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.