If one spends enough time traveling, whether it be through their own country or internationally, you are guaranteed to meet and have your world changed by a multitude of unique individuals. In years of traveling that I have done, I have encountered a huge variety of people all impacting my life in one way or another. I have made dear friends who came unexpectedly and have stayed every sense, or I have experienced casual encounters passing through my life with nothing much more than a laugh and a joke. And than there are those very rare individuals who walk into your life and make such a profound and altering impact, they stand out from the rest forever. Whether through romance or friendship these precious few seem to show up when most needed and help to shape and turn the course of our lives.
One summer I took a job with the Forest Service in a remote Arizona town hidden away at the end of 30 miles of dirt road. In the six months that I spent in that bizarre place, I met three people who impacted my life in very different ways.
One of my co-workers, Allie was working short summers to pay her way through college. She was funny, quick with a joke, silly and helped to break the tedium of long hours. I remember sitting in a Forest Service vehicle with her for the better part of a day with nothing but a Cosmopolitan magazine for entertainment. If you have never read the articles from those sorts of magazines with titles such as "Secret romantic encounters gone wrong…." you should give it a try, we laughed until we cried over the absurd publication. When I met her it wasn't a profound day or a life changing event, but I enjoyed her company and when she went back to school, I was sad and disappointed to have lost my buddy. However, what was most disappointing was how she floated out of my life just as easily as she had floated into it. We kept in contact for a whiled but eventually found we had nothing in common over the phone and its now been years sense I've heard anything from her. The impact she left on me was more situational than anything, the fact that someone could come and go so easily even though we both made an effort to keep in contact, was surprising. Almost as if there was a force willing us to go our separate ways, I wonder why especially sense all I could see was an honest and entertaining friend.
To my surprise this end of the world place was were I also met one of the most interesting and inspiring girls I have ever been fortunate enough to call a friend. Right away I knew Lee was different and her open honesty helped to make us instant best friends and somehow we have ended up in the same places in the years ever sense. Like most friends, we had our ups and downs but Lee has made an effort unlike any I've seen to do the necessary work and remain in my life, teaching me what it is to be an honest and true friend by nothing more than acting it out.
In that same dusty town, I also met a man who came into my life with a calm confidence that would unnerve most anyone. Originally from Texas, Chase was tall and blond with a stern self assurance that followed him and a knack to silence a room whenever he walked in. He had been a firefighter for years and it showed in the sun lines on his face and the scars on his hands and in the long sinewy muscles that ran up his arms. He was kind and gentle to me, could bake the best pecan pine I have ever had as a replacement birthday cake, had traveled the world, owned six guns, had wrestled bulls and was madly in love with me. It wasn't long before I fell for him with most everything I had and could see nothing else but a future spent by his side.
Through a powerful belief in me and who I was, Chase changed the way I thought of myself to the point that I began to believe and thrive off of it. His impact effects me to this day and with out it I believe I would be a very different person. He saw me for who I wanted to be (or who I already was but couldn't see yet) and treated me with a thoughtful respect that I have never known from anyone else. When we weren't off working in different corners of the country, we spent as much time together as possible. We spent days camping on the rim of the grand canyon or spent weekends in ritzy hotels wracking up huge room service bills and getting tan lines next to the pool. It was the best summer of my life.
Like most good things, the summer ended and with it came my uncertainty of what to do with myself. I was only twenty two and unlike Chase, had no focus or drive beyond my next adventure. The prospect of a permanent future with him was brought up again and again but being so young I could not decide between the uncertainty I felt at 'settling down' or the freedom and unknowns of an open road.
In the end, I chose the open road.
I cannot say if I regret my decision or not, but having done so forced me to see myself for who I wanted to be through my own eyes and I certainly do not regret that. Not being ready for a permanent life was a huge issue and I am glad to hear that Chase recently married and they are happily living in their new home.
People continue to come and go throughout my life just as Allie did, they don't make waves or leave too much but a fond memory and I've come to terms with the oddness of such an unattached encounter. Wonderful individuals such as Lee continue to find their way into my world and I am grateful every day for them. For as much as the memory may still sting, I am thankful that I met Chase and enjoyed our one summer under the Arizona sun and, am grateful for the profound impression he left with me. Who knows what the future might hold for me as far as another Chase, but so far he is the only one of that kind. It makes me think of an analogy of people being like mirrors to our personalities, some are all good, some reflect mostly bad, others are stagnant or colorless and some turn it upside down and throw it back at us unrecognizable.