Mid-life crisis has come early to the Shook household. My complaint is something you usually hear from someone facing middle age: that I am wasting the best years of my life stuck behind a desk, and not living life on my own terms. Since last year, my responsibilities at work have expanded to where I typically put in 11-13 hours a day, assisting our international teams to troubleshoot and improve our printers. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and it has rewarded me well for my efforts, but at the tender age of 23 all I can think is that there’s no time for me to do anything. And that’s unacceptable: there are adventures to be had, and I’m missing out.
Some people can strike a better balance than I can, and stretch their legs every chance they get. Chris, who I work with, and Lauren his wife get out and do more than any couple I know. I’m pretty sure they don’t believe in a lazy weekend around the house. If they’re not heading up to Tsali to go mountain biking, they’re heading down to the coast for a kayaking trip at Winyah Bay. Last week they were bouncing around in the Caribbean, and last fall they were in Alaska’s Glacier Bay; next year they have their sights set on the Grand Tetons for a backpacking trip. Despite everything they do though, they still have the temptation to drop everything and chase adventure full time.
On a trip a year or two ago to the Dry Tortugas, they were talking about how they were kayak camping, and during one of their paddles a schooner pulled alongside manned by a couple of the hippie persuasion. They took Chris and Lauren aboard, fed them lunch, and talked about their travels. The schooner had been built by them, and from the quality of the ship, the man was a craftsman of the highest order. He also had sewn the sail himself, and apparently had quite the knack for it. “If you’re good at something, you can always make money from it”, he said, and talked about how whenever they need money he would sail into a port and offer his services as a sail maker. For nearly 30 years, him and his lady friend had been making their way around the world. Their next stop was Cuba, and after that Cozumel; taking a liking to my friends they offered to take them along for as long as they wanted to join. The proposal was tempting enough that they had to have a serious discussion on whether or not their mortgage could do without them, but in the end family and a more certain future made them turn down the offer. They wonder all the time what would have happened if they had run off with the hippies on their ship.
I do have one friend who has had the cajones to leave behind everything in pursuit of his dream. When I first met Addison, he was a lawn care specialist who tied flies and fished on the weekends while taking video of all of it. His driving passion was to one day be a fly fishing guide out west, and every step he took for years was to finally get to that point, saving every penny, making friends with the right people, and sharpening his skills at both fly fishing and fly tying. Last year, he finally got the call he’d been waiting for and was offered a job as a fly fishing guide in Jackson Hole Wyoming. So he quit his job, packed up all of his stuff, and said good bye to the 2 things he loved more than anything else: his family, and Bojangles sweet tea.
It’s been amazing to watch Addison this past year and see someone so dedicated to his own adventure. He’s done nothing but fish, mountain bike, and do what he loves; he’s had bouts of homesickness and wondering if what he’s doing is insane or not, but in the end he keeps coming back to he’s having the time of his life. There have been many unusual turns in his adventure: giant fish, the carcass of a Bengal tiger found on the rim of a reservoir, and finally he got the news last week that his adventure is moving north this summer. An Alaskan Guiding company heard about him and offered him a job in the Great White North for the summer so off he goes on the next leg of his journey. As a side note, he’s an excellent photographer so the constant stream of photos that he posts on Facebook is both inspiring and depressing at the same time.
Maybe by writing this article I have given the impression that I all I do is hike, camp, kayak, and climb, but the truth is less glamorous. I spent most of last weekend cutting grass and running errands. But I got away for 2 hours today to put a kayak on the water of a small lake I’d never visited before. Lake York at Kings Mountain State Park isn’t impressive for any single thing, just a small little pond that if you sit in the middle of you can’t hear cars, trains, or other noise. If you go to the far end, where the small stream feeds the pond, there’s several nesting geese with goslings stumbling around the waters edge. Was it as adventurous as what Addison does on a daily basis? Not even close. That small adventure made me happy though, and made me think of what I wanted to go out and do next.
As a child, at some point of every camping trip, I would look at my dad and ask the simple question, “Dad, why don’t we stay here?” I can’t remember the answers which convinced me of the necessity of driving back home, but now I realize part of growing up is realizing the difference between who you think you want to be and what you’re willing to do. I’m not as willing to sacrifice as Addison. I think that if my wife and I just dropped everything and left to run a lodge in Montana (yes, that job really is available), I would regret not being around my grandparents who are still healthy and active despite nearing seventy, or seeing my younger siblings grow up which I think would cause us to grow apart. So really, the only responsibilities that keep me here are not because of my job, they’re because of how much I love my family. And that makes it much easier to content myself with tiny adventures.
Amish in the sense that, at one point, my family helped others raise barns.
Now I build websites to help others build their businesses.