Early October: Leaving Jackson

I recently started listening to the book Sapiens by Yuval Harari. In the second chapter, he posits that what separates us humans from the rest of the animal kingdom is our ability to form social connections with other humans with such ease. He argues that the fact that we can interact and have positive experiences with people whom we have just met and know nothing about is a uniquely human experience that has allowed humans to rise to the top of the animal kingdom. In essence, social interaction is what makes humans, humans.

My last two weeks in Jackson were not highlighted by any adventures or expeditions into the great outdoors. Rather it was defined by the time I was able to spend with people whom I have come to care about very deeply. Many people have asked what my favorite part of Jackson is, and I will always answer that it is the people. The mountains, valleys, and rivers are all great, but they would be nothing without the friends I was able to make while in Wyoming.

Our first little excursion was a camping trip that started with a stop at some natural hot springs. The area where we camped out has over the past two summers become one of my favorite spots under the sun. This trip was no exception. The previous few days had been grey and rainy which left us with beautiful snowcapped mountains to wake up to in the morning. By the time I stumbled out of my car I was the only one left at our campsite and was able to stop and appreciate just how special moments like that are. I was able to meditate, explore, and recollect on all that had happened not just over the summer, but the past several years. To appreciate how so much had happened in my life and somehow here I was in what felt like a truly perfect moment.

I have been trying to remind myself in these moments that they are impermanent, just as everything else we experience in life is. When times are bad, I constantly tell myself that whatever I am feeling will pass, it always does. But this logic only works if it can be applied to moments of joy as well. A meditation teacher once explained to me that we must look at our emotions as balloons floating through our minds. If we can notice the balloon, understand the balloon, and then let it go and drift off into space then we will find that the fluctuation of emotions we experience becomes much more tolerable. This is much easier said than done, but I have found it to be a fantastic tool to use for grounding oneself in turbulent times. It is not always a perfect solution but one that has helped me tremendously.

The beauty of social life in Jackson is that it is rarely as Zen and calming as what I have just described. My last week in town I went to bed no earlier than two a.m. almost every night. One such night I slept on the ground for maybe an hour just to get up and make it (almost) on time to work the next morning. A few days later I spent seven hours playing Minecraft with the very same friends. The variety of social situations that you can easily find yourself in in Jackson is truly astounding. Not a day goes by that doesn’t produce some kind of story or memory. If it weren’t for my journal I would easily forget what felt like memorable days and nights as they get replaced with noteworthy new events so often. I could write pages of all that happened this summer with these people but there is something about that that to me feels wrong. I would rather that those moments live on only in the memories of those who were there. Despite my pursuits and love for sharing stories, I think it is important that some things are kept to oneself. It is only once I leave that I can appreciate just how special it is to have people like that in my life.

This entire summer I have sensed that I am in a very observant time of my life. I found that in many social situations, I often didn’t talk much, but rather sat and watched everything happening around me. I’m not sure where this came from, and I often was afraid that this trait had alienated me from many situations. I have struggled with social anxiety more so in the last year than at any time in my past. As my date of departure was approaching, I had many familiar fears that I would leave Jackson and those that had become so special to me would hardly notice. This was just something I had for some reason come to accept as what would happen.

My last few days in Jackson were the most loved I have felt in a very, very long time. There were no grand celebrations, wild parties, or anything of the sort. Instead, I was lucky enough to play board games and relax in the presence of people who were strangers only a few months before and had quickly become friends that I hope to stay close with for the rest of my life. I just want to say thank you to all these people. You have impacted me in ways that I will never be able to fully express and for that, I am eternally grateful. You all will always have an incredibly special place in my heart.

Driving away on the morning of the 15th I came around a corner to what would be my last view of the area that had shaped the person I was now becoming. The aspens were a bright yellow and the sun shone on the snowcapped Tetons which were looking just as majestic as the day I had driven in only four and a half short months ago. I cried for the first time in many months. Another lesson I had recently read about was the concept of loving your emotions no matter what they are. At this moment, as a couple of tears trickled down my face, I thought of this and realized how lucky I was to be so overcome by emotions at the thought of leaving this place that it would bring me to tears. I gave myself to the top of Teton Pass to feel sad and once the valley was gone I would move onto this new and exciting chapter of my life with confidence and excitement.

I am now in Northern California preparing for a rather audacious few weeks of exploring. The future is full of almost nothing but question marks but what an exciting prospect that is. I feel as if this is the beginning of a very special part of my life. As I recollect on all that has transpired these past few months, I feel almost nothing but love and gratitude. I want to again thank everyone who has made this past summer what it was. I love you all dearly. Here is to new beginnings.

Music from this time:

“Hey Driver” – Zach Bryan

“The Fear of Losing This” – Florist

“Dark Green Water” – Great Grandpa

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