Organization always backfires on me |

Organization always backfires on me

Alison Berkley
Aspen, CO Colorado

The other day I was cleaning out my house in a big way, you know, going through boxes in closets and trying to get rid of stuff and reorganize it.

Whenever I try to get organized it always backfires because I end up spending eight hours sitting on the floor in an ever-growing pile of memorabilia that I’ve held onto all these years just for days like these.

I found a few startling things in there that threw me into a “what the hell am I doing with my life?” tailspin.

For starters, it’s become increasingly clear to me that time is going by much too fast. Evidence of that included puppy pictures of Psycho Paws from seven years ago; a 1998-99 season pass from Jackson Hole; a drunk party photo from my California days with five friends who now have at least two kids each; and virtually dozens of journals filled with the exact same woes I’m dealing with right now, which isn’t very encouraging if you think about it.

A particularly disturbing entry went something like, “I really hope Mark and I get married because I want to have kids by the time I’m 30!” Nice to know I’m approximately eight years behind schedule on that one.

Mark was my boyfriend in college and one of the great loves of my life. He was quiet and shy with long skinny legs and arms like a spider, and thin straight brown hair the exact same color as his eyes. He was a big cyclist who loved “multisport days,” doing at least two sports in one day that often were totally unrelated, like rock climbing at Table Mountain in Golden on the way back from snowboarding Berthoud Pass. He was as tall as he was skinny even though he ate his Grandmother’s leftover pies for breakfast and rarely was seen without a can of Coke. He said that smoking pot “helped him to train” because it put him in the zone he needed to be in to go out on long rides or something like that.

The first time I saw him naked, he cast his eyes down revealing that set of thick, dark eyelashes and said, “I know, I know. It’s unproportionately large.”

We were best friends and loved to pal around Boulder together, often on BMX bikes or on the longboard skateboards I got for us in San Diego. He took every opportunity possible to buy me sporting equipment, and over the course of our relationship I acquired a road bike, mountain bike, snowshoes, cycling shoes, rock climbing shoes, rock climbing harness and more cycling socks than any girl could ever want. Let’s just say jewelry, lingerie and spa treatments were not in Mark’s vocabulary.

In the rare instance we’d get into a fight I’d say, “How many minutes are you gonna be mad at me? Ten? Twelve? Or eighteen?”

“Twelve,” he’d say.

“OK, I’ll be back in 12 minutes, then!” I’d reply cheerily.

We never broke up so much as parted ways. I got a job at Transworld Snowboarding magazine in Oceanside, California and moved to San Diego. Tucked in a shoebox I found a note he’d written me in late 1995, maybe six months after I’d left, right after he’d been out for a visit. It read, “Cali was awesome (Oceanside kind of freaked me out though). I think I could live there, and I definitely think I could be with you.”

I’m not sure what I thought was wrong with Mark, what kind of fault I could possibly have seen in him, but when he said he wanted to move out to be with me, I’d said no. I was too worried about being responsible for his happiness, I said. I didn’t want that responsibility.

So we broke up and he moved on to meet the girl he’d eventually marry, some rich girl from Virginia who bought them a house in San Francisco. One of our idiot friends from college was dumb enough to send me a link to their wedding blog where his uncharacteristically elaborate proposal was documented in a slideshow. He had chartered a sea plane to fly over the Marin Headlands where he’d carved, “STACY MARRY ME” into the soil below.

Then I came across a few old portfolio binders, the kind with clear plastic pages that you can slip magazine clips into, the kind we used before everything was digital. I flipped through articles I’d written on snowboarding in Montana, Switzerland, Austria and Canada. Stories I’d told about adventures surfing in Fiji and Hawaii that were illustrated with big, full-bleed photographs of these exotic places with these wild people.

I found snapshots I’d taken on some of those trips, images of me leaning against a jet black helicopter. Pictures of me in the hot tub with an all-male crew with our beers lifted out of the water, steam rising around our smiling faces. Photos of me arm in arm with world champion surfers and pro skiers and renowned snowboarders.

I sat there on the floor for hours, minutes slipping by as fast as the years seem to be, wondering where the hell all that time went. Wondering how, after all that, the only images I’ve seen of myself lately have been sweating my tush off in the hot yoga room.

Yesterday, I was hanging out with my friend Melissa who was here for the X Games. She’d been my intern at Transworld more than 15 years ago. She lives in Jackson, Wyo., now and is struggling with some of the same things I am ” wanting to be a real writer, but not really sure how to make that happen.

“It seems stupid to talk about what I want to do when I grow up now that I’m pushing 40,” I told her.

After cleaning out my closet, I almost wish I’d found skeletons. All these memories seemed too good to leave behind.

The Princess is suffering from post-X Games depression. Send your cheery e-mail to

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