Roger Marolt: Roger This
November 5, 2010
There is some bad advice floating around out there.
“Go and live your life,” they told me when I graduated from high school. “Follow your dreams. Never give them up. Don’t compromise them for anyone or anything.” It didn’t hit me like a bolt of lightning; rather, it has come upon me as a gentle breeze 30 years later rustling the branches above my noggin. That old encouragement is nonsense, if well-intentioned.
Yes, the heresy to the hedonist is true – a completely fulfilling and meaningful life is made by living your life for others. I thought about this for the first time in a long time the other night when I couldn’t sleep and decided to count blessings instead of the usual distracting sheep. As it turns out, the greatest ones were dozing safely under the same roof where I lay contemplating. That I don’t live in a barn is the clue that I refer here to the blessings and not the sheep.
I am certain that this observation of putting others first is obvious to many of you, but it wasn’t always to me. Remember, I grew up here. According to the atlas there isn’t, but I know there are a lot of “I’s” in “Aspen.”
I think it has something to do with the “powder day” being more sacred than the act of giving thanks to The Creator for giving it to us. Who would risk losing one place in line at the gondola on a snowy morning by bowing their head for a moment of praise, or being polite to a rude person trying to catch up with their friends? That says a lot.
I have been in those lines and I can attest that it led only to greater self-indulgent extremes. It wasn’t enough to conquer the conquered. After the lifts closed, we needed to go where no man had gone for at least a few weeks in the backcountry, and we did … every chance we got … at the expense of almost all else. Eventually, however, snow melts and then we are left with training, an even more selfish endeavor.
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Training in Aspen is riding a bicycle or running. With almost everyone doing it, the competition in this form of relaxation is intense. If somebody is ahead of you on the road or trail, you have to catch up and pass them. If somebody is behind, you have to go hard to the brink of rupturing your spleen to keep ahead. If you can do neither, you must at least make sure that you go farther than anyone else or stay at it for an incredibly long period of time. At the absolute minimum, when all else fails, you must look good doing what you are doing, which requires its own kind of focus. Then there is golf, tennis, paragliding and rock climbing for the crowd of nonconformists, too.
Of course the main reason for doing all of these things is to boast to as many people who care, secretly or otherwise, as possible. Fortunately, or not, Aspen provides culture and society in abundance for this purpose. In ordinary towns an occasional movie or cocktail party is sufficient for ordinary people to catch up with friends and family about the weather, work and sports.
In Aspen, where big shots, dilettantes and enough B-listers to start a C-list mingle with locals, the ordinary talk must be punctuated with extraordinary bragging to the extent that we add a full schedule of plays, concerts, parties and the ubiquitous “event” to the everyday stuff in order to cram all the extraneous stories in before they are rendered inconsequential of their own accord. This should not be confused with sharing. It is mostly to ensure everyone has their own uninterrupted 15 minutes of fame twice a week, tit for tat.
So, you will have to excuse me for believing for a good part of my life that pursuing my dreams was my main purpose. To live in Aspen was one of my dreams, and I was going for it. But, it wasn’t just in Aspen where I came to feel something less than complete satisfaction. There was also San Diego, where I pursued my dream of playing in the big leagues. There was Boulder, where I set my sights on getting to the tops of the world’s most remote peaks.
Neither of the latter two dreams ended the way I hoped, and that made it easy to blame dissatisfaction with them on failure. Don’t get me wrong, the pursuit was fun. But, man cannot live on unleavened fun alone. Then I moved back to Aspen. My dream life here became everything I imagined it would.
Why was that less than fulfilling then? I think it was because I was pursuing my dreams with all the vigor I could muster. I was driven. I was single-minded. I never gave them up (although eventually some gave me up). I didn’t compromise for anything or anyone. That’s what I was told to do!
So, would I do it the same again? No. I might start out with my sights set the same, but I would keep a sharper lookout for the people I love, and if they happened to get in the way I would take longer walks with them or sit down in more comfortable chairs with larger cups of coffee and catch up. These are the things that satisfy. If I had time afterward, I’d head to the ball field and play hard hoping that I could use any success on the diamond to reach out to others with a helping hand instead of seeking acclaim. If that didn’t pan out, I would be contentedly happy to go home and play with the kids and throw a ball for the dog.
And, thank The Creator for all of it … and be polite to rude strangers.
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