Last week, I was faced with a first-world dilemma: all the lovely people from my old job were having their end-of-summer celebration, a camping trip at Oxbow Regional Park, and wanted me to come. I’ve spent an awful lot of time with these people, a lot of energy and effort and love with the teens to get them prepared for this and previous summers, and I very much wanted to celebrate their successful season with them.
On the other hand, they were camping on Monday night and my job now requires being at work early-early, making a beginning-of-the-week camping trip less enticing: did I really want to pack up all my camping gear and bike to work so super early on Monday, work all day, leave that evening to bike to a campground, set up camp, hang out, and then get up before the crack on dawn on Tuesday morning to pack everything up and go back to work all day?
I went back and forth about it, but if you know me, you probably know the result. Of course I opted for camping. I had to sleep somewhere on Monday night, I reasoned. It might as well be at Oxbow, which is, in the other direction, about as long a ride to work as my house is (a little shorter, actually, but since I wasn’t sure and there’s a long and steep hill involved I gave myself plenty of time).
It was a great decision. Spending time with my old co-workers made me feel so full, so lucky that all of them were a part of my world for so long and that I got to do such good work there, so grateful that I had that in my life and also so concurrently happy that I’ve been able to move on to this new amazing job. As I’ve said many times, there is so much goodness in my life that it’s ridiculous, and being at Oxbow and able to reconnect with everyone made me feel that more keenly than ever.
But what’s interesting to me in retrospect isn’t whether or not I decided to camp, or how happy it made me. It’s the fact that going out there seemed so difficult in the first place, like it was a huge effort to sleep somewhere that wasn’t my house in between two days of work. Why is that? It’s only sleeping, after all. Why does it matter where that sleeping transpires?
It has to do with other things, of course. I don’t have to take down and pack up my house in the morning like I do with a tent. Camping, I have to stuff my sleeping bag and pack up my sleeping pad — unlike home, when I don’t even have to make my bed since James is generally still in it when I leave. Breakfast seems easier to make at home, where I have a system and routine, than it does in a campground, though it turns out that that’s totally not the case. But mostly, I am very, very practiced at getting up and getting ready for work in my house, while getting up and getting ready for work at Oxbow is something I’d never done. All the getting-ready work I do at home — doing breakfast dishes, packing up my stuff, making myself a lunch, loading my bike — seems easy because I do it so often that the work of it disappears into habit. Unlike the work of getting ready at Oxbow, which, despite how relatively often I go camping, I’m largely unfamiliar with and thus still seems like work, something to navigate consciously.
Which makes me wonder. How many things in life seem difficult only because they’re at odds with what I spend every day inadvertently practicing? Are there things I miss out on simply because they seem too difficult to carry out, forgetting that perhaps I’m conflating “difficult” with “different” and psyching myself out too easily?
It’s a good reminder. Habits and routines are certainly helpful at times, but not if they convince me, invisibly, that things outside of my routine are too difficult to bother with. I’m thinking my personal motto for now should be something along the lines of “keep pushing the difficult,” keep doing the things that seem hard or unwieldy or logistically challenging so as to make them easier and put the even harder things within reach. Keep doing things that seem hard so as to keep opening the horizons of life, to expand the world of what I believe I can do.
I’m ready to get after it.