By Emily Erickson
For months now, I have been writing as the voice of my generation, defending myself and my peers against unwarranted generational biases, arguing that Millennials are not the lazy, entitled, narcissistic 20-somethings we’re made out to be.
I haven’t, however, sufficiently introduced myself or detailed ‘My Millennial Life’ here in North Idaho. But I want to change that, as I vehemently subscribe to the idea that getting to know someone that lives a life different than our own is the only way to close the understanding gaps that hinder human connectivity.
So, albeit uncomfortable, I will take a short break from social theories and self-deprecating humor and practice vulnerability. Because, when it comes down to it, I don’t think we’re so different after all.
Admittedly, the title “Millennial” was never something I wore proudly, especially since I am much more the type of person to bury my nose in a paperback than a smartphone, and getting lost in the woods comes much more naturally to me than binge-watching TV shows.
But, after deciding to write this column, I realized the foolishness in my apprehension to identify with my generation. I am a Millennial, doing things differently than previous generations. And I am proud of it.
I moved to Sandpoint a year ago today, leaving behind a comfortable job as a “solutions specialist” in Green Bay, Wis., for which I provided counsel to members of my community who sought independence from government assistance. I had my own office with my name on the door, full benefits, paid time off and a padded savings account.
What I didn’t have, however, was a passion-filled life. I caught myself constantly staring out my small office window, daydreaming about my three weeks of vacation and all of the mountain-filled activities they would afford.
I punched my time card and cashed my paychecks, feeling mediocrely happy and comfortable, with a life that continued to grow further from what I knew to be mine.
Until one day, instead of plunking numbers into my computer, I began researching beautiful places in the Northwest. Feeling my stomach flutter as my cursor blinked over North Idaho, I knew my life would never be the same.
As I poured over Google Images of Sandpoint, my giddiness was palpable, seeing the Long Bridge, Pend Oreille, and Schweitzer Mountain for the first time. Less than a month later, my car was packed and my wheels were pointed west.
By the time I reached Montana, I secured a job as a bartender, a skill acquired by slinging beers to put myself through college. I found a place to live on Craigslist, and was filled with enough gumption to last a lifetime (and especially my new, mouse-infested, converted-office-space apartment).
I moved 1,700 miles from home to a town I had never been, in which I knew nobody, on the notion that I deserved a more fulfilled life than the one I was leading. I traded a lakefront house for a mattress on the cold, cement floor of a cinder block building, and absolute financial security for stretching pennies between coffee shop cold pitches and meticulously crafted cocktails.
And I am so happy.
Every single day, I get to do something that I love. I wake with endless possibilities: miles of trails for running, feet of fresh powder for riding, snowshoeing, and skiing, countless peaks for summiting, and infinite secret swimming holes for splashing.
I redefined my typical work week, still regularly clocking 40 (or more) hours, but configured in a way that allows me to make the most out of each day. I accept the ascribed shortcomings of my generation, in that I feel entitled to make the choices that maximize my happiness, and am selfish in my pursuit of a passion-filled life.
My story is much like that of my peers, many of whom are doing the best they can to achieve a balanced, happy life. And, like people of all generations, struggling is merely a part of the process.
I certainly have much to learn from the people who came before me, and am continually in awe of what my predecessors have accomplished. For we cannot change the time in which we were born, and we most definitely are the product of our ever-shifting environments, but we all can make choices to continue to learn and live as graciously and gratefully as possible.
So here’s to taking the time to get to know each other better, today and always, closing the gaps caused by a lack of understanding. And Sandpoint, thanks for a truly amazing year!
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