On a Train

Boarding the train at 5am, I wasn’t sure what was in store for me over the next 10 days. I wasn’t nervous so much as I was excited. Excited for the unknown. Excited for an adventure. It had been too long.

But 48 hours before walking into the wilderness, my mind was clouded by fear, self-doubt, and a lack of confidence. I was sitting on a west-bound train in Cleveland, Ohio, thinking about how different a city looks through the lens of public transportation. Riding public transit always makes me think of Paris.

The Paris Metro has a personality all its own. It is a Character in the City. A method of travel, to be sure; but so much more. It’s a way to see the people. A unique way to experience the city. Each station has a personality of its own. And the Metro has this fugly, gritty smell. But for me, it’s integral to my Paris.

Sitting on the RTA in Cleveland, my thoughts were less romantic. I was thinking about privilege, riding the train with 4 other west-bound souls, toward the airport. For them, it was a daily commute. But for me, it was the beginning of an adventure. I was bound for Seattle and, ultimately, 10 days of backpacking through Washington’s Pasayten Wilderness. While I didn’t know it at the time, I was going to meet new friends and, I hope, change the trajectory of my life.

On the train that morning, I was thinking about how fortunate I was. Fortunate to have grown up in middle-class America. Fortunate to have gone to law school. Fortunate to have the luxury of trying to “find myself” and “figure it all out.”

I was happy to be doing what I was doing. Excited by the prospect of 10 days in the wilderness, away from the siren-call of modern technology. But I was frustrated – maybe even ashamed of the difficulties I have faced trying to find my way in this world.

I consider myself a fairly evolved man. Nonetheless, on some level I cling to the antiquated notion that, as a man, I’m supposed to be the primary bread-winner in my household. Fortunately or unfortunately, it hasn’t quite worked that way.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m grateful. I have a wonderful, supportive wife with whom I have two beautiful children. And I am privileged enough to be a PTSAHD (that’s an SLA – Six Letter Acronym – for Part Time Stay At Home Dad. Is that a thing? I don’t know. Maybe it will be now.)  But I digress. I am fortunate to have a flexible work schedule that allows me to do my best to make our household go. Yet through it all, I want to show my children that there is value in finding your passion and FOLLOWING IT! That, I believe, is where so many of us fall down. It’s one thing to find something that you really like, and are really good at. Some of my friends happen to seem to really enjoy the practice of law, and they’re really good at it. While I may have been a slightly above-average trial lawyer, I’m not sure I ever truly enjoyed it. Too often I felt like I was wearing a mask, trying – pretending even – to be someone I’m not. After more than 10 years I needed to find something else. Something that ignited my passion. Would this experiment with outdoor ed be it?

Sitting in the airport now; waiting. Six women are talking about a friend facing death after a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Makes me think – life is so fragile. The mark I hope to leave is one of having a zest for life. Finding what I love to do, whether lucrative or not, and actually doing it. Making the most out of this life I am blessed to have, and showing my children that they CAN follow their passion without having to sacrifice too much of their dreams. That they can find a balance that feeds the wild part of their soul while staying tethered to a more (mundane?) secure existence. That there is a way to make a living while still making an extraordinary life. Is this too  much to ask? Time will tell.

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