This week, I experienced much more anxiety and doubt than is normal for me. I don’t feel like I’m arrogant or overconfident, but I like to think that I’m generally pretty calm when it comes to typically nerve-racking things. I tell myself that I don’t do this because I’m good, I do it because I love it. That way, my motivation simply to do it passionately, not to always be perfect. There’s less pressure that way. But, this week my body got nervous for me over all the stuff happening in my life.
It’s funny how your body will start to take over for you at times. It can help you make it through stuff you don’t think you can do. It can shut you down when you aren’t smart enough to stop yourself. Sometimes your body is smarter than you, sometimes your body is reacting to one kind of trauma with some different, inappropriate trauma reaction.
This week we took a trip to Oregon. Allyson and I have wanted to go to Oregon about as long as we’ve been together. Some very cool people in our life live near Portland, and the whole state just seems like this outdoorsy paradise. The problem has been that the plane trip is long and expensive and the Bay Area, another of our favorite places, is about the same distance. So, we had never been to Oregon before, but that would soon change, because something big was calling us out there.
At the radio station, we did a week-long mini-drive for the holidays to take advantage of holiday giving and the push for tax exemptions. I would be live on the radio again with a few co-workers pitching during the breaks for the Diane Rehm Show. I did this during the Fall and felt pretty comfortable with it towards the end. I had been doing regular live work on Fridays too, so it seemed this would be easy. It was not easy.
You know, anytime you acknowledge confidence in some skill, you’re generally setting yourself up for a set-back. If you don’t approach new tasks with humility and preparation, I don’t care how good you are at it, there’s a good chance you aren’t going to do satisfying work. Plus, if you love it, you got to get up and prove it each new day. What you did before isn’t good enough. We don’t go anywhere new if we rest on what we did yesterday.
When I got on air, I started botching stuff. I stumbled over the stuff I was reading. I stuttered, and what I did say was pretty boring and standard. There wasn’t personality, and I was so nervous from stumbling, it wasn’t thought-out and heart-felt. I hit rock bottom in this whole process when I turned off our mics 30 seconds before we were supposed to return to the Diane Rehm Show. A generic music bed played for 30 solid seconds, which feels like a week on the radio. I was blowing it, and it was during a fund raising drive when the station needed me to bring my A-game. When I got home, I found out I had recorded a promo on the wrong file, so a newscast from the day before aired instead of my fund-raising pitch. I felt awful.
I started thinking, like we do, “man, if we could just leave now for Oregon. I am worthless here.” We have these tendencies to want to escape the things we are scared of, the places we feel inadequate. I went out on the balcony of the 8th floor of the Fine Arts Building and looked out west towards my destination in that cold November air. I breathed in and shivered and tried to slow my mind. When I got back in the booth, I was shaking, but from the cold, not nervousness like I had been. I decided I need to tell a story, make a joke. I felt myself saying what I meant to say, and saying it with conviction. It got smoother, and each time I brought Diane Rehm back, I felt good about what we had said. I felt like I could leave for Oregon and not be running away to it.
Allyson and I took that long set of flights, landing in Portland, and as we were warned, it was raining. It rained for just about the first 24 hours we were there. We were still pretty taken with the city. Allyson wanted to be friends with all our waitresses and waiters. We drove out to Multnomah Falls on our second day and hiked to the top of this enormous waterfall that empties towards the Columbia River. There were green mountains all around us, and we were dumbfounded by the beauty of everything we saw. I found myself breathing in this strange way. The way you do when you stand on the edge of a cliff. You’re kind of scared, you’re kind of in awe, you kind of don’t understand yourself. When you start to fall in love with something it’s a scary thing. You know what love can do to you. You don’t know how you’ll handle it.
We turned from the Falls, heading west, back through Portland, towards the coast. We drove through part of Oregon wine country, through the Tilamook State Forest, which reminded me of a greener Smoky Mountains. Allyson and I couldn’t stop talking about how stupid beautiful everything was. Pretty soon we reached the coast, the huge Pacific with huge rocks rising up out of the surf, green mountains at our back. We came to Camp Magruder, the place where I had a job interview. The whole process was something surreal–two months ago, I didn’t even know about this place, and now I had put in a resume, gotten and interview, and traveled across the country to find out if this place might be something we’d want to call home.
I thought about what I was doing in Kentucky. About how much fun the radio was. I thought about how loose my ties were to obligations and how my life has been more relaxing at time. I also thought about how much I’ve missed the feeling of being really good at something, the feeling of being enmeshed in so many lives at camp on a day-to-day basis. And I looked around and thought of how much in awe I am of this new place. The camp was phenomenal and gorgeous. The staff was so welcoming and seemed so good at what they do. I wondered what would happen with my interview. I prepared for weeks, quizzed myself, came up with stories for every point of the job description. I was ready. Oregon had passed our interview. Would we pass Oregon’s? If we did, would we be willing to move from friends and family and a place we know.
Since I wake up at 4am in the Central time zone, traveling to the Pacific time zone, two hours behind, wreaked all kinds of havoc on my body. I regularly woke up at 2:30am, forced myself back to sleep, then woke at 4:00am for good each morning, feeling like I had slept in. Then 6pm each night felt something like midnight. On the morning of the interview, I woke and walked around the camp at 5am in the dark. I could barely see, but I could smell the evergreens. It reminded me of how I knew the grounds at Lakeshore so well, I walked its woods on the darkest nights. I imagined knowing this place well enough to walk it at night.
I followed a path under the trees, following the sounds of the ocean. It was windy to the point that it was a little hard to breathe. The air came off that strong big water and hit my chest. But, I was just so drawn to it, that I wanted to go out all the way onto the beach. It was cold, but I had to take it in, had to be a part of it. The light was beginning to show itself, and I could see how the sky was all these tones of gray, the ocean was blue and black and white. That world look so big and wild all around me. I couldn’t see it well, but it was opening up to me. I took deep breaths and tried to absorb all I could.
When they offered me the job, Allyson and I couldn’t think of a reason that we should turn it down. That big new world is a bit scary, and scary is easy to run from. This weekend, we ran to that scary thing. We feel in love with it. I stood out there in the early morning of this journey, and I couldn’t see it all. It was so big, it was hard to take in. I still can’t believe what has happened. But, that’s part of the beauty of it. It’s part of the beauty of love. You stand up in front of that thing so much bigger than you, and you don’t understand, but you know you want to be close to it. We’re moving to Oregon.