comfort has lowered.
I am not angry that some people have money when others don’t; in fact, with less money I am understanding what I have always known: happiness comes from the love arising out of each moment and taking the time to see it. Instead I am frustrated at the hold money takes over life, and the value our society adds to the people who do have it. I notice myself get more wrapped up in money than I ever have before, worrying and stressing to the point of tears, feeling under-appreciated if I don’t get a tip, and allowing money to blind me to the joy of working outside and teaching everyday. I am allowing myself to forget what happiness is. Perhaps what I need more than anything right now is an allowance of quiet moments.
On New Year’s Eve day I came home worn out and crying. Edge held me an listened, and when Jeff came home he sat with me at the kitchen counter, offering insight.
He told me, “I’m doing this job because skiing has played such a huge role in my life. If I can get kids excited about skiing and let that be a conduit for their relationship with nature, or even just a way to get them outside, then that’s great.”
He talked about his experience getting to know the mountain last year, and how special it is.
“When you get off the trail and into the woods, it’s so quiet, and it can feel like you’re the only one on the mountain.”
Jeff’s goal is not to make money, but to open up a whole world to kids and show them a way to be in it. And that was my mistake. I came into this job viewing it as a temporary way to make money until I could do what I really wanted. Of course, I’ve always loved teaching so that was a plus, but now I see that this job is not as limiting as my view of it. Ski instructing allows me to teach and share the small victories of improvement–balance, stopping, turning–and watch kids move through the winter in a new way; it allows me to live in a beautiful house and spend time with my brother, who is the reason I moved to Cambridge and the reason for so much joy in my life.
So last Monday I started fresh, and am seeing again the opportunities that each day brings.
I wake up. I drink tea with Edge. I write.
At work I laugh and encourage. Yesterday I even had time to ski over to the larger mountain for a personal run, and for the first time saw Mt. Mansfield rising up to the right, lit up by the afternoon sun, and felt the wonder Jeff talked about finally come over me.
In the evenings I come home and bring Nobee outside. At night Jeff and Edge play music, and I sing with them. I do have time to sit quietly and reflect, to do the things I want to do, and to spend time with the people I love, and for this I am thankful. Money or no money, I am living, and the joy that comes from simply being is the joy that I cherish the most.