Never did I think that when i got my acceptance email letter to work at Grand Canyon National Park as a retail cashier 3 years ago did I think my life would be so different. I had traveled out west a lot but never lived west of the Mississippi River. I grew up in Indiana and moved back and forth to Florida a couple times in my 20’s where good times were had by all. I was sitting at my sisters house in Atlanta, Georgia that fateful day at the end of August in 2009 when i realized I had finally got hired in a national park. The idea had came after a 3 week road trip across the US I had taken with two friends Ricardo and Rina in 2007. I spent a good $4k on that trip alone and realized how much easier it would be to live in a national park for a short time to take my landscape shots and build my photography portfolio. I was going to move every three months or so to other Xanterra Parks and Resorts. I figured three months in each park would be quite enough time to get the photos I needed. Come September 2nd of this year I will have celebrated my third year as a Arizona resident.
When i received the acceptance email the first thing that came to mind was “fuck, i just finished painting my bedroom” 🙂 It was charcoal, the first time in my life I had ever used that color, I was in love with it. Alas, I had to leave it behind and say goodbye to my sister Toni, her daughter Shelby, and my brother Brian. We had fun those couple of months I lived there.
So i packed again for the 22nd time in my life at the age of 30, and headed out west…by myself. I was a bit shocked to learn on my first day I would be living in a dorm room with a roommate. It looks a lot bigger in the picture then it was and I still shutter when thinking back on those days in living in an all female dormitory, sharing a communal bathroom day in and day out. It was my first dorm room experience, and all i have to say about that is Never Again will i put myself in that situation. <<shudders>> I had the worse roommate in the entire world, Kelsey Cody. A huge underage drinker, that would come back to our dorm room and throw up in our sink at all hours of the night, who actually hid her trash when she went on vacation instead of taking it out, and was the most immature person i have ever had to live with. I’m pretty sure she was eventually kicked out of the park after having sex with someone in a friends bathroom and he called fire and security on her to get her out of his place. Then she apparently went back to Colter Hall and broke windows or something of the sort, not sure on the details, don’t care. Just glad she was gone.
It rained non stop while unpacking into the dorm room, all day rain rain rain. “I thought this was Arizona, where it didn’t rain?”, I was later informed about Monsoon Season in Arizona. Good to know.. 🙂 My first photograph of the Grand Canyon came two days later when the rain had stopped. I walked out of the dorm room about 50 steps and thought “Wow, here I am, living in a 7 Natural Wonder”
It was hard work getting promoted to a Retail Assistant Manager here at the time, and my time came in April of the following year. I immediately rejoiced in the fact that I would get to move out of the dorm rooms and into my own efficiency apartment. I mean really, 7 months in a dorm room with a roommate I couldn’t stand… Apparently April isn’t the month here to look for new housing though to my surprise, so I had to wait another 3 months before getting my own apartment.
I loved the big open windows looking out into the forest my new apartment provided. On my first day I witnessed a cat and deer hanging with each other. What a cool place this was.
Later after finding roommates in March of 2011, I ditched my efficiency for a two bedroom townhouse with a loft, and a back yard.
Also included with this apartment were the most awesome women living next door, whom I will always consider dear friends for the rest of my life.
Not to mention the future mother in law Deb who lived behind me 😉
She’s one of the most amazing woman i have ever met, excluding only one other, my own amazing mother, oddly enough named Deb as well 🙂
Also came with this apartment, the ability to invite my niece Isabella to stay with me last summer. She lived here for 4 months and then moved back home to go to university. I miss her smile 🙂
Let’s be honest here, I don’t even make $9 an hour while working as an assistant manager for the busiest gift shop in what seems like all of America. With this job though I can sign off for three free meals a day, and my rent for a one bedroom apartment is $220 a month. Where else are you going to find rent that cheap? And I split all the bills with my boyfriend. It’s insanely cheap.
One of the reasons I find myself being completely happy with my life at present is the person I met while I was here. Last year, after four months of not realizing this insanely gorgeous man lived in the apartment behind mine. I met him one night at ‘the girls next door’s apartment, apparently while he was trying to balance sideways on a stripper pole. Or so he tells me. lol. And no if we were ever to have kids that is so not the story I would tell them. He totally would though. haha. I have never in my life felt so complete as when I am with him. I have never been treated this good in all my life. He is amazing. I respect the hell out of him. I will never regret moving all the way across the country alone to a place I’d never been just for this one fact alone. Obviously I don’t care about the freshly painted charcoal colored paint anymore. 🙂 i am completely smitten with this man. I love him unconditionally.
So it comes down to the observations while living in this 7 natural wonder.
1.) You learn to cherish the rain. You’ll see visitors running from the rain to find shelter, you’ll see the people that live here take a break and walk outside and stand in it. Arms out, staring up, letting the moisture hit their faces. I’m not sure I see anyone that lives here carry an umbrella with them.. ever.
2.) People are impatient while on vacation. I’ve developed the patience skills of a saint since I’ve lived here. And I’m an Aries. I wish people would just calm down and enjoy themselves. Yesterday I was trying to get to my truck and a couple was fighting next to it, loudly. People, this is the Grand freaking Canyon, no one wants to hear you argue with your spouse.
3.) I don’t know when it started happening, but I feel as if I’ve started looking younger since I moved here. It must be less stress that involves with living in the city, I’m not sure. In the last year, my age has been questioned at least 40 times. I usually ask people to guess and the answer I get is usually between 20-25. I am 33 years old. It blows my mind away. When I first came here i called it NeverNeverland from how people looked and acted, i stick by that statement today.
4.) People forget how to drive correctly when visiting this park. Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you don’t have to follow traffic laws, or just general correct driving skills would be nice to see.
5.) Driving 3 hours round trip to the grocery store is normal for me now. That is insane.
6.) People that come here to live, try to take what you have at any cost. They just don’t understand. If you see people happy, don’t try to fuck up their world. They are happy, that’s the whole point, leave them be. Leave your green card hopes to the single people please. That goes for the women in this park who live here permanently as well. Yes, my boyfriend is gorgeous and awesome, but he is my gorgeous and awesome boyfriend. Get that? 😉
7.) I feel I’m in traffic when a vehicle stops in front of me for more than 10 seconds. haha seriously going to have difficulties going back to the real world.
8.) You will never find more caring people in all your life until you move to a place like this. Things are just chill, people you befriend will bend over backwards to help you in a crisis. It’s pretty amazing.
9.)You can see the stars here. Stop and look at them its pretty awe inspiring.
10.) more to come..
i have lots more observations, but I must leave now to visit tom at his work. I mean, hell it’s been 5 hours since I last saw him 🙂
ok back 😀
11.) I’ve never lived in any place where I felt intimidated by law enforcement. Until now. I have one friend that is a Ranger, the rest I have met make me feel scared. Before I moved to this park, the last time I had been pulled over was sometime in 2001. When I got pulled over in 2010 in the park I received a $975 ticket for not having my insurance card on me. Thank god when I went to my scheduled court date the Magistrate bumped my ticket down to $75 with shown proof of insurance. They had followed me around the park and wrote down stuff I “had done” instead of just pulling me over. They finally pulled me over 2 miles later when I turned into the residential district. After talking for an hour and doing a full search of my car they let me go. It just was scary. I feel so intimidated when I shouldn’t. It’s just all around odd. I can’t wait to get out of here and live in a town with police officers.
12.) I miss water. Right now it’s ok because it’s monsoon season, I awake with a smile ear to ear if its cloudy and raining. I love the ocean, lakes, ponds, rivers, you name it. I didn’t realize how much I enjoy the rain and water until I didn’t have it. It’s so sunny here, even in the winter. it’s sunny.
13.) I miss the luxuries of going to a Walgreen’s at 2 in the morning. If you’re cooking at 10pm here and need milk or something you are shit out of luck. Our local “grocery” store closes at 9pm. There is a gas station 10 miles away that closes at 11pm I think. It just sucks. the bars even close at 11pm. What a sleepy town we live in. By the way, in the winter the grocery closes at 7pm/ It’s slightly ridiculous.
14.) you become complacent with “the big hole in the ground”. After awhile of living here, you don’t think much of the great Grand Canyon. hell some people I know haven’t been to the rim in weeks. It’s just there, a part of your life. There is that every once in awhile moment though when you stop what you’re doing and walk over to the rim and look over. It renews it for a bit until the next cycle of “its just a whole in the ground” engulfs you.
15.) You can’t escape people that you know, and you know everyone. People know your name, they know where you work, they know where you live, they probably have seen you walk to the laundry in your pj’s. And that’s a fact about living here. It’s the same people, day in and day out, and they all know your business.
I guess what it comes down to is this has been in amazing, wonderful, awful experience of living. There’s no place like it on earth, I’ll cherish the memories I have made, the friends I have made, and I’m thankful to the cheap living expenses that have afforded us to get the things we desire. I’ve met so many cool people here, i work for the best boss I’ve ever had, I’ve ran out of gas on Hermit’s Road, I’ve had a scorpion crawl across my foot at work, I’ve had a bat sitting at my front door when I’ve went outside to smoke, I’ve walked past a 2000 pound elk and didn’t give it a second glance, I’ve headbutted a deer while walking down a hill because I couldn’t see it, I’ve played cornhole inside a bar, I’ve hung with the cowboys, I’ve shoveled more snow then I care to think about, I’ve watched my boyfriend get a tattoo at 4am in a basement, I’ve been stopped on the highway due to a sheep crossing, I’ve walked into every building in this park wearing pajama pants, I’ve almost got struck by lightning, I learned to make pasta from scratch, I’ve played a lot of pool, I’ve witnessed a black widow crawl up the wall, and my boyfriend take it across the street instead of killing it, I’ve wined, dined, and ‘veranded’, I’ve learned how to play scales on a guitar. I’ve walked amongst the clouds.
I can’t wait to leave this place, and I’ll look back when I’m 80 and miss it.