From Colorado to Alaska and Back Again

Your eyes peel open, sleep crust in all corners, your head is pounding, mouth is dry. This, my friend, is a hangover. You may think I’m setting you up for a memory from my early 20’s, but in fact, hangovers are sadly part of being an adult. They sometimes come after 2 IPA’s; it’s an experience that only the most mature adults can endure. Accompanying these mature hangovers are feelings of self-doubt, anxiety, depression, compulsiveness, and so on. Unfortunately, these feelings tend to linger after the hangover, too. They are part of life.
Mark Manson wrote a fantastic book, called the ‘Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck.’ I’m only 1/4 of the way through, but I highly suggest you read this book. Manson goes into discussing and highlighting thoughts that I have been bouncing back in forth in my head for a decade. He just narrowed it down for me, really quickly, bluntly, and using the word ‘fuck’ as I would-it was so relatable. Manson expresses that life is full of disappointments, ones that we can not escape. No matter what job, what car, what spouse, what vacation, what fancy sector of your life you are trying to better, there will always be disappointments. Many sayings paint this picture:

“The grass is always greener on the other side.”
“You want what you can’t have.”
“You can’t buy happiness.”

We’ve grown up on all of these sayings, and being an educated bunch, most of us generally understand the concept. But, still, we often go about life caring way too much about things that don’t matter. We let the little things get in the way of the big picture, and we consciously tell ourselves that life can be perfect, and we will strive to make that happen. It will be many people’s goal for all of their lives; hungry for something that is not attainable. It’s exhausting.

I moved to Alaska for the Summer. I got a job at a fishing lodge perched beautifully on the Kenai River. Many asked, how did you come to this decision, how did you find this lodge, why? The answer was just as far upstream from me as it was to everyone else. I have no fucking idea. I just wanted to try something different. I had nothing holding me back from doing it. No dog, no house, no car, no boyfriend, and a job that was easy to move on from. Deep in my thoughts, I questioned:

“Am I running from something?”
“What am I chasing?”

But the more simple answer is, no. I am not. I have always flown by the seat of my pants, often making sporadic, whimsical decisions. That being said, I am thoughtful, calculated, and organized- so it’s not a total shit show. So, I am about halfway through my time here in Alaska, and here is what I have found so far. I am grateful and proud of myself for taking such a random leap of faith which landed me living on the Kenai River in a house with ten guys. I have learned several different types of fishing, and have caught three different species of fish so far, including the notorious King Salmon. I have had more time to myself to relax, read, bake, and cook. I have had more time for reflection without the social distractions of the lower 48.

Manson mentions that with pleasure inevitably comes pain. They are paired together; an eternal affair-like Sancerre and Chevre, like Football and PBR. With great pleasure, also comes pain, or guilt, or anxiety or depression. No matter what we do in life, no matter how much we plan, organize, no matter how much we avoid drama or negative people, no matter how hard we work, or how clearly we communicate, life will always, always be filled with disappointments and pain. That is what life is. We are the most complex specimens to ever live on this planet because of how much we can think, feel, and adapt to our environments.

So, now that I have depressed you, here is the kicker. Because we now understand that life is just one big shit show, chill the fuck out. Take a big Ujjayi breath, tell yourself that you are a fucking badass and continue on. I can’t tell you how many times I should have freaked out and completely lost my mind while I was in my 20’s. I bounced around, back and forth from my hometown about four different times, moving houses about 16 times since I left for college in 2006. [There’s a lesson. Moving sucks, don’t do it.] But alas, here I am, in my 30’s. I am alive, I am healthy, I have friends that still call me, I have a family that still loves me, I still got dance moves, I am only getting better at baking and cooking, and I think my jokes will impress for years to come.
So, what’s my path? I have no clue. But life is too fucking short to stress out about your path. Instead, take all of that brain energy and focus it down for a second. Ask yourself a couple of questions:

1. Of all things in life, what is the most important facet to ensure your comfort and happiness?
2. Do you care more about growing a successful career, no matter where in the world it takes you? Are you okay with having a job that pays the bills, but doesn’t necessarily fulfill your passions?
3. How can you grow into your best self for years to come?

For me, I’ll tell you my answers. Today, at 31, here they are.
1. Of all the things in life, I have concluded that living in the beautiful mountains of Telluride, Colorado is where I need to be. My heart thrives there, my energy has wings, and my mind can grow. Remember, with pleasure comes pain. Inevitably with this decision comes tribulation. Living in Telluride will inherently be financially challenging, but attainable. This will be a sacrifice I will make to fulfill this sector of my life.

2. I am okay with my passions and my careers to live separately in the world. I wasn’t blessed with the brains to attain a career like my brother, the electrical engineer, or my friends who are highly successful videographers. I am okay with having a career that is simply that, a career. One that I can live with, not resent, and complete with integrity and positivity. I will then seek out ways to explore my hobbies and passions in other avenues; they don’t have to cross paths.
3. Every time I travel or move, I am grateful. I am thankful for the experience, the people, the new in my life. But I always dwindle my experiences down to the fact that I am not home. For so long, I tried to ignore this feeling, telling myself that I need to get out there and explore, I need to see what else is out in the big wide world. This self-exploration and self-discovery simply put have set into stone what I knew all along: I belong in Telluride. I will likely die there. That gives me great joy to finally admit that to myself. I can’t wait to figure out how to make this happen-how to make a career there, how to buy a house from my best friend the realtor, how to play hockey on my lunch break, how to skip the mornings to ski pow, how to meet a Peter Pan and make him mine, how to embarrass children with my dance moves at Bluegrass, how to attain abs by age of 50, and all the other how’s. And by Manson’s suggestion, the best way to figure out all the how’s is to simply not give a fuck-but in the most mindful way possible.

Next year at 32 if I change my mind, that is entirely okay because you shouldn’t care too much about what everyone else is doing or thinking.
You do you, boo.

About Me:
Ava Halper from Telluride, CO. Graduated from the Univeristy of Colorado at Boulder. Continuing education with a license in massage therapy. Love skiing, hiking, hockey and live music. Have no clue what I am doing.


  1. Ava, I have known you your entire life. I am so impressed by you. Your intelligence, your insight, your ability to sift through all the bs and really know yourself and what you need to stay true to yourself. I’m so glad you’re coming back home.
    ❤️ Mom

  2. Ava, please don’t think for a second that I would ever doubt your decision to return home. Your time in Alaska may not have been lucrative but it may have been the first time in many years that you have been able to take a deep breath and actually consider your place in the world. My guess is that this time it won’t be a bad thing that you are Ava, “from Telluride”.
    Don’t hesitate to ask. I do have a little bit of knowledge of feeling outside this silly little town.

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