Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Conflicted, part 2

Date: Jan. 26 and 27
Mileage: 25.6 and 27.1
January mileage: 739.4
Temperature upon departure: 22 and 26

I admit I was more than a little disappointed when the snow returned. Deep snow followed by heavy rain followed by unseasonable warmth followed by a healthy freeze had settled Juneau's snowpack in a way that almost everything was rideable, everything. All of those places that I usually need snowshoes and a fair amount of time to access - the Douglas Island backcountry, Spaulding Meadows - I could ride, and quickly, covering so much normally forbidden ground that I could hardly haul myself off the snow and into the office in the afternoon, knowing that any time not spent chewing up crusty backcountry before the snow fell was time wasted.

Then came the snow, soft powder, 12 inches or so, much to the delight of skiers and disdain of crust-seeking cyclists. I was pushed back on the roads, all 80-odd miles of them, again facing one of the things about Juneau that has gotten under my skin: the dead ends. How many times can I ride up to Eaglecrest? How many pictures can I take of the Mendenhall Glacier? What adventures are left for me here?

And yet, as I set out today to climb the Eaglecrest Road for the 235th or so time, a thick blanket of new snow enveloped the canyon in quiet. The road was devoid of cars on a Tuesday. The trees were brushed in shades of gray as breaks in the clouds revealed a soft glow of color behind bald white peaks. I took a deep breath of cool, moist air and wondered, "How can I leave this place?"

A clever reporter called it "Bloody Monday," the day when American companies announced they were axing 55,000 jobs in a single day. My boss pulled me into his office and pulled out a thick stack of papers bound by a big black clamp. "All of these are the resumes I've received for your job," he said. (my current job, the one I've already quit.) He reached in his drawer and pulled out another thick stack of papers. "These are for (the new job, the one I'm being offered.) We've received resumes from Washington, New York, Texas, Florida, even journalists overseas. Most of them were laid off. Now they're ready to come all the way to Juneau, Alaska." He set his thick stacks of papers down and smiled his most disarming manager smile. "All I'm asking is for you to make this really simple for me. Trust me, there aren't a lot of jobs for journalists out there."

What kept looping through my head all day was an ad campaign for Best Buy that captured my attention over the holidays: "You, Happier." It was a memorable slogan, but not particularly effective for a person like me. All I saw when I looked at those ads was: "You, with a Playstation," or "You, paying $99 a month." Either way, nothing changes. You're still you.

"You, with a new job." What would that really mean? I'd still drive a 1996 Geo Prism, ride my Karate Monkey and my Pugsley, live in a two-bedroom apartment with a roommate and four cats. I wouldn't change those things because I already enjoy my life and what I have, and I wouldn't have any real reason to change them. So what were the sloganeers at Best Buy hiding from me? "You, in management." "You, never able to climb to the top of Mount Roberts on a weekday again." "You, with a slightly larger stockpile of money." "You, on a career path that may not be the best one for you." "You, Busier."

There are really only two forces inside myself at odds right now: The force that loves newspapers and loves community journalism and yes, loves to work. And on the other side, the force that leads me to believe that time is the most valuable thing in this life, and all money is good for is buying more of it. It's a happy problem to have - too many choices. And I am a truly lucky person. Not just for the opportunities I have, and for the confused but unconditional support extended to me by my friends and family, but also for the confidence I have in myself. Because when I finally reach a decision, I'll know it must be the right one.


  1. don't think of money aspect of the job. it seems to me that you hear the word "money" and you immediately have a reaction "i don't need it." it's a word that stirs up your emotion and clouds your decision.

    the decision should be about what you like to do: be a journalist? be a cyclist?

    they aren't mutually exclusive. you just might have to change your schedule a little.

    either choice isn't a bad choice. no matter what you choose... you'll have a good life.

  2. Good Morning Jill:
    Found your blog this week, havebeen reading your trips in Alaska and Hawaii. It has been
    a source of encouragement and interest.
    So far this month, i have ridden my bicycle 365 miles in eastern pennsylvania forty miles from Philadelphia.
    The temperature's have been
    close to the temperature's and weather in Alaska.
    Snowed six (6) inche's ,last night, with ice and freezing rain to follow today through wednesday.
    Have enjoed your travels and picture's, Please keep up the good work.
    Are there any wild animals there, i.e. (wolves,bears, etc)
    Lord Bless You,
    Will say a prayer for you and your
    safe travels
    LOve of Jesus be with you, always,

  3. Jill, it seems to me that at some point you should be able to combine your two loves. Writing about your riding and your other outdoor pursuits. Sure, you're doing that right now, but it seems you could replace your newspaper job with writing about your experiences (and others).

    Maybe transition into it, but it seems to make sense to combine your two loves not dump one of them.

    Good luck!

  4. You really articulate well this situation and your options, thoughts... makes for great reading! Thanks and my best to you, no matter your decision.

  5. Whaa, whaaa, whaaa,

    Balance is what's needed. I don't understand why our generation hates "things" so much. If you want to play video games, you get an X-box, if not fine. If you want some additional security, work and stash some cash.
    Nobody cares about money until there's not enough. Then they suffer a major set-back i.e. crashing their bicycle on an icy road or getting hit by a car, and the it's "somebody should do something about this, health care sucks", yet they've contributed almost nothing in return, they are not in the asset column.
    If you value the time more then do what you're doing, but if/when you leave that job, and nothing else materializes, what then? Mommy and Daddy send a check?
    If you value true independence, there is a cost, for better or worse, for that independence. As the guy said in Wayne's World, "It costs a lot to live this free".
    Work, play, save, spend, live, love.

  6. Balance is needed, true, but, I'm more in line with what Anon 2:52 was saying: what do you really want to be? A journalist, or a writer (and cyclist)? Because, it seems to me, if you go with the daytime journalist/manager job, it could stymie your writing future, because you write about what you love, which is constant cycling.

  7. Wow, nice Wayne's world quote, Anon. I never caught the truth and irony behind that line, however, I was only in 7th grade the last time I watched it. Living with and in balance is a primary aspect to living a happy and fulfilled life. All the money in the world and all the time in the world won't necessarily bring happiness. But, contributing to your community (through work, volunteering, etc.) which provides a feeling of self-worth, continuing to develop your mind through experiences and literature to help grow your perspective, and having time for yourself to discover and search and climb and fall are three components that I believe are necessary for a well-rounded life.

    Live in the middle of nowhere and ride all day/night, you'll reach a feeling of emptiness eventually. Work all the time, you'll develop a feeling of emptiness eventually. Sit and read books all day, gathering all the information in the world but without using it for anything, you'll develop that unavoidable feeling of emptiness. Balance all three, and that's where it all comes together.

    For what it's worth, these are my thoughts. It may not be for everyone, but if you feel unbalanced, think about what aspect may be missing...

    I wish you well.

  8. Jill, perhaps taking this position on a trial-basis may be worth while? Get your feet wet. You won't know if you can make it work if you don't try. Maybe trying it out will alleviate any regrets you may have had with leaving without trying.

  9. Jesus, Socrates, Gandhi, Ted Nugent,
    Wayne Campbell...
    Yeah that pretty much sums up my list of great philosophers.
    Here's another line from The Big Lebowski:
    "My advice to you sir, is to do what your parents did and get a job. The war's over Lebowski, the bum's lost".

  10. DI makes a great point. SO you are in the job for 6 months and hate it. Your other plan will still be there.

    Good Luck and with either plan please keep writing here. I love reading it.

  11. it's very intriquing (somewhat shocking even) reading these comments that try to formulate an idea about what jill should do with "the rest of her life" (or at least the next several months). many of them seem to have an amazing sense of jill's situation and even her personality, and then other ones seem so far off base with what jill is really saying here. I guess it's an interesting study into whether or not people who "know" you through reading what you've written really know much about who you actually are or not. some of these comments seem like they could have come from people who have actually known jill for years (and at least a few of them have), while other comments couldn't be more irrelevant to her and her situation if they tried.

  12. chevy geo? wtf? you need a monte carlo, man. with a bugle horn. and tinted windows. people see you in it, they say, "wow - that lady is one successful lady. what a nice car."

    a tricked out car makes working your whole life away so worth it. if you drink and play video games all the time when you're not working, you will soon forget that you are alive and all your troubles will go away.

  13. Jill...again...you are in an enviable position.

    Follow your heart and all will be fine. Some of us with $$ and stuff are not always as happy as it would appear.

    You have no idea how much I would love to just take off for six months with my mtn. bikes and enjoy the desert southwest and the mountains. Unfortunately I have a teaching job, a wife, a home, stuff, and responsibilities as do many.

    Enjoy your life Jill no matter what your. Our time here can be fleeting.

  14. Used to live in SE Alaska, also SW Alaska. Love your post, helps to give me hits of the Alaska I loved. My work there was many hours (rural doctoring) and it was always a challenge to get the right balance with outdoor treks. But over the long haul, I've held onto my carreer, with periods of more balance and periods of less balance. It's not about the money. It's about the carreer- being able to keep a foothold with what i love doing when i am not deep in the back country challenging my body and soul and loving every second of the narrative of earth and sky. Becuase if i didn't keeo my carreer alive, eventually i;d be forced to work JUST for the money, flipping burgers or whatever. Not bad bud not my passion. It's a great choice to have- to decide whether to keep the carreer alive v. feel totally alive NOW all the time w/o the career.....
    I guess I am advocating reframing the decision.
    ALso, if balance is what you want, can you keep the position for which you gave notice instead of ramping up to the "bigger" job?
    GOOD LUCK!!!!!!!

  15. One more thing to consider...money is not that important until you don't have it when you desperately need it. What about health insurance, do you really want to be w/out that? It would only take a small accident to put you in alot of debt and we all know how considerate drivers are of bikers. I know I'm biased, I don't want you to leave Juneau but whatever you decide, I wish you luck.

  16. Thanks for the comments, everyone. I really do value them all as they help me put my own thoughts in perspective.

    As to the "adventure" Geoff and I had planned, it's not as flighty and irresponsible as I make it sound. I have a plan for health insurance, budgeting for six months when my current savings (FDIC insured) could carry me for four years under a similar budget plan, and then come back to Alaska (probably Anchorage, but maybe Juneau) in August with more budgeting set aside to find a real apartment and look for a job. And it's not just all traveling and dirtbag bicycle touring, although that's a big part of it. But I do have a specific goal that is bigger than anything I have ever attempted and will likely be bigger than anything I ever will attempt, and a similar fitness, preparation and financial window may never open up again. And, yes, I also planned to use free non-training time to work on some serious writing projects, which I've had less time for since last fall (when my current job started to get busier) and will likely have even less time than that for if I take a new job. (And the writing may or may not be lucrative, but I'll never know unless I try.) This decision really isn't as simple as "money versus freedom," although maybe I've written it that way in short posts.

  17. Question, When you go biking in really snowy conditions, or when your doing the iditerod, do you bike wearing snow shoes?? Can you? I went winter hiking yesturday without snow shoes and it was hard, so it got me wondering what ppl wear on their feet when snow biking. .

  18. Oh and one other thing. I myself am 24 and have recently decided that i really do want to go to grad school and get my teaching masters. I felt like "oh my god, before i know it i'll be too old to day dream". I've always wanted to just travel the world, Since your just a few years older than I am - really gives me a new perspective that you dont have to give up on your goals at any particular point. I always felt like, by the time i reach my mid 20's i need to focus on a career. I'm glad to see you are being so open minded about your oppertunities, its very encouraging for me. Thank you! (P.S No, Im not calling you old)

  19. "time is the most valuable thing in this life, and all money is good for is buying more of it."

    yes! Yes! YES! I love it!

  20. Thanks, Sara!

    You seem to be where I was when I was 24, when I quit my job to travel with my friends to Alaska in a van and then ride a bicycle cross-country. (Actually, I was 23 at the beginning. I had my birthday on the road.) I thought I was on a once-in-a-lifetime trip. "I won't be doing stuff like this when I'm 30," I thought.

    Ha! I'll be 30 in August. I think eventually I'll have to accept that this is simply who I am, and I may never "grow out of it." But the philosophy I've developed is to keep myself open to all of life's paths, and not drive myself tunnel-vision in one direction into a future that is unknown anyway.

    Oh, and as to the snowshoeing ... the thing with snowbiking is if you can't walk without sinking in too deep, you certainly can't ride a bike. Snowbikers stick to fairly packed trails, and if there's too much new snow, we're pushing our bikes anyway. If there's too much new snow to push a bike without snowshoes, we'd turn around quickly because that would just be awful. :-)

  21. Geoff, obviously 99 percent of Jill's blog readers don't "know" Jill, and the likelihood of anyone actually having advice for her based on our consideration of her personality is very slim. Given that, many of the comments may be off the mark. However, the questions Jill seems to be asking have a universal context with which many humans can identify. Conventional vs. unconventional. Love or money. It's the same reason universities across the globe have spent years discussing Shakespeare, Friedrich Nietzsche and Thomas More’s Utopia. The questions asked, ideals addressed and conflict engaged are universal. Would you also be surprised if someone derived a personal connection from a part of Nietzsche’s philosophy or if he or she felt somehow connected to what Ophelia may have been feeling in one of Shakespeare’s greatest works?

    Most people can not help but identify with what is familiar, causing an emotional or mental connection. Human nature leads us to read things to which we can connect. This is why textbooks filled with topics we do not understand are generally not stimulating. My point is that people like to engage in what they are reading. People would not invest their emotions or time into reading something if they couldn’t relate in the least. The primary difference between the reader of blog rather than a book is that you can’t direct a comment to or question an author of a book as easily as a blog allows. Readers are reacting to their feelings by offering advice, as accurately or inaccurately as you may feel these responses are.


  22. God, who is this (Anon) guy/girl? I feel like if I saw him/her, i could pick them out of a room because their head would be three times the size of normal.

  23. Frued, of all people, said upon his deathbed that there are two things of value in life, "love and work."
    You have work that supercedes a job in your writing and exploration. And you appear, as well, to thrive on love. I don't think you can make a wrong move; you've invested a lot of time into work, despite the pressure your editor is putting on you to stick with the job offered. Whatever you choose, we all know you will be following your heart in love and work. Peace......

  24. There are many anon's, anon.

    Conventional? Unconventional?

    Love? Money?

    Jill's answer should be...


  25. Do whatever will bring you the most attention from your family, friends, and outsiders. Go do your races and outdoor advenures to make your dad proud of you and to relive those moments you used to spend outdoors with him. Live in Alaska and ride your bike outdoors so your sisters can say that's Jill my sister in Alaska. Go write your book and your blog so people you've never met will admire your adventures and your talent as a writer, and they can tell other people I know this Jill from Alaska. Choose to be different from everyone else so that you stand out instead of fit in. Change your life completely whenever you find yourself in a comfortable rut and you start to worry if maybe you shouldn't be doing something else. Go off in the never ending elusive holy grail quest of happiness, and don't be disappointed if you never find it, because the journey is the real reward in life.

  26. Hey, life isn't over after your 20's. You can still pursue goals and do really cool things for decades. Just take care of your life necessities like health insurance, money to fall back on. Stay put, enjoy this time of your life. Your 30's will be even better, then your 40's and 50's. Look at Willie Nelson.

  27. Mike in WI says...

    Jill, this was the first time you mentioned having another goal to shoot for which seems to require youth and strength...something tells me we will hear more of this goal with a plan if you commit...

    A goal without a plan is just a wish.

  28. "...no this is how it works
    you peer inside yourself
    you take the things you like
    and try to love the things you took..."

    A snow biking video once told me so.

    I have enjoyed the comments in that they are an insight to your readership: Questions we have all answered one way or another...

  29. It sounds like you hae been very wise with your money and have things very well planned out if you were to leave your job. I think this is a rather good problem to have, either way you choose you win! What an exciting time for you. :)

  30. anon @ 12:10:

    yeah, you're exactly right. that's pretty much what i was saying. i guess what is really fascinating to me thus is that each person's interaction in this conversation is based to some degree on "baggage" that they bring to the discussion. and it's fascinating to me just how different various people can see the same things based on the "baggage" that they bring to the conversation. that's not to say that anyone is "right" or "wrong" just that some people's baggage allows them to very perfectly understand jill and what she's driving at here and other people's baggage very much restricts them from really understanding her.

  31. Geoff...what you call "baggage" are other folks life experiences from which comes wisdom.

  32. geoff- anon's a last-worder, you'll just end up talking circles...but, interesting points.

  33. Interesting comments from everyone. I really think everyone has a strong bias based upon their life situations. When I was younger and making a solid 6 figure income, I thought that was what is was about. As I got older it was about providing well for my kids. As I mentioned in yesterdays post, I was told in Feb 08 that I had a Congenital defect in my heart and that i was past due for a meeting with the coroner that's when life took on a different meaning. I now work because I like what I do and I still need some income. But I now find I am perfectly happy with things that I previously would have frowned on. Yes you need cash, my earlier efforts have afforded me a comfortable lifestyle now, but the greed bug is never satisfied and if you allow it, it will consume you. I feel blessed that this health issue arose and persuaded me to live life in a more balanced manner. I also believe everyday now has a once in a lifetime opportunity.

  34. wisdom: in most cases yes. but in some cases instead of wisdom you have denial, regret, and dissapointment attempting as best they can to mask themselves as wisdom.

  35. Great blog Jill,

    Thought you'd appreciate mine:


  36. I've been on salary for six and a half years now Jill. It does feel secure at times but it sucks when you are standing at the office instead of on the start line for a race you trained all winter and spring for.

    That's happened to me more than once. Lets face it when you're on salary your ass is theirs.


  37. have fun making your decision, jill. never grow up!!!! :)

  38. Sounds like you're all set. Maybe just coming to terms with a decision that's already made? You know I'd love to see you do the bike and write thing. That's just me livin' vicariously, though. Made my choice for kids long ago. If only the whole family would bike around the world with me, living on wild asparagus, cattails and great American novel writing.

    Goin' to the South Pole? That'd be super cool.

    With regards to Sara's question. In a race like Iditarod where you are forced to take on deep, unpacked snow, could you carry and use snowshoes?

  39. Hi Geoff, for the record, I'm the Anon 12:10 who responded to your first comment in a bit too lengthy of form. I only left that one comment and not the additional ones that seem a bit more confrontational. I respect your response to my comment and say thanks. Just wanted you to know. All the best to you and Jill. Peace.

  40. As far as the snowshoes on a bike question goes....yes, you can ride with snowshoes on a bicycle. the only drawbacks are that you have to get a custom made bottom bracket with a 2ft wide axle so your snowshoes don't hit the bike frame, and you have to ride bow-legged. Another drawback is that you have worry about the shoes kicking your chain off, and hitting the rear derailleur with the tail of the shoes causing a momentary upshift. Rumor has it that Shimano is coming out with SPD compatible snowshoes in 2009 made of carbon fiber and unobtanium. The shoes will be custom made on a limited quantitiy basis because there's only about 7 people worldwide that'd be crazy enough to ride in places where you'd need to use them.

  41. Here’s the deal, as seen by this wise old man. So many of us who read and enjoy your blog do so because our lives are so much different from yours and the only way we’ll ever see the finish line of Iditabike is vicariously through you. We have huge mortgages, kids in college, and otherwise deep unbreakable roots.

    Jill - don’t take the job. Ride on the crusty snow for a while… trails be damned!

    One day, the fact that you turned down a job offer many would kill for will make a fabulous Chapter 12 in “Ghost Trails, the sequel”.

    Now, having said all of this, there is also a chance that I am selfishly nudging you in this direction because I don’t want to lose my daily dose of Jill Homer. In fact, I am trying to enhance it.

  42. As far as Geoff's comment on regret, denial and dissapointment masking itself as wisdom, you know what they say...Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted.

    I wonder if this big specific goal Jill talked about taking time off for is that GDR race ?.

  43. There are far too many assumptions taking place here. It is what it is. Jill has chosen to place her life on a blog and open it for others like ourselves to comment as we wish.

    To refer to other peoples experiences as baggage or whatever is not right. We all have had our experiences in life...both good and bad.

    I don't think it is right for others to criticize Jill for she believes is the right thing to do in her life.

    On the other hand...if you are going to lay life out for everyone else to read and view, then you damn well better be ready to accept some criticism, advice, or whatever.

    Express your feelings...that's what this is all about. Keep your preaching to yourself.

    Geoff...do you not have any baggage?? I don't know too many people that don't.

  44. On another note...I think anons should make themselves available for others to criticize.

    It only takes a coward to hide behind the words anonymous. If you are going to criticize others then you damn well better leave yourself open to some.

  45. Just remember, that finding a good job, doing something you like, (and even more importantly, with people that you like), in a place that you like is not so easy ANYTIME, even more so right now, even for the very talented. I have several friends (in medicine, where there are always supposed to be jobs) who are very competent, smart, well educated, and who are still struggling to find even a half-decent job. Is there any way you could still do both? or work into the contract a yearly "month" to do the things that you want to do? It sounds like your manager really values you and might be willing to negotiate. If you were my sister, I guess this is what I would be telling you -

  46. What kind of bike do you ride? That thing looks like a beast!

  47. I'm just saying that the experience going on right "now" is a good place to be. No regrets or baggage here, just many decades of different experiences.

  48. I think you should leave it up to us. We'll all vote. I vote for strapping on a rocket and launching at the sun.

  49. Hey Sister,

    It is interesting too see how many people like to express their opinion. Everyone has different ideals of how life should be and what makes them happy. Some people see being a stay-at-home mom as trapped, while others feel it is the best job in the whole world and would want nothing else.

    I think your decision was made long ago (hence all of your prep work and planning). It just sounds like your boss is making it a more difficult choice! You are very talented in many ways. I believe you will make the best decision for you. No matter what everyone else says.

    Love You! Good luck with your decision!!

  50. Sara/Jill - Regarding the snowbiking/snowshoeing question, apparently my buddies Bill and Matt and myself are three of the seven people in the world crazy enough to ride bikes were you need shoeshoes. Here in Erie Pennsylvania we get tons of snow, so we'll strap the snowshoes to our backs, ride to one point, put the shoes on, hike-a-bike to the next road, take the shoes off, and then ride on. For a little better discription you can check out my blog: rosssilvis.wordpress.com.

    Anyways, just wanted to say your blog is great Jill. Good luck with the Iditarod this year and with your big decision. Looks like you've got enough advice so I'll save mine!


  51. sorry, it seems like at least a few have assumed a negative connotation to my term "baggage". i didn't mean it negatively at all. baggage is what it is: the ideas, experiences, and life lessons we all bring to the table. we all have baggage (at least in the sense that i'm using the term). it is who we are. none of us live in a vaccuum. the things we have seen and done in life contribute to our thoughts on a conversation like this. that's all i was pointing out. nothing more and nothing less. i was just trying to make a point about how fascinating it is that dozens of people can see the same thing in a dozen different ways. in my mind this can only be the result of different pieces of baggage that we each bring to the conversation.

  52. basically what i'm trying to say is the same thing lisa (3 comments up from this one) is saying in her first paragraph. we all sure are very different people and it really shows sometimes... this is one of the things in life that helps remind us that we're alive.

  53. Jill Rocks Da House!
    kb peace out

  54. Jill -

    Nothing insightful or poignant, just good luck in the decision you're facing! And as always, the words and pictures are great. Thank you. Lou

  55. wow - you hit the nail on the head with this one. i'm grateful that i found your blog - you are able to articulate things that i can only barely muster through. inspiring. encouraging. thanks.


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