The Five Year Question

Cole and I were more than delighted and honored when a journalist and blogger from Great Falls recently interviewed us for her series, “Made in Montana”. Jenn Rowell is a talented writer and a well-seasoned reporter, and her questions about us and the new brewery were well-thought and intriguing for us to answer. One question that stumped me for a bit was “Looking back five years ago, did you imagine you’d be where you are now?” At first , I had to laugh. Did I really know when I was twenty-six that I’d be married to a brewer and be starting a business together? Hardly. I barely had a savings account. Then I thought of who I was when I was twenty-six. And finally, I was a bit shocked that five years ago meant I was twenty-six. Where has the time gone?

Me at twenty-six: I was in my second year as the Program Director of the Glacier Institute’s Big Creek Outdoor Education Center in the North Fork of the Flathead Valley. I lived in an old Forest Service cabin and the whole camp was off the power grid. I wore baggy Patagonia shorts, a sun-bleached visor and carried a clipboard around camp, wrangling kids from one class to another, checking on the boisterous generator, cleaning out the exhaust on the propane refrigerators so they wouldn’t clog, shutting down the fridges and causing a week’s worth of food for the camp to spoil, scheduling staff to teach classes like fire ecology and aquatic ecology, and trying to find time to play in the river between classes, meals, evening programs, bunkhouse stories, and the administrative demands of a small non-profit. I had my lab mutt dog Reilly, a canoe and a kayak and two pairs of Chacos. I drove an old red Subaru and my hair was really long. I sure as hell loved beer, always have, but didn’t have a clue that in five years I’d be where I am today–sans Subaru, shorter hair, but still with clipboard in hand, but this time it contains notes about the brewery and thoughts on writing.

The five-year question caused me to reflect on those years, those jobs and those adventures. Sometimes I lament that I haven’t had one “career” or that I’ve had so many jobs since I first laid eyes on the shores of Flathead Lake in 2004. But as I’ve come to learn, especially in trying to compose my thoughts for the interview, that from my work at the dude ranch on Flathead Lake to tending bar in West Glacier to selling pants on the road, across America with Red Ants Pants, to organizing concerts for the Glacier Symphony and Chorale has given me a lot of experience, skills and talents that has culminated to my post as Beer Ambassador. Yes, I’ll fully admit that I’m not one who can easily settle into one position and work one job for all the days of my life (especially if it means I’m chained to a desk). First, many jobs in the Flathead Valley don’t work like that. My jobs with the Belton Chalet, Hellroaring Saloon and the Forest Service were all seasonal. To live in Big Sky country also means thinking big about the different jobs–sometimes many of them at once–that will help you carve out your livelihood under the shadows of Glacier’s peaks. From all of my jobs, I’ve gleaned so many experiences that have accumulated, much like the flakes of snow upon a building glacier, and although  my resume might be long and rambling (job here, freelance there) but I think it  demonstrates my openness and willingness to take on a new job, learn new skills (like working on a generator or managing social media accounts…which I did, way back in 2008, baby!).

Sometimes I regret, as I’m prone to do–a very bad habit–that I didn’t have more of a career in writing. That I should have looked at working for newspapers or magazines instead of Flathead Lake Lodge when I first came to the mountains. But when I was twenty-two, the only career aspirations I had at the time was how many hiking miles I’d log over the summer. Writing has always been with me, and always will. And my career in writing has evolved over time, from writing curriculum at Hope Ranch to drafting press releases for Red Ants Pants to penning my memoir. I’ve committed to writing with my graduate program and I know the experience will continue to enhance my writing skills but will also present many new opportunities, as these things to do, especially if you keep your heart open.

For Cole, he’s long known that his dream job would be opening a brewery. He admits that he didn’t know, back when he was just twenty-five, the specifics and nuances and challenges of opening a brewery, but that was knowledge he’s learned since (and will continue to). My track into the business of brewery might not be as straight as Cole’s but as I said in the interview, I’m not surprised that this is where I’ve ended up. All these paths have led to this one. It might not have been clear cut or direct and there were certainly many, many times I’d ask myself: what the hell am I doing? What is it that I want to do? But I kept myself open, even taking a chance with Ms. Sarah Calhoun with Red Ants Pants when she offered the road trip of a lifetime, peddling pants from Montana all the way down to L.A.

Where will I be in the next five years? It seems like such a daunting question, especially with the brewery about to open, but when I reach that mark, I can’t wait to see what I’ll reflect upon.

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