Recovering Workaholic

My name is Bailee and I am a recovering workaholic. My rock bottom was my final year in college; working three jobs at once while in school full time. The hours just kept adding up. An 8 hour work shift turned into a 16 hour work day, which snowballed into a 60 hour work week. My hours of sleep slipping away from me as quickly as my clocked hours piled up. I was unhappy, to say the least. My moods shifting from exhausted to angry to crying and back again. I was stuck in a cloud of hazy grays and reds just trying to finish a shift so that I could rest and do it all again the next day.

I was miserable but proud. Anyone who knew me knew I worked in order to pay for tuition and the exorbitant rent prices in Santa Barbara. But in reality, that was only part of the reason. I had become addicted to torturing myself. The pain of standing sixteen hours a day, skipping meals while rushing to my second job, and writing essays on lunch breaks only fueled my self pride. I lived in a fantasy that my continued suffering would lead me to some holy redemption, a better place in my future career and a step ahead of my peers.

But the truth was I was killing myself- I started to lose my ability to connect with others because of the resentment I felt toward them. I believed everyone had it easier than I did and if someone complained about their lives I was quick to jump in and one up them with my suffering. Their “inability” to understand me only strengthened my belief that I was doing something right and somehow getting ahead of the game.

My name is Bailee and I am a recovering workaholic. My never ending attempt to “get ahead” through self torture and lack of sleep has ended. I am living my best life and my job is the reason. I came to Kalu Yala as a student in the summer of 2017 and knew immediately that I wanted to stay. So I did.

Kalu Yala is a constant contradiction to my past self and has ushered me to a road of recovery- both of my soul and my passions. My work days start with sunrise peaking from behind jungle hills, the birds chirping above my hammock and the happiness that comes from waking up outside. “Work clothes” are now PJ’s from the night before paired with muddy rain boots and a loose bun of hair. No makeup. My morning commute is a three minute walk to Town Square, five if its raining and the roads are jammed. I always have weekends off. My passions and interests are topics of conversations with my management team and my coworkers lead me in meditation and yoga at the end of the day. I did not take this job for the money. In fact, I am getting paid less than when I was sixteen and got my first job as a lifeguard. My gut reaction to the pay was immediate anxiety. How could I live off of so little money? What about… I tried to fill in the blank. What about what? While working at Kalu Yala I am given three meals a day, a covered platform to sleep on and transportation into and out of the valley if I need it. In addition, I am given a community of authentic individuals who value mental health, community living and fostering a passionate work environment. I have come a long way from forcibly pushing out all of my coworkers and friends from my life.

Previously I had seen jobs as a way to make money and gain necessary skills for the work force. By working in high school and college I felt that I had experiences that would lead me to a “successful” life. I equated success with hard work and hard work with suffering. But this equation is only half true. Hard work is essential to becoming a better person and following your passions. But hard work does not need to mean self torture and poor mental/ physical health all in the name of a bigger savings account, better credit, or better job title.

Monetary compensation should not be the only value in a job. Working for a startup like Kalu Yala has taught me that “wearing many hats” can lead to the discovery of new passions and the development of skills that I did not have before. In just a few months in the jungle I have roasted coffee over biochar, written an article for the company blog, and TA’ed for the business program- all as the formal head of human resources. My job title has not put me in a box (literal cubicle or otherwise) where the only thing to gain is a paycheck. I am given the freedom of an intern, an ability to explore my passions and be an active member of the community.

I had always visualized success as a finish line, a place where I would be happy and living my best life; but that was far removed from my present state of self. Now, I see success as a process that I am incorporating into daily life; one that includes mental and physical health as part of the equation. In addition, it is no longer about a larger paycheck, overpriced rent, or expensive getaway vacations. I am living my day to day without the “modern” normalities of a car, a home, or even a bed. I have not purchased new clothes or shoes in months and I believe that living outside is the best mini vacation I have ever had. My hard work is geared toward a perpetual state of learning. I work for the experience and to discover and rediscover my passions. As a recovering workaholic in her twenties, I am happy to be poor, well rested, and constantly learning.

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Yosemite

IMG_5609Yosemite was the first chance I had to actually hike all day and enjoy nature in the way that I had envisioned on my trip. Unfortunately, the rest of what surrounded Yosemite was a mess of closed roads, too many people and little parking. I had camped at the Lake Hogdon campground which is on the North side of Yosemite. Online, I read that I would be 45 minutes from the actual valley floor where I would be able to hike to my hearts content. Thinking that it wasn’t too bad, I headed to the site and set up my tent for the night.

The camp was sparsely filled, many trees had fallen or had been cut and sites 35-70 were closed for restoration. After putting all of my food into the provided bear container, I began a small fire (the first fire of my trip) and made dinner. It was relaxing to finally be out of my car and have space to spread out my belongings. The quiet was nice but after meeting my campsite neighbors, I realized how thirsty I was for human interaction. The conversation flowed easily between me and the two recent Berkeley masters students. I was surprised that I hadn’t had more of these type of friendly conversations on my trip, curious small talk amongst travelers. When they left in the morning we exchanged sincere hugs and well wishes for our journeys ahead.

This moment quickly ended as moments after my happy departure from my friends, I came face to face with a road closure and the news that I would have to take a 3 hour detour into Yosemite Valley. I tried to be positive about this literal road block and think about how I didn’t mind driving (obviously) and I had all the time in the world (also obviously) but the fact that I had slept in and didn’t get on the road until almost noon made my day much shorter than I had imagined.

It seems that Yosemite is in a state of revamp after the harsh winter and in preparation for the summer time crowds. Because of this, more roads were closed and bright orange cones often accompanied the green grass of the valley. The line of cars and crowds of people reminded me of Disneyland with all of its disorganized hustle and bustle. People waiting in lines to take pictures of or with a particular waterfall or open area easily reminded me of children in line for photos with Mickey Mouse.

After taking the loop around (which was smaller than I had imagined), I parked near Camp 4 and started to walk, unsure of my destination but wanting to get out of the lines and onto a trail. The next five hours and 11 miles of walking were some of the most fulfilling moments of my trip. The crowds of the road disappeared, seemingly by magic once I headed to the trail. Most of my walking was in solitude, with the simple rustle of trees or rush of wind and water to accompany me. I couldn’t quite tell you where my mind wandered to during that time but it was often vast appreciation for the rock walls, the leafy trees, my comfy clothes and my camera. I have often said that gratitude is the most pure level of happiness and pure is how I felt in Yosemite.

“There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods…and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred.” -Theodore Roosevelt 

Also, half dome was covered by a cloud the whole day… classic Bad-luck Bailee

Change of Plans

IMG_5516If there is one thing that I have learned so far on this road trip besides how long my hair can go without being washed, its that my plans usually don’t workout. This seems to be true of any scale. For example, I thought I may hit Yosemite on my way up California and that I would eat tons of meals from my campfire stove each day, both of which have been untrue. Because of things half beyond my control, and half about my inability to handle cold weather, I will not be heading to Yellowstone and Grand Teton as planned. This is a huge bummer for me, but I feel it is what needs to be done so that I can truly enjoy this trip as much as possible. The upside of this literal change in direction is that I will be able to see Yosemite in a not so snowy state (yay!).

Sunny Day in Seattle

 

IMG_5473Today I decided that I would find a parking spot in the morning, pay for the full day and travel the city by foot. Luckily for me, today has been the only day without sporadic rain every few minutes and I have relished in every moment. Exploring a city blindly, by foot, without the aid of my phone brought back nostalgic feelings from backpacking in Europe. The slow trek is more intimate and a more fulfilling way to enjoy the sites and local businesses. If I had driven, for example, I probably would not have noticed the sculpture park nestled in between the busy road and harbor area which gave me a glimpse of art and the ocean.

Walking around has also solved one of the other problems I have had with cities like Portland and Seattle- the anxiety of driving in a unfamiliar and crowded place. If my license plate did not immediately give me away, I have no doubt that my straining neck, slow pace and incorrect turns onto one way streets have correctly branded me “tourist”. Small fender benders and pissing off locals are both on my list of “Do Not’s” and so, walking is the much more acceptable alternative for me. Plus, it helps me burn off more of more of my carb based meals.

Apathetic Restroom Visits

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I apologize to my one reader (hi mom) for my brief absence from the interwebs as I have been super sick and therefore, totally useless as a human or writer in any regard. Thankfully, the worst is behind me and I’m back on the blogosphere so here are my latest experiences on staying in cities like Portland/Seattle.

Staying in cities offers a different experience than the typical National or State Park. The rugged wildness of outhouses and bear containers is brushed away for strict parking meters and overpriced food. Sleeping arrangements are also particularly different for me. Without leaving the city limits to pitch my tent in a park, I am forced to stay on random neighborhood streets, in the back of my car, hoping that my fogged up windows and loosely fitting blackout curtains do not give me away. Most annoying is my apparent inability to discreetly unlock my car from the inside without the alarm going off. Every morning after I have crawled from the back of my car into my driver side seat, I must exit my car as quickly as possible and thrust my key into the driver side door in order to manually unlock it and stop the alarm. In a campsite, I simply unzip my tent and step out into gentle solitude. In cities, I am forced to expose my position, rather loudly, for the whole street to hear.

Without the luxuries of campsite or hotel amenities, I am forced to complete basic daily hygiene either on the street or in local businesses. Therefore, a curious outcome of living out of my car in big cities is that I do not care so much about breaking rules or social norms. For example, like many people, I have a innate need to pee right as I get up in the morning. Openly peeing on a quaint Portland suburb curb in broad daylight is a little bit out of my comfort zone, general hygiene boundaries and also, the law, and so my first order of business is leaving my parking spot. Priorities as soon as I wake up (besides discreetly stopping my car alarm) are: First pee, then coffee, wifi and food. Generally, I try to wrap all of these items into a one stop shop. Looking like a homeless person right when I wake up (because really, thats what I am) makes this a much more difficult task than for normal Bailee. I would love to stroll into the nearest tiny speciality coffee shop to gather free wifi and caffeine, but my eye buggers and wardrobe change would be a little more conspicuous and less welcome. Therefore, I use the cover of the masses in grocery stores to get by. Strolling into a Safeway and heading straight to the back for the restrooms seems much more socially acceptable (or at least not sociably noticeable) than a five seat cafe.

I have created lines for the restroom in Whole Foods by taking my time washing my face, brushing my teeth and changing my clothes. And I have strutted out of the bathroom neither embarrassed or particularly proud. I am fairly indifferent about others feelings toward me or whether or not they could hear me brushing my teeth or assumed that I simply taking a big poop.

I am not sure why traveling (or perhaps, traveling alone) has given me this particular feeling of apathy. It could be that I feel that I will never see these people again and so, it does not matter if they feel like I am a little rude or peculiar. Social norms are only really in place if you feel the pressure from the particular society itself. This seems like common sense, but in practice seem pretty powerful. I do not feel attached to the Safeway on Broadway st. in Portland, and therefore, unconnected to the people within. I feel invisible in the community, just a blip on their radar, barely making a ripple before I depart to another place. As long as I am following all technical laws, and am gracious enough to purchase a granola bar or water before leaving, I feel 100% ok in taking my sweet time in the bathroom.

This is a particular feeling of freedom that I have never really had before, and one that I plan to explore fully during my time on the road. Safeway bathrooms here I come.

Chained to Stubborness

IMG_5430After a successful day hiking Sequoia National Park I left the mountains in order to make my way up North and to Reno. I knew that a storm was coming through the Sierra’s but wasn’t too nervous as I have driven through the Tahoe area during a snow storm in the past and had come out unscathed. Unfortunately, the past is no indication of the present. As traffic slowly came to a stop and everyone pulled to the side of the road I knew that I was in trouble.

“Chains required on all vehicles”.

As a Southern California resident with no hidden hobby of snowboarding, ya girl does not own tire chains. The highway patrol ushered me off the freeway and to the already overly crowded Shell gas station. I quickly googled my tire size while in the 20 minute line and scrolled through some instructions on how to install them. After hearing that the chains would cost me $70 (thanks supply and demand), I couldn’t quite stomach the extra $30 and the 40 minute line to have them installed for me. How hard could it really be? I’m obviously a strong, independent, solo road-tripping, living out of her car for a month, woman who don’t need no man to help her put on tire chains. I defiantly flashed past the line of lazy people waiting for help on installation and headed to my car.

I sat in my car un-clumping the chains and putting on another jacket to help protect me from the hail that was coming down. I stepped outside and took a peak at a gas station employee helping the vehicle next to mine. Seemed simple enough: chains over the wheel, drive the car slightly forward and attach the clamp on the back and then the front. Simple.

What ensued instead was an hour long battle with snow, slush, chains and tires. My hands were frozen, my feet wet from the melting slow and my determination slowly fading. I wanted nothing more than a warm bath and a hot cup of coffee. The chains were on but did not feel completely secure, I needed someone stronger, or at least with better gloves to tighten them before driving. After a quick look around for someone who knew what they were doing, I slumped back inside defeated, ready to pay the $30 for help. Embarrassed and worn out I felt tears slowly creeping into my eyes. I just wanted to get the fuck out of this gas station. Taking in the still growing line my frustration turned into anger. I was not going to pay some guy $30 to simply tighten the chains that I had put on by myself. I had done most of the work and had been here longer than most of the people waiting in line. I just wanted to leave.

I went back to my car for round two. The snow and hail had stopped and I felt oddly warm. Anger transformed into energy. Twenty more minutes of messing around and I determined that it was good enough for me. I was getting on the freeway.

A few miles down the road something snapped and I loud slapping sound filled my car.

I pulled off of the freeway for the third time and ripped off the now broken chain off of my right wheel. Having no doubt that the freeway gods were mocking my incompetence, I shamefully got back in my car.

If anything can be learned from my experience it is this: Strong solo road tripping southern California women sometimes do need help. Especially in snow related endeavors.