I learned too late that this past weekend is one of the biggest event weekends Coeur d'Alene has all year: the annual Ironman competition, with nearly 3,000 super-competitive athletes streaming into town to prove their physical endurance in this grueling competition (2.4 mile swim; 112 mile bike ride; and a full marathon--26.2 miles!). Yikes!
It was exciting to watch and see all the people, but nice and quiet was not going to be part of my weekend plans with all this craziness going on. I did walk around Tubb's Hill a couple times (once on the lower path; once to the top of the hill for a good view) and got some ideas regarding my future goals. I also went for a couple drives, particularly the one that matters most: driving east of Coeur d'Alene and turning around at the edge of the lake. The reason for this is because it was my roadtrip in 1999 (from Provo UT to Bremerton WA) on this stretch of I-90 coming into the Coeur d'Alene area that hit me as being "the most beautiful place" my eyes had ever seen on earth. I had to know if the same feeling would hold nearly a decade later. Sure enough, it did. Once again, my breath was taken away at the gorgeous sight of the lake as the Interstate curves around at a high elevation and descends into the town of Coeur d'Alene. It was that scene which made me fall in love with this place and I can't believe I got to visit it twice in six months after dreaming about it since 1999.
On Sunday, before returning to Spokane to catch my flight back to Portland, I took a drive up to Sandpoint to see what that area looks like. I didn't stop, just drove up to Sandpoint, around the downtown and back down to Coeur d'Alene. My mind recorded as much beauty as my eyes could take in. I have this compulsive need to SEE as much of our world as possible, because it's all these scenes of incredible beauty that helps me to endure the bland days of a mundane job. If I ever get stressed, all I have to do is call up an image of a beautiful scenery I've seen and I'm centered and calm and able to endure the most menial of tasks. This is probably why I love traveling so much. Back in January, when I did a road trip with a lady who used to live in Spokane, we discovered a difference in how we view the journey. She just wants to get there and would teleport herself if she could. I've always preferred the journey...the longer the better. When I've done solo road trips in the past, I've had the most profound spiritual experiences as I view the landscape while I drive. No offense to those who just want to get to where they're going, but I much prefer my view of enjoying the journey on the way to the destination.
The ultimate question for the weekend is...did I get an answer that I was searching for?
I think so, with a mystery attached that I won't go into but will investigate further.
What truly surprised me about Coeur d'Alene is that I saw a building that advertised itself as a "Human Rights" educational center. In Coeur d'Alene?!? For those who know me well, in college, human rights was the focus of my International Politics major. Being a human rights activist is one of my top three dream career scenarios. Why would Coeur d'Alene have such an organization? The town is approaching 40,000 residents, and while I've been searching for such an organization in Portland (larger and more cosmopolitan), I haven't found one yet to send my resume to. So, this intrigued me and merits further investigation. Who knows?
I suppose if you listen really closely, you can hear the sound of distant laughter. It's cruel in a way. Everything about who I am as a person needs to be in a career that is globally focused and matches my talents, passion, knowledge, and interests. How I ended up so far from my college goals is the continuing mystery of my life. But it's a mystery that I want solved as soon as possible. An eight year detour from my dream life is simply too long with no hope in sight. I know from experience that turnarounds could be just as dramatic and exciting, but the ultimate question I face is what I need to do to put my career into turnaround?
As much as I love Coeur d'Alene, I think that it will remain a place to vacation for me, but not to actually live there. When I got back to Portland, all that I love about this city bubbled up in me. When I lived in Atlanta and traveled to cool destinations, I always felt repulsed when returning to Atlanta. I had a feeling of "ug!" Not so with Portland. The diversity (yes, even though it has a reputation for being one of the "whitest cities in America", I like the progressive and artistic vibe of the city.), the neighborhoods, the politics, the passion for all things environmental and sustainable, the location, and even the size (just small enough to have a feel of a town, but enough excitement and activities of a major city to never get bored). I believe this is where I'm meant to be and perhaps someday, I can spend my summers in Coeur d'Alene, writing novels in solitude as I take in the gorgeous scenery, and then when it's done, I return to Portland for the rest of the seasons to continue my social life of being actively involved in the lifeblood of a great city.
That's the feeling I returned from my retreat with. I have enough beautiful images in mind to carry me through the rest of the year. But I belong here.