SCRAMBLES & SUMMITS
Thank you for taking the time to check out my new hashtag endeavor #ScramblesandSummits, which means The Opiate has a new series despite our long hiatus. ‘Twas a good break, and I learned something extremely valuable about myself over the past three years:
I AM A FUCK-UP.
This is important to remember. In fact, I was compelled to write it down so I wouldn’t forget, which is why we’re here.
When I first drove into Taos , New Mexico, a couple weeks ago, I walked out onto the 564-foot-high Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. There’s a call box to the right that reads:
“THERE IS HOPE.”
There is an average of six suicides per year at this bridge. Six people, for reasons I wasn’t prepared to research, end their lives there. And that made me think a little more about being a fuck-up and about how many people have lost their ability to find the value of life. It made me wonder just how many people have given a single fuck about the negative bullshit that others have said about how they live.
I had $8.36 to my name, an empty gas tank and a feeling of delirium so intense that I didn’t even know if I’d actually stood on the bridge until I walked out there again the next morning.
I’d been driving all night. And the night before that. I drove through Kansas because I had never been to Kansas. I was running on three hours of sleep, and I’d gotten a late start out of Virginia because of a hangover.
When Uncle Squishy opens a bottle of ‘Decades’ Wild Turkey, the next day’s hangover is a badge of honor. I could wait to drive. There was a mess near my car, anyway.
You haven’t forgotten already that I’m a fuck-up, have you?
So, I left Fredericksburg, Virginia, late on a Saturday and rolled into Taos, New Mexico, the following Monday morning. During the drive I’d run out of audio books and worked my way through one existential crisis after another, until I wondered if I were even alive at all, if my drive down the barren highway of western Kansas and eastern Colorado was just me falling into hell.
Maybe that’s why I drove a little faster.
Echoes of former lovers, unwanted bullshit advice, and all the ass-bag assumptions from my past crept into the drone of tire noise while I was driving.
Why do you…
You need to…
You’re never going to…
You’d be happier if you’d just…
How are you so happy being a fuck-up?
By the time the drive was over, those reminders had joined the pain in my left eye. It felt as hollow as an empty walnut shell, which I recently discovered was because of the air-vent on my dash blasting hot air directly at the side of my face. That, and the combination of headlights approaching from the other lane felt like the flame of a Bic lighter getting closer and closer to my eye.
When I was finally able to get horizontal in the back of my rig at the rest stop, after I’d dropped all my crap off at my gear shed, I thought about how fucking ridiculous it was that I was so goddamn happy just to sleep at a rest stop…
That I was happy being a fuck-up.
All of those voices crept into my head again, only to drown out into a feeble whisper as I watched Kamani nose-paint my windows and whine about the skunk outside moving from trash can to trash can.
When she curled up next to me, after burrowing beneath the sleeping bag, I told her what a fuck-up she was, and just before I fell asleep, an idea crept into my delirium-riddled fuck-up brain.
I had to think about it for a while, make sure that I fully understood what I was thinking, which is tough when there’s no real authority around to paraphrase my thoughts into something I can understand. But, here’s my attempt:
I am an absolutely hopeless fuck-up.
I have no 401K, no mortgage, no spouse, no offspring, no savings account, no mail box.
I have almost nothing in my life that I don’t want, which, apparently, are things that would make me an actual person.
Out of all the keys I carry, not one of them goes to my own front door. On the occasions that I do have a front door, sometimes, it has a zipper.
My utility bills are my phone, a gym membership and subscriptions to Audible, AllTrails and BackCountry Navigator.
I wear a watch only to know how long it takes me to summit a peak, how much I’ve fucked up my pace because I got distracted by a fucked-up tree.
I have no commute to a 9 to 5 career job. Instead, I do a fuck-up shuffle through the woods every day and read books about other fuck-ups and write stories about people more fucked-up than I am.
Every day is just another fuck-up after another.
I feel no shame for any of this.
Every day, I do what I am most passionate about and almost every day, someone tells me that it’s garbage.
And now my hearing is starting to fuck-up.
I’m a fuck-up because I made the mistake of not doing this sooner, not leaving the sense of place where I bought into the bullshit career pursuit and the savage cuntiness of bureaucracy—the shit that drained the fucking life out of me one cover letter at a time.
I’m a fuck-up because every day, instead of sitting in a cubicle or listening to the mouth-smacking of another colleague in a shared office, I find myself somewhere completely alone.
And when I look down into a canyon trout stream, or a horizon jagged with the under-bite of mountain peaks, and my eyes go blurry with moisture while my entire core fills with the exact and complete opposite of rage, I remind myself how no paycheck has ever given me this feeling.
And then I whisper, because there is nobody there to remind me:
You are such a fuck up.
Because I am.
And I will be as long as there is tar to drive and trail to scramble.
Thank you for taking the time to read:
SCRAMBLES & SUMMITS Episode #1
Please like, share and follow my adventures with Kamani on Twitter @ProfessorOpiate or Instagram @joericker.
You can also visit my Podcast.