As he finishes meticulously preparing our plates, the grilled Swordfish and sea scallops steaming slightly in the cool mountain air, we gather around the table on their back porch.
“Let’s do gratitude?” David asks Jen.
We each get an opportunity to express what we’re grateful for on this lovely Friday evening. It’s a compelling and thoughtful couple of minutes. I’m most grateful for opportunities, I express: to catch up with friends, share food, meet new people, travel, and exchange ideas and energy.
We dig in. The meal and red wine, followed by chocolate and more red wine really hit the spot.
What strikes me most, even almost a week later, is the intensity, depth, and engaging energy of our conversation that night. Over the course of the four hours we spent catching up, topics ranged from Ryan’s progress on his Transamerica Trail to what it takes to start a non-profit, and even some of the experiences, for better or worse, that have shaped us.
Coming away from that evening I felt even more energized and excited about the coming weeks and months on my journey developing this campaign into something greater. There are times where I start to question what I’m doing, with this blog, and with my life. There are so many options, paths, and actions that I could take, and how do I know which one is right? How do I know which one will fulfill me the most? What will make the most difference? How will I know that I know?
Spending those few hours with friends a few years ahead of me, who have experienced more, who have succeeded and failed, and who kept going and continued to “ship” was incredibly inspiring.
Livin' the dream
A few years ago Jen started Velo Girl Rides, a bicycle touring company out of Black Mountain, NC with a knack for local, custom and beautiful Blue Ridge tours. She manages this effort with a special energy that draws people to experience the unique landscape the southern Appalachians have to offer. Each year they organize and execute Cycle to Farm, a single day cycling adventure to multiple local farms dotting the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Asheville/Black Mountain vicinity. The 60+ mile ride is followed by an awesome after party featuring an exquisite meal by a local restaurant or catering company, live entertainment, and cold thirst-quenching brews from New Belgium Brewing. I volunteered at two of the four CTF events last year and had a blast each time! David and Jen make a great team and people come from all over the U.S. to participate in this event.
Hearing about their experience recruiting sponsors, planning, organizing and moving to a new “location,” and then realizing that all of this came out of a vision, a dream, to do something beyond a 9 to 5 desk job really got my gears turning. David’s vast knowledge of starting, running, and succeeding with a consulting business was also eye-opening for me. I feel immensely grateful to know, and feel valued by people who are so supportive of my vision and encourage me to take it further, to “go for it,” and help me feel more secure in my ability to realize, define, and execute my vision.
Defining my vision with intention
With so much happening right now, being in transition and being a nomad, finding a way to make a passion a livelihood is in the forefront of my mind, but when and how do I make it happen? It's a bit nerve-wracking. So I remind myself to practice the Small Act of expressing gratitude, as we did that night at the dinner table, for what I do have, and to “take it one day at a time.” I think intention is key here as well. When things get hectic, overwhelming, or confusing, I can readjust myself by refocusing my intention. What am I really working toward? What is important? What deserves my energy? Focusing on the answers to these questions helps me see the forest through the trees, and allows me to more clearly take advantage of opportunities as they arise.
The Saturday following my dinner with David and Jen I participated in the Asheville Greenworks Clean Streams event and helped clean up a really litter strewn stream in the River Arts District of Asheville. The amount of trash that we, and another team that paddled the French Broad River, collected was both astonishing and disgusting. Despite the nastiness, the highlight was getting to meet some really great folks from Altamont Environmental, spend the day stomping around in a creek with them, learning about the important work they do, and enjoying their company at the after party. I didn’t really anticipate making new friends that day, but the incredibly Small Act of being open allowed me to make connections with others that share common interests and work toward a similar goal: keeping the planet clean and healthy.
Expressing my inner artist
Nearly a week later, I find myself in my second home of sorts, Norfolk, VA prepping with friends for what’s sure to be a fun and energetic weekend of crafts, art, conversations, and hopefully, more connections. I have already encountered several people I know and love here and it hasn’t even been 24 hours! In prepartion of this event I created two art pieces that will be featured at POTTED: A popup shop. They aren't really for anyone, just for me, but they do tell a story. It was awesome getting to outlet my creative energy in physical form, and it made me nostalgic for the days I spent in the studio art center at JMU.
The take-away: a small act, whether that’s cleaning up a stream, sharing a conversation-filled evening, or driving 6 hours to help friends, goes a long way toward actualizing a vision when you’re open to accepting the experiences, good and bad, that life presents you.