Wilderness, Work, and Me.

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As I was reading through the book Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely last night, I came across an interesting quote from Mark Twain, of all people.  It basically said that “…work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and play is whatever a body is not obliged to do.”

That got me to thinking, which is always a dangerous thing.  Add some coffee in the mix this morning, and a blog entry was sure to follow.

Like I’ve said before, I’ve got a different take on the outdoors than a lot of people.  I love wild places, wilderness, and mountain lakes under the stars, but I rarely engage in the outdoor activities that most people do.  I don’t really get outside to recreate… I work outside, and I find a deep sense of satisfaction from being in the woods, but I seldom head out to the great outdoors in my spare time, especially during the summer.

I think this is because I’ve gradually come to associate being in the woods with work, with what I’m “obligated” to do.  As I’ve said before, as a kid I spent a lot of time outside, with many outdoor chores, and since I started my adult-ish years, most of my work has continued to be outside.   It’s very safe to say that the majority of my time in wild places has been on the job in some way, shape , or form.  Even in the winter, when I’m not working, I find that I still have a work-related reason for getting outside – it’s part of my routine to stay in shape for the summer season.  So while I enjoy being out on a pair of skiis in the mountains, I’m really not doing it solely for the experience, although that’s an enormous added benefit.  I do it to clear my head, to focus, and to keep my mind and body ready for work.

Growing up my non-obligatory interests tended to be reading, video games, listening to music, and things like that.  I of course got good at a lot of outdoorsy pastimes as well, but left to my own devices, with no obligations, I’d end up with my nose in a book and some good music on on the background.  I still find myself doing that to this day.  Given a typical weekend off, I’ll end up hanging around the house, doing chores with the stereo on, and reading and writing as the mood takes me.

I guess to put it simply, I’ve been imprinted to see most outdoor activities as “work,” and things like reading and writing as “play.”  This puts me at odds with most people who are passionate about wild places.  To most of them, getting outside is the non-obligatory part of their lives.  Reading, writing, and thinking are all things that they have been “obligated” to do, and so they have associated them with “work” rather than “play.”

There’s nothing wrong with any of this, of course.  It’s just something that I’ve come to realize during my journey of self-exploration this year.  I have the same passions as a lot of my peers, just viewed through a different lens, expressed in a different way.  The more I think about it, the more I realize that I shouldn’t be ashamed of being different in how I approach life, I should embrace it.

Until next time…

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About Justin Vernon

Fire and Aviation Specialist (aka jack of all trades) for the US Forest Service, based in Boise, Idaho. I'm also an amateur photographer, wanna-be writer, tech aficionado, and a classic introvert who values quiet time as much as I do the mountains and people of the Pacific Northwest. All opinions voiced are mine alone and do not represent those of the US Forest Service.
This entry was posted in Introvert, Personal, Wild Places and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Wilderness, Work, and Me.

  1. Suzanne Vernon says:

    Good insight – so many FS/BLM/NPS folks are like this, at least the ones I’ve worked with. There’s only so many hours in a day, and all those books to be read (or movies to catch up on) !!

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