Colorado. A place I called home for 15 years. A state loaded with mountains, forests and canyons. A place filled with free-spirited people. Home to wild animals and draw dropping scenery. Where the lifestyle revolves around the outdoors.
And I miss it. I truly do. But when people ask me if I’d move back, my answer is no. While I love it and miss the people, the mountains and the lifestyle, I wouldn’t move back. Which seems to puzzle people.
But I still consider it home. Sometimes much more so than Cincinnati, where I was born and raised and currently reside.
Why don’t I want to move back?
Well, first and foremost, I don’t want to be rooted. My goal is not to be in Cincinnati permanently either. I’ll always be rooted, to some extent, to both places — family, friends, history, memories.
I think the real reason I wouldn’t move back is that I feel as though I’ve had my time in Colorado and it’s time to move on. Colorado gave me so much. Taught me so much. As I reflect on my 50th year on this earth, I realize how much of who I am today is thanks to all that I had in Colorado. All that I did. All the ups and downs of living there. If I were to choose a few words to sum up my years in Colorado they would be: growth, self-discovery, confidence. Colorado gave these gifts to me. So Colorado will always have a piece of my heart.
This is where I hiked my first big peaks. This is where I first scaled a rock wall. Colorado is where I first slept out under a blanket of stars, listening to the sounds of silence.
I fell in love, then out of love in Colorado, realizing in the process what I truly needed from a relationship. I learned about true friendship. I figured out that I am merely a speck on this planet. But I also realized how significant my actions and my words can be.
As time wore on, I gained confidence.
I went off hiking and camping on my own. I lost jobs, but always found a new one as that confidence built in myself and my abilities. I ran my first, then second marathons, recognizing that my body could run 26.2 miles.
And I kept learning more about me. I continued to figure out me. What I wanted out of life. What lit me up in life. What my strengths are and what my weaknesses are. I found out who I truly was.
It was during this time that I traveled, alone, for the first time overseas. Nine and a half years after moving to Colorado, I went to Spain. And fell in love with international travel. I had just enough confidence to do this at the time thanks to all that Colorado had given me up to that point. And then Spain gave me more confidence. Then Ireland. Then Italy and France. But Colorado didn’t stop giving. I still learned so much from this state.
I learned when to walk away from relationships. Friendships that just didn’t work any longer. Romantic relationships that just weren’t meant to be. I grew as a person, knowing that I had to be true first and foremost to me. Because if I were to be a good friend or a good partner, I needed to be good to me first. And true to who I really was. Colorado brought me to my true self.
And I learned to be a good daughter. Even though I was away from my family, the distance made me realize how important and precious time was with my family, especially my parents. I think of all the conversations via phone with them over those 15 years, especially my mom.
That gift of 15 incredible years that Colorado gave me, taught me who I really was.
The person that I couldn’t find my way to in Cincinnati found her way to the surface in Colorado. Maybe it was gaining confidence by getting into outdoor activities. Maybe it was simply being away from the influences of family and friends who knew me as a certain person. Perhaps it all lead to me being able to simply be me. A path of self-discovery.
But I know I had to go through certain experiences to find my way to me. I had to endure some rough times. Times when I didn’t have a lot of money and I had to figure out how to make things work until payday on Friday. Times of getting caught in the mountains in bad weather. Times of feeling alone and lonely. Times of heartbreak. And I got to relish in the good times. Hiking to the top of the highest peak in Colorado. Seeing the first concert at Red Rocks. Watching the first light of day hitting the snow-capped peaks on a winter morning. Falling in love.
All of these experiences make me the person I am today.
I truly became me while living in Colorado. I figured it out. I figured out why I’m here on this earth. I figured out what I am supposed to be doing with my life (for the most part). I learned to play to my strengths. And I learned to accept my shortcomings. I figured out that I’m not perfect. That I never will be. And I decided to celebrate my weaknesses. Fuck it! This is me. And I’m okay with it.
So as I make my way back for a week in Colorado — catching up with friends, hiking in the mountains, smelling the scent of pine — I’ll be looking at my beloved state with new eyes. The eyes of a woman who knows that, while she’ll always be back to visit, she’ll not be coming back to stay. That the time has come and gone. But that Colorado will remain in her heart — always. And that she’ll be forever grateful to this beautiful place for leading her to her true self. Thank you Colorado.