It’s hard to believe that It’s already been nearly seven years since I wrote this. I’m going to leave it as it was written way back in the day, but I will do a follow up sometime in the near future, to see how far I’ve come.
This time last year, I was your stereotypical Alaskan outdoorsman, but I’ve often wondered if I had what it takes to bridge the gap to “city boy”.
I grew up in the outdoors, hunting, fishing, and trapping. When it comes to the outdoors, there isn’t much I can’t handle. My life has been spent studying wildlife: their habits, tracks, what they eat, and their sounds.
I have been in survival situations in the middle of winter, in Alaska on more than one occasion. I’ve had to live off the land for several days while on a camping trip in the mountains of Northern Oregon, when I was about fourteen. I have been charged by a Grizzly Bear twice, a moose once, and I’ve been face to face with a pack of wolves at less than fifty feet. I’ve fallen off a cliff while on a bear hunt, tumbled down a mountain while hunting goats, and nearly drown after capsizing a canoe in a river at flood stage. Oh, and I once broke through the ice on a frozen river at twenty below zero!
I know what it’s like to be in situations that have made me wonder whether or not I am going to live or die. I know all about being scared, yet understanding the necessity to remain calm. It’s in times like those, that put your skills and preparation to the test. As I look back at a couple situations that I made it out of by the skin of my teeth, I wonder “How in God’s name did I make it out of that?”.
I certainly haven’t done it all, when it comes to the great outdoors. I still have a lot to learn, animals to hunt, mountains to tame, and adventures to experience. I’ve been dreaming of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, for nearly two decades. An elk hunt with my son, in the Rocky Mountains would be a dream come true.
Quite honestly, I have lead a somewhat sheltered life. I’ve never been around people of different sexual orientation and openly display it. I have never had much of a chance to get to know anyone that had different political views from that of my own, and felt strongly about them. Although my family wasn’t particularly prejudice, I was not raised to be tolerant of people because of differences in color, religion, or political background. About the only people that I didn’t look down on were the poor.
My family didn’t have much money, so that wasn’t an issue. As far as I know, there was only one black family in town, so that never came up, either. As far as gay goes, in the part of California that I grew up in, you just don’t do that! My family wasn’t the least bit religious, so… Pretty much, almost everyone, everywhere that I have ever lived, was pretty much the same. When you grow up in an area that has little or no diversity, it leads to ignorance. Generally speaking, people tend to reject what they don’t understand. I’m just as guilty of it as anyone.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by life in the city, but my path took me in a different direction. I really never knew or understood the inner workings of city life: the cultures, the fast pace, or all the people, but I knew that there was something about it that made me want to learn more.
I’ve been to Los Angeles a couple times when I was younger, and I found it somewhat intimidating. Seattle was always a treat for me, and I’ll always remember my first trip to Pike Place Market… A good friend and I ended up in a porn shop (we were thirteen)! What an experience.
In the last year, I’ve traded my hunting boots for a pair of asics running shoes, my Carharts for True Religion jeans, and traded the Alaskan wilderness for the concrete jungle of the Portland suburbs. Who I am hasn’t changed, I’m still the same ‘ol me. I still have a longing to be outdoors, and an adventurous spirt, but the nature of the adventure has changed, for the time being. I’ve just put my life as a hunter, trapper, and fisherman on the back burner for a while, so I can broaden my experience.
Last January, I made the most drastic move of my life. I loaded up everything that I had (it all fit in a Saturn Vue) and headed south. Destination, Beaverton, Oregon. I was stepping outside of my comfort zone for the first time in my life. I was leaving everything I had ever known, for a life that was totally unknown.
Now instead of hiking in the mountains with a rifle, I go running along the city streets and paved trails. There are a few squirrels that live in the trees near our apartment complex, that’s a far cry from moose and bears in the back yard. About a mile from home there is a small wetland area that has a fence around it. On the fence, there’s a sign that says, “DO NOT FEED WILDLIFE”. Inside the fence, there used to be a couple nutria that would hang out and watch the people watch them eat.. I say, “used to be”, because apparently the grass was greener on the other side of the road. They never found out if that was true or not, they were both killed trying to cross the road.
One of the coolest things that I was able to do while I was down there for the winter, was to go to the salon that my wife works in and dye her hair. Now that was something out of the ordinary for me, but I loved it!
Jen and I went to a church one Sunday, where the congregation was predominately black, which is something that I’ve always wanted to do. It was everything that I imagined that it would be. The singing was amazing. The preaching, phenomenal! The people were beautiful and friendly. As I thought of the way I used to think, I was ashamed!
There were times that I was around people that were openly gay, which is something that I was raised to believe was WRONG. It took some getting used to, but I have come to accept and respect them for who they are and how they believe. Who am I to judge them, for the way that they choose to live their lives? The way they live doesn’t affect me, in the least, and no one’s asking me to join them.
I bought a pair of True Religion jeans for $275.00! WTF? There’s a buddha on the pocket, for crying out loud. I’m sure that’s some sort of taboo, for a (practicing) Christian. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the $130.00 shirt that Jen bought to go with those pants… $405.00 for a shirt and a pair of jeans? If I weren’t a “free-baller, and if I had to pay for my sick ass cowboy boots, my wedding duds would have topped the $500.00 mark! Holy Hell! I can justify it, because they were for our wedding. Besides, when I saw the look on Jen’s face when I walked out of the dressing room, I knew that those were the right pants to be wearing as I carried her across the threshold, after the wedding!
There are still a lot of things that I need and want to experience, in the city. I’d love to go see a ballet. The opera has always been on my list of things to do. I’d love to do it “proper like”, in a Tuxedo, Jen in a beautiful evening gown. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll go volunteer in a soup kitchen.
By letting go of (some) of my closed mindedness, and working on being more tolerant and less judgmental of others, I have learned a lot about what it takes to truly accept others for who they really are. It isn’t fair for me to expect someone else to conform to the way I believe that my life should be lived.
I guess in my mind, I proved that I have what it takes to live in both worlds, the city and the country. The more important issue here is that the biggest gap that needed to be bridged was the great expanse between how I treated people that I understood, versus the way I viewed those that I didn’t.
Living in the city taught me a great deal about the person that I thought I was, and the person that I truly am. I have a lot to learn, and a long way to go, until I am living up to the full potential of the person that I can be. I don’t know if I will ever live up to that potential, but I WILL TRY!
Stay tuned for the follow up to this post…