When Am I?

Choosing day by day.   

“People are like dice. We throw ourselves in the direction of our own choosing.” ―Jean-Paul Sartre

It could be the season—spring is a time of abundant change—or maybe it’s the political and social climate we’ve been enduring, but lately many of my friends have been asking some hard questions out in the skintrack, at the crags, and on the water. They’re hard because they relate to how we indentify as Bozemanites and outdoors people, and the changes that come with age and responsibility. When I moved here at 18, green as I was young, I would’ve probably called it getting old and lame. Apparently, 18-year-old me was a dick.

These conversations have been mostly revolving around a common theme: when we begin to value other things—relationships, careers, a stable home, and financial security—as much as we value skiing, or climbing, or riding, which have defined us absolutely for our entire adult lives, who do we become?

Who am I? 

But in Bozeman, I reckon, this may not be the right question. The motivations and aspirations that brought us all here—often as young, unattached people seeking lives of adventure, travel, and freedom—are still present. The desire for uncomplicated play is almost ubiquitous—it’s woven into the fabric of our mountain culture. But life has a way of complicating things. Outdoor ambitions run parallel to professional and family ambitions. Goals of climbing 5.12 or racing the Ridge Run are joined by more pedestrian—but no less challenging—goals like owning a home or reaching some kind of financial stability. It’s natural. We want to stay here and keep playing, but the more we work toward that goal by taking on (ridiculous) mortgages and finding “real” jobs, the further we find ourselves from the mountains, and from the people we used to be—often, the people we still want to be.

Which is why the question we should be asking isn’t “Who am I?” Identity isn’t a function of age or ambition. There’s a better question that doesn’t compromise either.

When am I?

We can choose, each day, which version of ourselves we wish to service. This is the ultimate magic of living in Bozeman. On spring powder days, we can be the ski bum who moved here 15 years ago, fell in love, and never left. The next day, we can be the Bozeman professional, who chiseled out a niche and made a stand in order to call this place home. Maybe the next day we can even sock away a few bucks for our 70 year-old selves, who with any luck will still be here, excited to go play outside.

Don’t question who you are, friends—only when you are. Choose wisely, and I’ll see you out there.