Saturday, December 29, 2007

Discovery: 2007, A Year in Review

There are plenty of different words I could use to describe my 2007, but I think the one that best sums it up is discovery. I lived in Nevada City, CA with Kristina in January and February. I lived in Zephyr Cove, NV from March to August, and worked part-time in South Lake Tahoe, CA. Then I moved back to my hometown, Seattle, WA, and coached for the first time as a JV tennis coach at my old high school, from September to late October. I knew I wouldn't be able to keep up the "ski bum" lifestyle for much longer (even though I only skied twice), which was a big factor in my move back to Seattle.

My big goal going into 2007 was to give myself enough free time to ignite some spark under my feet, and figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Working and making a lot of money was at the bottom of my list this year, and I think by having a lot of time to myself this year, I was finally able to figure out what I want to do, instead of what I thought other people would like, or what would make other people happy.

I don't think I will do a great job of explaining all of the changes that have occurred in me over the past year, but I can safely say that I've changed quite a bit. It might not be noticeable, but I've realized a lot of things about myself, and I'm much more comfortable in my own skin now than I have ever been. I can look back on different periods of my life and laugh at how immature, shy, posh, angry, or just downright mean I was. I wouldn't do much differently, knowing what I knew at the time, but seeing the changes over the years and the growth as a person I've undergone has been a fun experience. In 2008, I hope to continue to grow, both as a maturing adult, a student, and a teacher.

2007 brought me many great memories, and I'll start from the beginning:

January-February 2007:

2007 started out with a bang. In fact, 2007 really started back in October of 2006 for me, because that is when Stacey and I broke up, and I started thinking about a possible move down to the Tahoe/Grass Valley area. Once Stacey and I parted ways after going out for about 2 1/2 years, I really wanted to live in Tahoe, but I just couldn't afford it. I checked Craigslist a few times and the cheapest deal I could find was $500 renting out a single room in a crappy house with complete strangers. Given that option or living in Seattle with friends and family close by, Seattle seemed like the best option.

I almost resigned to staying up in Seattle and possibly moving in with Marc and Sarah or Tyler and Renee, if they would have me. Kristina then suggested that I could stay with her in Nevada City for either an extended amount of time, or until I found a place in Tahoe, and at a much cheaper rent... score! Stacey and I drove down a couple days before New Years, a trip we had planned before we broke up, and we split on good terms, so it made sense to make the trip again--especially since I was driving down anyways.

During the entirety of January and February, I think I only posted four different times on my blog. During January I didn't have internet at Kristina's house, and during February I wasn't all that excited to blog. I was in an amazing place--a cabin out in the woods, with all the free time in the world. With Kristina, who is a gorgeous, intelligent, ultimate frisbee playing dream girl--in a house she owned and grew up in that has a broken solar panel roof, a solarium with a hot tub, and five acres for her dog and three cats to frolic in.

Nearly every day Kristina and I would take Raffle and Hope out for a walk. Some days it was just down to the ditch, other days we took a drive and walked one of the thousand trails with the dogs. One Sunday morning we woke up at 7am and jogged with the dogs down at "the ditch" in the 27 degree weather. THAT was an experience!

During the end of my two-month stay in Nevada City, we finally got a big snow storm. We spent an entire day shoveling out her 300-yard driveway, to try and get her Yaris up the hill for the following school week.

Nevada City was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I just couldn't see myself staying in Nevada City and finding anything worthwhile to do job-wise with my resume at the time. In mid-February, as my funds were starting to dwindle, I started another Craigslist search in the Tahoe area. The third ad I came across was two 20-year old ladies looking for a few more people to share a house with in Zephyr Cove. I got in contact with one of the girl's named Kristara, and told her I'd be in Tahoe that Tuesday.

DTran invited me to Squaw Valley that weekend for Google's annual ski trip. Google takes over the mountain during a Monday and Tuesday in February, and just goes nuts. Free hi-speed wireless that they set up in the hotel (In a room which usually runs $200/night). DTran and I played Vanguard from our Queen-sized beds, then hopped on the ski slopes, then partied it up at one of the Google Parties (which are pretty sweet).

The next day we went over to South Lake Tahoe to gamble it up, and meet Kristara. I was so timid that after playing phone tag with Kristara, I actually left a message saying, "Oh, if we don't meet up it is alright." I didn't really want to leave Nevada City, but the idea of living in Tahoe with two 20-year old ladies and having a crazy summer seemed too good to at least check out. Kristara called me back and said, "Are you sure you don't want to just meet up and check the place out?" I eventually buckled (as David and I were getting killed at the tables and needed a break).

We met up with Kristara in Zephyr Cove, a place I had actually been to a couple times before. Scott and Jess got married there, and although I wasn't present for the wedding, Stacey and I had visited a few times when we lived in Sacramento. The house I met Kristara at was amazing. I was expecting a run-of-the-mill condo or something, but this house was on its own private road, had a very unique feel to it, and was a five-minute walk from a sandy beach. I didn't even know Lake Tahoe had sandy beaches. I couldn't pass this up.

After checking out the cabin with Kristara, DTran and I decided to hit the poker tables once more, since the amazing cabin put me on a pretty big high. We made a bet to see who could make more money at the table that afternoon, and the loser had to pay for gas. David made $80 and I made $50. We were hitting hands and playing much better overall than in the morning.


Andrew was the only friend of mine (besides David, who lived in California already) that came and visited me while I was down in the Tahoe area. It worked out that he visited me my last few days in Nevada City, then helped me move to Zephyr Cove, Nevada. He got to witness the amazing house with the hot tub in the solarium, he got to experience plenty of snow at Squaw Valley and Kirkwood, and he got to party it up with my new house mates for a few nights. Those two ski trips ended up being my only ski days living in Tahoe. Somewhat a waste, but it was just a terrible ski season for Tahoe in general.

The day after Andrew left, I started my job search. I had actually interviewed already up in North Tahoe, but that was before my move and I wasn't entirely certain what my housing situation would be like. I went through a staffing agency in South Tahoe, and they found me a job at Tahoe Fracture by the end of the week. It was only a part-time job, but that left me a few options. I could just have the one part-time job and enjoy myself. I could get a night job working at a casino or elsewhere. Or I could try out the poker playing thing for real.

I entertained the idea of playing more live poker, but after checking out the scene, it didn't look like a great option. The city doubles or triples in size on the weekends, and I was usually playing then anyways. During the week, all of the sharks are just feeding on each other, which I wanted no part of. There were plenty of young guns with the idea in their head that they would ski during the day and play poker for a living at night. I wasn't that foolish.

I seriously considered getting another job, but then I crunched some numbers and found that since I was living so cheaply, I could come out of Tahoe just about break-even with the one part-time job. Most of the fun I had in Tahoe wasn't all that expensive. I did a lot of hiking and just having fun at home. Kristara, Jen and Gina were very good at making friends and having people over for drinking and beer pong, and they usually got the guys to buy the beer. I wasn't interested in trying to start up anything romantically with any of my house mates, so the parties were all fun and no awkwardness for me, which I'd suggest for anyone in the same situation.

During March and April, I made at least one trip down to Sacramento to visit old frisbee friends. Once I saw that it cost $50 in gas, I was very hesitant to make many more trips. I felt torn though, because I knew I would most likely being moving back to Seattle after Tahoe, and I didn't know how much longer I would be in the area. I wanted to get out and explore Tahoe, and go see my friends in Sacramento, but on my tight budget it just wasn't sitting well with me.


To solve my gas money issue, I decided to use some of my grandma's inheritance money on a 2007 Kawasaki Ninja 250R. I did my research, and looked on Craigslist, but the recent models were selling for $2,000 on Craigslist, whereas the brand new 2007 models from the dealer were only $3,000. The price has since gone up, and after doing some calculations, I figure that I will actually save money by buying the motorcycle. It gets 70MPG, as opposed to the 18MPG of my Exploder, and its resell value is through the roof.

In my personal favorite post of the year, which just so happened to be a "7 things" post, rolled into the declaration of my motorcycle purchase, I tell the story of my motorcycle purchase and the hysterics that follow. I didn't know what the hell I was doing, and it was awesome.


With June came the blogger Summer Classic in Vegas. Easily one of the top five highlights of my summer. The amazingly epic motorcycle ride for 400 miles from snow on the ground in Tahoe to 100 degree weather in Vegas. All in one day, while under the weather, and on a 250cc bike. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone I like, but I wouldn't give up the experience for anything in the world.

Meeting up with Brandon again was nice. He's a great guy, and he got to see a few familiar blogger brethren my first night in Vegas when we went out for some bowling action. Brandon played the role of high-roller and nice-guy well, buying us all a round--even though he didn't actually bowl.

I was under the impression the blogger tournament would be between $20-$50. Not something I'd pony up for every day, but not enough to make me sit out on a fun experience. It ended up being $85, but I was a few minutes late and didn't want to miss my chance, so I said goodbye to the $85... or so I thought! I ended up finishing 4th, and after some crafty final table deals where everyone at the final table got at least their buy-in back, I walked away with $225! Making that the second largest cash for me--ever!

I made my way back to Tahoe, and the rest of June sort of just flew on by. The weather started to warm up, the parties started occurring more frequently. I got out hiking and playing frisbee or basketball as often as I could with my new mode of transportation.

The last week of June, just before I left for Seattle, the Tahoe fire happened. I have a few pictures and videos up on my blog that I'll remember for a long time to come. A group of eight of us were up at Angora Lake, lounging, drinking, and thinking about swimming. The weather was crappy, and incredibly windy, so we decided to head back home. On our way down, we see a huge plume of smoke right in front of us, and we can see the smoke billowing upwards. People race past us up the hill to go find their loved ones, and we try to get out of the place as quickly as possible. The fire was heading North, and the only way out for us was on a skinny road along the ridge just north of the fire. We knew with the 30mph winds and the incline of the hill, we had minutes--not hours--to get out or be trapped.

We got out safe, as did everyone else, which I still find amazing. If we had been higher up on the mountain, or weren't as lucky as we were to already be leaving at the time the fire started up, I don't know what we would have done. The fire would have already been at the ridge, and I guess we would have had to just hope that the fire department would hold the ridge and let us by.

One of my co-workers lost her house, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as she was going through a messy divorce. Picture this: you're an operator for the Fracture Clinic, your ex-husband is a drunken douche-bag and calls every other day yelling into the phone, "Bitch! I hate you! Why do you have to..." blah, blah, blah. She had to answer the phone--it was her job--and she had no way of screening the calls, it was hell. On top of the verbal abuse, he was planning on selling the house and not giving her a dime. The fire engulfed the house, and have of the insurance check is hers to help take care of her two teenage boys.

I drove up to Reno under the thick blanket of smoke covering the sky from Tahoe to Reno. Only after taking off on the plane did we get out of the smoke from that and various other fires, it was insane. Originally, I had planned on riding the motorcycle up to Seattle for the last week of June, to show it off to my buddies and enjoy some time along the coast, but after my 400-mile trip to Vegas, the 2000-mile trip to Seattle and back seemed moronic. 250cc bikes just aren't meant for the long highway treks.

The 3rd annual Coast Trip was another big success, as was about my 7th or 8th Potlatch in a row. Potlatch was amazing this year, because the team I originally planned on playing with, had dissolved without my knowledge, and as I walked around the fields, I saw two friends who used to live in Sacramento and now live up in Nanaimo, Canada. Their team had a few injuries and they picked me up and let me play the rest of the tourney! The team consisted of a core of Nanaimo pickup players, a handful of Australians and a few scattered Northwesterners--it was an amazing team to be a part of, and just another reason why I love ultimate.

I made it back down to Tahoe for the 4th of July, and the 4th of July scene at Zephyr Beach is intense. The beach I walked down to at the end of March and took pictures of icicles on ropes just above the water--with not another person on the beach--was now completely and utterly packed. Standing room only. There must have been thousands of people on the beach. The majority were drunk by noon.

On July 7th, 2007, aka "777" DTran and friends came to visit for some poker action. We had a blast all weekend, we played poker on Saturday night (777), swam in the lake a few times, and tossed the frisbee and football for a good chunk of time. We even got in some drinking games. It was one of my favorite weekends all summer. The fact that I hit my first Royal Flush ever didn't hurt. Get this. My first Royal Flush comes in a casino, on 7/7/7, for a jackpot of $550. And the best part was that it was a suckout on the river. The other guy flopped a flush, I turned a broadway straight, and rivered the Kd for the Royal w/Cheese. Remarkably, one of DTran's friends hit a straight flush less than an hour later for $200 and change, also on 7/7/7--definitely the luckiest day of the millennium for me!

The rest of July was taken up by plenty of hiking and motorcycle riding, and there are plenty of pictures in the archives.


August marked the last few weeks of my stay in Tahoe. I enjoyed my time in Tahoe immensely, but I was also ready to get out and start on something more permanent than playing and enjoying myself. The two big things I looked forward to since my Seattle trip at the end of June and beginning of July was my week long hike with my Dad and the Conways, and the motorcycle ride up to Seattle. The fact that my Dad would be driving the Explorer and we'd be caravaning the entire way up to Seattle made the trip 100x more bearable. It was nice to be able to stop and not feel rushed, and my Dad was the perfect person to do the trip with.

The week-long hike is unforgettable. We camped at over 10,000ft elevation, and I swam at about 9,800ft elevation, in a lake coming straight out of a glacier. It was refreshing the first time, then Dad wanted a picture, so I jumped in again and it got cold in a hurry.

It was great to spend a week with my Dad and the Conways out in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. The views were amazing, and the weather was perfect. One think I got to experience for the first time, since most of my hikes are day-hikes, is that on the longer multi-day hikes, nearly every human encounter is meaningful, whether it be a good excuse for a pit-stop or a good way to find out about camping sites ahead on the trail.

A lot of the time hiking I was lost in my own thoughts. When I wasn't chatting with the Conways or Dad, I was often thinking of what my life will be like in the next year, two years, or five years. It kept me very entertained, because the options are nearly limitless. I've finally decided I want to teach, but where I want to teach and what grade (or what subject), I wasn't sure at the time. The big step into choosing a career comes easier for some than for others. For me, it has been one big merry-go-round. I'm thinking about jumping off and starting on the path to become a teacher, but I keep hesitating and holding on just in case it might not be the right thing for me. Since the trip, I've hopped off the merry-go-round, and I like the direction I'm heading--but I'm still not 100% sure it is the right path for me. I honestly think I'll love it, and enjoy it for years to come, but that little voice in the back of my head says, "What about your business degree? Why not get an MBA?" So far, I've been pretty good at convincing myself to stick with teaching, but when the going gets tough, I know it will only get more difficult to stick to the plan.

The end of August marked the long ride back to Seattle. Riding from Tahoe to Seattle on a 250cc just wasn't meant to be done. After my long ride to Vegas, I realized long trips weren't for me. Being hunched over on a bike for multiple days straight simply just isn't enjoyable. I'm only a foot from the highway, going 70mph, but there are still times where I get a bit tired. Not "falling asleep at the wheel" tired, but I just realize I'm not 100% focusing on riding, which is dangerous.

Many times on the trip home I'd pop up out of my hunch and just look around and try to take it all in. I don't envision myself ever riding a motorcycle from Tahoe to Seattle again, and definitely not through Eastern Oregon, so I tried to burn the images of long, stretched out plains and mountain ranges into my brain.

The second-most most awe-inspiring sight on the ride home was in the very northern section of Nevada. There is a road my Dad wanted to take, and he described it as "30 miles of absolute solitude." He was dead on. We made the turn onto the highway and there was a gradual descent, but the highway was perfectly straight, and you could see into the distance for what seemed like 20 miles--and not a single care in either direction. You can drive from Seattle to San Francisco and always be within sight of another vehicle. Twenty miles of no other vehicles was pretty cool. I gazed around, taking it all in, then zoomed by my Dad and got the bike up to 100mph, then decelerating back down in the oncoming lane and letting my Dad pass me. I was grinning the whole time, and when he passed me, he was too.

I found it funny that after two days on the road, passing through places I had never been and seeing many sights I had never experienced--the most amazing sight of the 1100-mile journey was our approach to the Cascade Mountains on I-90. I have made the drive a handful of times before, but almost always at night. In the daytime, the mountain wall is a sight to behold. Jagged and treacherous, the Cascades loom large. From Seattle, they don't look as intimidating as they do from the East. I just had to wonder what those initial explorers though when they saw the Cascades for the first time.

Once we got over the pass, the descent down from Snoqualmie Pass brought back memories of Ski-Attle, a middle-school ski program I did every Friday in January and February. We'd bus up to Snoqualmie after school and stay until 10pm. The night skiing was fun, and the social aspect even more fun, but I'll always remember the bus ride home. All of the kids, including myself, were just beat. A full day of school, followed by six hours of skiing--the entire bus was asleep. It was neat to look around and see everyone dozing away in dreamland. When we got back to Seattle, we'd all stumble out from the bus in a daze, and our parents would drive us home. It was one of the first "clubs" I was in that didn't involve parental supervision, and after lessons and dinner a coed group of us would ride a chair lift up the mountain, click off our skis and hike up into the woods and have snowball fights with people we had crushes on, but were way to shy to every admit.

And then you hit the bridges.

My favorite drive in Seattle is coming into the city across the 520 bridge. You can see downtown just above Capitol Hill. Husky Stadium is just north of the bridge on the west side, and Bill Gates' house is just south on the east side of the bridge. Way south, on a clear day, you can see Mt. Rainier looming large, guarding the Puget Sound. On a very clear day, you can see Mt. Baker way off in the distance to the North. They are the only two snow-capped mountains around in the summer. Both were out when Dad and I rode across the bridge that afternoon.


September started out with a flurry of activity for me. By luck, I was browsing the Seattle Public School's website and found that Roosevelt High, my old alma mater, was in need of a JV Tennis Coach for the Fall. I rode by the school and it turned out the old JV coach was now the Varsity Coach, and told me the job was mine if I wanted it. Never mind the fact that I had never coached before. Living in a place where I know people is foreign to me. The last three years in Sacramento, Portland and Tahoe I could guarantee that if I went out shopping or to a sporting event, I wouldn't recognize a soul, nor would anyone recognize me. My first week back in Seattle I had half a dozen such encounters--one netting me a part time job as Assistant Tennis Coach at my old high school.

Coaching was an absolute blast, and something I can see myself doing for a long time to come. The idea of teaching during the day and coaching a sport in the evening is very appealing to me. When I was growing up, I looked forward to sports like lots of people look forward to their birthdays, or the holidays. Knowing I had a tennis match in the afternoon was enough to keep me attentive in class during the day. I didn't look forward to math class, but once math class was over, I would be that much closer to the tennis match. Coaching kids who genuinely wanted to be there is one of the easiest, and most enjoyable things I have ever done. I can see how that might differ from teaching.

The end of September brought about the beginning of my 3-month courses at North Seattle Community College. I had a Geography course at 11am, followed by a Math class at 12pm everyday. The Geography course was the only one offered I was qualified to take, and I needed a Geography course to get into the UW-Bothell Teaching Certification program in the Spring. The math class at noon made sense, because I had to be there everyday anyways. It ended up fitting perfectly into my coaching schedule, it is just a pity I only made $1200 over those three months. It wouldn't have been doable if I wasn't living at home and living rent-free, which I feel somewhat guilty for, but at the same time I realize that in the short-term I am OK with it, and in the long-term it makes the most sense.

My life over the last few months has been pretty boring, really. I've had a couple of fun ultimate tournaments and met some fun ultimate people, but the majority of my time has been spent either going to class, coaching, or living extremely thriftily in my parent's basement.

It is going to be interesting how I remember this portion of my life in the future. In some ways, I can see it being a waste of time--I have friends the same age who are married and will have their first child next year--and here I am living in my parent's basement. Quite the contrast. In other ways, I really enjoy the decisions I've made. I've gotten out of Seattle and explored at least a little bit, which I can't say for some of my friends. I have plenty of time to find a better half and settle down, and I'm in no big rush. I always envisioned myself settling down when I am around 30, and it is still a definite possibility. If everything goes well, I'll have my Teaching Certification before my 27th birthday, and have a few more years in my twenties to sort out everything I need to before settling into a more routine lifestyle.

I don't really know if 2008 will be more or less memorable than 2007. It is a tall task. Living in Nevada City and Tahoe will be things I'll never forget. Buying a motorcycle when I had no clue how to ride one, then figuring things out as I went along will always be with me as well. I want to work hard in 2008 and progress along the teaching path, and while I'm working hard I know I'll have less opportunity to get out and do the fun things I did this year--but in the end I'll have a lot more to show for my accomplishments of 2008 than 2007. I didn't accomplish much this year, but I discovered a whole lot about myself. I am excited for 2008 and the challenges it will bring, and being excited about life brings me much more happiness than any alternative.

2007, you were great.



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