Wednesday morning I met my boss for coffee at our favorite place, halfway between our respective houses and the office. We talked about our profession, our decisions in life, the men’s work we’ve been doing, and everything else under the sun. My boss has become a close friend, and one of the men I admire most. I left thinking that for whatever reasons I ended up in Missoula, some time with him is probably the most important outcome of all. At some point in our conversation, I remember saying “for now, this is it. Everything that my values tell me is right, tells me to do what I’m doing right here, right now.” By many of my own definitions, this is success.
Thursday afternoon I stepped on a plane and the doubt about it all came flooding back in. “What am I doing in this little town that doesn’t mean anything?” The magazine article about the quality of life in Portland, the energy of stepping into the Seattle airport. En route to help my brother for the weekend- moving houses, and moving forward with the next big step of his life- being a dad. I feel fear that my life isn’t really moving forwards at all. It is easy to tell myself there is precious little to show for the time I’ve spent so far. I remember making this same flight on a beautiful spring evening in 2008 to stand by my brother as he committed to spending his time with an amazing woman. I fear I’ll never find that person, be able to buy a house, never save enough to travel or retire the way I’d like. That I’m spending the most important moment of my life- right the fuck now- in the wrong place, at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing. Why every time I go back to Portland, or hang out in Seattle, or fly into the Bay, there’s a piece of me that says “it’s HERE. Be here, not there, now. You’re missing it.”
More and more my time in Portland seems like a distant fantasy. I was young and excited. I didn’t waste time sleeping properly, I lived in the gym, and I breathed the future of professional innovation. Money was easy, friends were close, and any real responsibility was distant.
I’m not sure why this trip makes me think that in Missoula I work 90% as hard, for triple the responsibility and half the money. I think about work all the time, and even on a fun afternoon away from my desk, I can’t stay away from the next professional task. The people that matter the most are further away than ever, that my impact is constrained by the very mountains I admire on the edge of town. I’m not sure why the tech entrepreneur in the seat next to me seems lightyears ahead of me, or the vibrant foodie culture in Portland makes me doubt the importance of the CSA share I picked up on Tuesday in Missoula. I’m humbled at how infrequently I take time away from work to do things that really make me come alive. Maybe under all these fears and complaints, I’m facing the feeling that I’m not putting my time in Missoula to good use.
Things have come together this fall. Running, climbing, working, growing, and friends. Even a little more money and some new fun toys. There is always doubting the face of success. The struggle of finding the balance may be the most human part of it all.