But few cause the sudden Oh.My.Goodness. moment quite like cleaning out a crate full of baby chickens.
Scooping the shredded paper by hand, there was a moment when it hit me that this is a far cry from the life I left in D.C. just 15 months ago. A life I thought I wanted.
There was a brief time as a kid growing up in Texas that I thought I wanted to grow up, marry a cowboy and live on a ranch.
After that 7-year-old fantasy fizzled out, I never gave much thought to the rural life again.
At least not until college.
I found myself reading an article in The Economist during my senior year that included the fact that 10 of the 20 poorest counties in the U.S. were in Montana. For some reason, that said to me that Montana would be full of journalistic opportunity and minimal competition for those reporting jobs.
I applied and was offered an interview at a paper in a small town where the top story was Bear Chases Man Up Tree. I also called the paper near the military base just to say, Can I meet you and maybe one day you'll hire me? (Fun fact, that's the same paper where I work now.)
But then things happened and I took a job in Alabama, where I didn't know a soul.
That's where I got into running and military reporting and the Southern lifestyle and where I met M.
Those years were full of learning and growing. And I got there because I let go of the life I'd planned.
M and I went our separate ways for a time and I headed back to Virginia, where I didn't have a job when I decided to make the move. Somehow we found our way back to each other and here I am, gardening on acres and raising chickens in Montana.
As a kid, I wanted to be a prima ballerina. Then a lawyer. Then a marine biologist. President for a hot second, then a teacher. It was eighth grade when I fell in love with journalism. In high school, I had a list of internships and jobs I wanted to go for. They included the Washington Post and New York Times, as well as possibly doing public relations for the Philadelphia Flyers or the New York Rangers.
Clearly things have changed, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Honestly, I think the life I imagine and plan changes so often that I've stopped planning the big picture. Instead, I pick out the things I want to accomplish and think about the kind of person I want to be and life sort of fills in around that.
All of that had me thinking of how to find the life waiting for you.
Figure out what you're passionate about. Follow those things. I got lucky and figured out my love for journalism by the time I was in high school and focused most of my energies on that. Along the way, I found lots of other things, but at my core, I've always loved bringing people together and creating positive things. That passion has inspired much of my work and built my network of friends.
Trust your gut. There have been plenty of scary life changes for me when I could have chickened out, but I've conditioned myself to trust that gut feeling of Go For It and also conditioned myself to follow through.
When opportunity knocks, answer the door. In trusting your gut, you'll be able to sort through all of the opportunities to come your way and focus on the ones that are right for you, but when that moment comes, seize it.
Look back and smile about the good times, but keep moving forward. There's any number of shoulda, coulda, wouldas and moments we might have done a little differently if given a do-over, but that's all past now. Learn from it, accept it, trust that it got you where you're going.
Bears are something to fear, packing a U-Haul and giving it a go, isn't. The unknown puts me on edge sometimes, but all that mental conditioning for trusting my gut and knowing things will work out helps me march forward boldly.
Action is often the cure for overwhelm and feeling paralyzed by how big your goals are. Want to accomplish something great? Start now. Baby steps will get you everywhere.
1. Feeling my motivation and super productive mode kicking in.
2. Finally deciding on and ordering a necklace from Dogeared Jewelry. And getting a $180 coat for $30.
3. Still loving my haircut a week later. And how much quicker morning routines are after you chop six inches or so.
4. Interviewing a general who said "thank you for being accurate and fair."
5. Dreaming big on my rink event, asking the radio station to get involved. They said yes.
What would be included in your five things? How do you get to the life meant for you?