Author: Amanda Bloom
Adventure. The word itself brings to mind the dirty brim of a well-worn hat, the smell of fresh air, the excitement of the unknown, and maybe a smidgen of fear too. It’s a word that I have used to describe myself for as long as I can remember...adventurous. But, until November of 2016, the the most adventurous thing I found myself doing was a trip to a WinCo grocery store late at night.
Like so many women in the world, I put “myself” on a shelf to get dusty, and fell in step to the rhythm many women feel pressured into by society: family life. I fell in love with my best friend from high school, and we got married in our mid 20’s; mashing our haphazard existences together on paper after spending 3 years together, hand-in-hand. I loved him, however, his unmedicated depression, mentally handicapped son (who was 5 when we married), and a handful of other issues began suffocating me. It wasn’t until my complete mental breakdown, a few months after my 30th birthday, that I finally saw what was happening to “me”.
As someone who always dreamed of being belly-down in the African dirt, photographing wild birds for a living, the only thing I was photographing at 30 was my elaborate homemade desserts. After a particularly trying week, I went to see my therapist for some guidance. She told me something that changed my life forever. She explained that your “self” is like a cup. The things you do in life to “fill yourself up” and make you happy go into the cup, whereas things that drain you (like hating your job, dealing with a death, etc) are holes in the cup. Some holes are bigger than others, causing them to drain you faster or slower, and those holes can change over time. If you don’t work hard to fill your cup, you will eventually run out of “you”. That’s where I was...bone dry, at rock bottom with nothing left to give.
With that in mind, I decided to walk away from my marriage after having sacrificed so much of myself for more than half a decade. Feeling wholly lost and sorry for myself, I spent my early days after the divorce crying myself to sleep in my friend’s spare room. It wasn’t until one evening while sitting at a stop light in the pouring rain that things changed. I passively looked out the window listening to something on the radio, and that’s when I saw it. Glittering in the wet twilight on the corner of a car lot was a sharp-looking FJ Cruiser. Lit from a lone light above, it almost seemed like a divine silver-painted gift just for me, and I stared...I stared so hard I could have sworn it winked at me! The light turned green, but it wasn’t until a honk from behind jerked me back to reality, that I was able to pull my gaze away.
As the days went by, that silver FJ consumed my thoughts entirely. Every rational part of my brain fought for all the reasons it would be a bad idea; to have a car payment again, how I didn’t need a gas-guzzler, what would I even do with a 4x4, etc. Nothing I did could shake my intense desire for this rig. So, a couple weeks before Thanksgiving, I decided to stop at the lot for a looksee; but knew before I even got the back tires of my little rink-a-dink Ford Fusion on their lot, that I wouldn’t be leaving in the same vehicle. After looking at it for roughly 30 seconds, I told the sales guy,
“I’ve had the worst year of my life and I’ll be damned if one good thing doesn’t happen to me this year… I’m taking this FJ home.”
After signing some paperwork and getting my rig off the lot, I realized quickly that I needed to find someone to show me how to use all the bells and whistles. Sure I could drive it to the store, but I longed to get lost and I needed a teacher, or two. This led me to my local Washington State FJ Cruiser Club, and ultimately a women’s group (Women Who Wheel) where the intense feeling of community I’ve found is indescribable. The freedom to be me and go places most folks don’t even know exist has been unbelievably intoxicating!
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d “find” myself in the mountains. The indescribable feeling of peace to be discovered amongst the trees and vistas has changed my life forever. I often think back to what my therapist told me about keeping your cup full (as not to lose one’s self) and find that lately it’s been overflowing. New friends, new places, new experiences…The very definition of adventure; the thing my soul craves and thrives on! The liberation from both my past, and cement roads, has steered my life in an electrifying direction and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.