Dating isn’t always convenient to one’s schedule. In fact, I’m not convinced it should be — if you really think someone is the cat’s meow, you’ll go out of your way to give them your time. When Megan and I decided we would stop in Yellowstone to let out her inner girl scout, I knew it was my job to find a nice chap to join us in our outdoor adventure, convenient or not.
Besides — part of dating in America is dating when you work at a National Park during peak season. We figured we may as well try to understand what happens when the gift shop and housekeeping staff get off work. And thus came about my date with Steve.
Even before we entered the park, Megan and I noticed the dirty haze sweeping in from the Idaho fires that had settled over much of the north. One benefit had been spectacular sunsets and moonrises — imagine a deep pink moon casting a reflection upon Yellowstone Lake. It took our breath away. Yes, in most ways the fires are bad. But they have surprisingly beautiful repercussions.
Meeting at the base of Mount Washburn took some skill. This included Huckleberry Fit’s first long, gravelly road, spotty cell phone service and crossed wires. But half an hour after we first hoped to take off on the 1,393-foot ascent, we finally headed up the trail.
Conversation flowed. Steve and I wound up having a mutual enjoyment of sci-fi novels, hometowns just thirty miles apart, experience in playing brass instruments, and an interesting sense of not wanting to settle down but knowing that soon, we would want to. And then, he sort of offhandedly brought up the fact that he’d been writing lately, but was a little shy about it.
Thanks to my days as a writing instructor, I have a lot of thoughts for new writers. Mostly, that one just needs to do it — put the pen to the paper (or the fingers to keys). Preferably done sans critical internal monologue (good luck). And without nuisances like grammar, structure or even knowing what you’re doing getting in the way of trying.
The talking crescendoed as we made our way toward the 10,000-foot peak, where we fell into silence upon reaching the apex. Even through the haze, the view was unmatched. I’d describe it, but really, this is one of those moments where a picture is worth a thousand words. So I’ll write about Steve instead.
Apparently, working at Yellowstone can be a lot like living in the dorms at college: drama, drama, drama. Start dating — or sleeping with — someone in the area where you’re living, break up a few weeks later, and shazam! You’re stuck running into him or her the rest of the season. It takes a mature person to accept that continuous emotional brouhaha with grace.
While descending Mt. Washburn, conversation quieted. Knowing Steve spent a good amount of time moving about, from park job to park job, I asked him if dating while living the life of a nomad was a challenge. He conceded that it was, and brought up something else pretty interesting: he said he often felt like he didn’t have enough hours in the day to get everything he wanted accomplished. From work to hiking to writing — well, he wasn’t ever as productive as he wanted to be.
All this made me wonder again about the convenience factor. A common complaint from men I date is that I’m too busy and don’t want to give up my time for the guy. Through my busyness, I often expect to just nestle a guy into my life. Listening to Steve, I couldn’t help but think it sounded like he wasn’t quite ready to acquiesce his time for someone. Which makes me think maybe part of my dating woes stems not the guys I choose to go out with so much as how I prioritize my time. Dating, and hopefully love, may not smoothly fit into the creases I build for myself. So a successful relationship will require rearranging how I spend my time. But do I make that concession early in a relationship, or do I wait until I find someone for whom I’m willing to change naturally?