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Wide Open Spaces

When someone says the soundtrack of your life, I immediately engage because I believe music is how my soul connects to the world. I feel like a song can take me back to a very specific moment. I can feel the memories swell within me, the first time I heard a song, or a road trip, or an event. Today, it is the Chicks singing Wide Open Spaces on my #oldpeopleroadtrip playlist on Spotify. We are driving north in Arizona along the 17, leaving the Sonoran desert. Leaving the saguaros behind we get to the top of the plains as we continue even further north, as far north as you can go in Arizona.

I’m transported back in time to the moment when I knew it was time to leave Arizona. To venture into my own wide open spaces. I had done it before when I first came to Arizona, but this was different, the first time a move was 100% in my discretion.

I can remember the exact feelings but the dates and times are jumbled in my mind and I’m sure there are a few that might argue with the timeline. Even so, I love that I can argue the details because the loyalty I feel to those long ago friends remains.

It was the summer of 1997 and I was working in retail. I was doing more than just leading a store alongside my best friends. I was also working on projects that could make the products better and my work was getting noticed. There was an open position at the corporate office in Redmond, Washington and I was asked to interview.

I flew to Seattle and took a cab to the office, interviewed and then took a cab to the Red Lion in Bellevue that is no longer there. I called home. Not to my apartment in Phoenix, but to San Diego, because not only was I interviewing but it was my birthday and we had made a trip to San Diego to see my family. My college friends were there, at my moms, to celebrate as well. I was the only one not there. I remember not eating that night because I had spent all my money on the airfare, hotel and taxi fare. I would get reimbursed but at that time I didn’t have anything to fall back on and I spent my 26th birthday alone and hungry. I flew back the next day and was excited to hear about the job and celebrate my birthday as well.

After a few days, I heard that I didn’t get the job and I was devastated. I didn’t know what to do, I knew that my time in Arizona was over; I had already imagined what a life could be like in Seattle. My dad and I were looking at the map and figuring where I could live. I realized there was a lot of water and I absolutely did not think I could cross a bridge to get to work each day so we narrowed the search to Redmond itself. But after I didn’t get the job, I was sad and to feel my feelings, I needed to take a moment so I left for a few days to the Grand Canyon with my little Charlotte. My sweet cocker spaniel.

While I was at the canyon, a call came into my store that while I didn’t get that one job they were able to create a position for me and I needed to be there as soon as possible if I wanted it. Once I returned from the grandest of canyons, I had the wherewithal to ask for them to pay for the move, the corporate housing, etc. and they did. I would be making more than my age for the first time, $27,000 a year plus the relocation costs. Come to find out later, the woman who got the first job actually got them to pay for movers and I did all the packing and loading myself. My dad and I drove the truck to Seattle with Charlotte along for the ride. Who knew you could get someone to do it for you? That other woman became one of my most trusted friends and my time at the corporate office would have been far less rich without her there. I feel so grateful I didn’t get that first job.

The drive north with my dad was one of my most favorite road trips filled with wide open spaces and many other songs. The uhaul we got was a little temperamental and there were mornings when my dad would go out to start it and nothing would happen. He’d get frustrated and swore. I volunteered to try and it would turn on immediately. We got into a habit of me in the driver’s seat to start!

I remember driving north on 17 again and thinking that the last time I had been going alone to the canyon. I almost wanted to venture there for just a moment but we had a long way to go so my memories from earlier in the summer would have to suffice. I was going to miss that big hole in the ground.

I love the Grand Canyon maybe more than I love the ocean which is hard to imagine because the ocean is my first true love. There is something about the canyon that is spiritual for me. I feel more like myself there than anywhere else on earth. It is how my husband feels at Mt. Rainier. I’m not sure what it is, the vastness, the pure magnificence, how the size of it makes me feel like I am just insignificant. That feeling came to me at the most perfect time–I wanted that job desperately but seeing the canyon reminded me that I was not in charge, that my plans would reveal themselves but I had to be patient, I had to be still, I had to hold it all more loosely and the way would present itself. I didn’t know then what the move to Seattle would do for me, but I felt the draw and turning towards that peace brought me something more significant that I could put to words.

The same feeling stirs in me today, can’t we go for a little peek? So many more miles to go, not today, can I capture the feeling by just being so close, just by hearing the right songs? I sure hope so because I count on that feeling to propel me even today into my new wide open spaces.

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