Many of my friends and blog readers have commented on my new life in paradise and how perfect it all seems- you know, with the skiing, the snow, the sun, the mountains...
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. I’m not going to lie. But there are downsides too. And while I am not going to spend this blog post trying to negate the fact that I am an extremely fortunate girl, I am going to be honest about one of the challenges of moving to paradise.
Here’s the deal: nine out of ten people? They are nice. Warm, friendly, inviting even. Happy to meet you. They will invite you to ride with them, have dinner, go for drinks, partake in a full-moon ski up the mountain. They will invite you on hut trips and play dates. That 90% is full of the best kind of people you’ll meet. It’s that last 10% that can bring you down.
In the Valley, everyone works their tail off to get by. Brian and I met a guy up in Crested Butte one day who wisely gave us this advice, “When you move to the Valley, forget about whatever salary you made. You will never see those numbers on your paycheck again. It’s best just not to think about it and love living here.”
The man speaks the truth. While Brian and I took some financial hit to move here, in the form of my tenured teaching salary, we did not take the hit that many others do. The Gunnison Valley is one of the most over-educated, under-employed places in the country. That’s the price you pay to live in paradise.
And those many others? They have worked long and hard to find their “niche”. You? You may be a competitor for their niche. And if they are that 10%, they may see you as a threat. Which I get. These people have worked long and hard to survive and thrive successfully in a place where there are too many college degrees and very few middle class opportunities.
I, too, have had my niches. I, too, have felt threatened by others that may want a piece of that niche. It makes sense to me. And, admittedly, in the past, I have also not been very nice to people I perceived as a threat to my niche.
So I get it.
But it doesn’t make it any easier to be on the receiving end of some of that animosity. At one point in my life, this would have been very upsetting to me. Now, though, I recognize it for what it is. I understand it. I empathize. And I have a new strategy, developed after a particularly hurtful exchange last week.
Kill them with kindness.
Yep. Simple as that. When I see those people, I will smile. I will ask them about their day or their weekend or their recent ski trip. I will look them in the eye. I will not avoid them. I will even SEEK THEM OUT.
It is exponentially easier to avoid mean people. It is much more difficult to greet them every day with a smile and a kind word and get little in return. But I will keep it up. I am determined to make our mountain living experiment work and this is a small piece of the puzzle.
And also? I am fortunate that I get to hang out with the 90% the vast majority of the time.