Alison Berkley: Just another stop, or is this home?
October 14, 2002
Both my parents are shrinks. (Yes, I know what you’re thinking: “That explains a lot.” As if I haven’t heard that one before!) For over 30 years they ran a private practice in West Hartford, Connecticut. They met at Yale and got married three months after their first date. They’ve been together for almost 35 years and as far as I know, have never had a major argument. No, they are not crazy ? unless you consider being that stable crazy. I’m beginning to wonder.
My parents did what they were supposed to do. They went to school, they studied hard, and they worked. They had a kind of ambition and focus and ability to commit to one path that is completely foreign to me. They chose a direction and stuck with it. They worked the same job and lived in the same house in the same town for most of my life.
It’s not quite so straightforward for those of us in the Limbo Generation. It’s like we’re always in some temporary state of waiting for our lives to happen, as if one day we’ll magically figure it out. In the meantime, we’ll just keep surfing and snowboarding and skiing and renting so we can afford to live in expensive resort areas. That’s a lot better than feeling so confused all the time!
I’ve moved every six months for the past seven years. I surfed and went to the gym every day and got really thin and blonde in So Cal. I snowboarded steeps and fraternized with pro skiers and developed a serious drinking problem in Jackson Hole. I worked in Hollywood for about ten minutes and sat in endless traffic and got to interview Drew Barrymore. I was hired by a dotcom at a ridiculously high salary in San Francisco and ate out a lot. I fell in love with photographers and filmmakers and dotcom CEOs and had an on-again, off-again, long-distance affair with a firefighter from Salt Lake City who seemed to start as many fires as he put out. I got a tattoo on my ankle and had my bellybutton pierced. At one point, I even tried going back to Boulder (definitely not recommended).
In all of those places I reinvented myself and dreamed of very different futures. I would marry a surfer boy and raise little bleached-blond children who had summer all year round and wore little cargo shorts and skateboard shoes. I would be consumed by the tall mountains and huge open sky of Wyoming and become one of those people who says, “I came here on vacation 20 years ago and never left.” I would move to Marin County and live in an old house on a steep hill overlooking the bay and become a soccer mom. I would make a fortune writing scripts in Hollywood and drive an expensive sports car and get fake boobs. I would go back to Boulder and start where I left off in college, happy and content for the last time I can remember.
For a lot of us, Aspen is another pit stop on the never-ending journey to figure out what we want to do with the rest of our lives. I’m told most Aspen locals don’t make it more than two or three seasons before we’re forced elsewhere to pursue a life we can actually afford. But Aspen is the first place I’ve been where reinventing myself was not necessary. I feel at home here in the true sense of the word. So what if I have to wait until I’m 36 to enter the housing lottery so that I can live in a two-bedroom apartment for the rest of my life? If there’s a will, there’s a way, I always say!
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But I can’t help but feel discouraged by people who leave town because they’re in debt or by friends who are always talking about going back East or by the businesses that seem to be dropping like flies. I wonder about the people who owned places like Nxt, Club Chelsea, Poppy’s, and Harry’s Velvet Room. Did their dreams for a life in Aspen slip out from under them like snow in an avalanche, or was it a simple business decision? Does it reflect hopelessness of the Aspen economy or is it just the normal off-season shuffle?
One of my roommates recently lost his job at an architecture firm; one is upset he “forgot to get paid by all his clients before they left town”; one starts every morning with the declaration, “I’ve got to find another line of work soon ? this job is driving me crazy,”; and the fourth roommate never really comes out of his room in the basement so I have no idea what he does. The other day I got a phone call from the dean’s office at The Professional Writing Program at USC. They wanted to know if I was “still interested in applying to the program.” I surprised myself with the response, “Sure. Send me the information.”
Whatever! I am so sick of all this negativity. I don’t want Aspen to be another stop on the Grass-Is-Always-Greener Train. I mean, look out your window, people! What more could you ask for than foliage that never ends and winter that comes early? Where is there to go when you’re already here?
Earlier today, I was complaining to my roommate (the unemployed architect) about all my Aspen woes, but nothing seems to faze him. He shrugs off any reasons to leave this town, content as a Buddhist monk. He doesn’t care about getting laid off or the fact that I steal all his food or that my dog growls at him every time he comes home.
“I think my bubble burst,” I whined. He looked at me blankly, smiled one of his gap-toothed grins and said, “So go blow a new one.”
[If you have any Aspen survival tips for the Princess, you can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org]