The People That Shape You

My family at my sister Lacie’s wedding in Alaska. I don’t know why my family insists on getting married outside in winter! I think I almost froze to death that day.

Now I know why I’m so weird!

A few years ago, I read the book “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell.  In it, he explains that we have this idea in the US of a lone hero who makes it all on his own, when in fact, those who dare to do things differently are often given a boost in one way or another by the people and circumstances around them. I like the humbling idea that we are all a product of the people and places that have shaped us.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent more time around home than I have in the past 5 years.  The interesting thing, going home has given me a new perspective in the same way that travel often does.  I can more clearly see how I have been shaped by my home and family. Maybe it’s maturity as well, at the ripe old age of 30, I can appreciate the ways that I have been fortunate to be raised here and by all these people.

I have always had the attitude that if I wanted to do something, I could figure out how to do it. Now I understand where that comes from. My family…

My Dad

My dad

The insistence that I can live life on my own terms and figure it out as I go has been shown to me over and over by the people around me from day one. For example, I was talking to my dad about when he started working for himself. He told me how when he was five, he had thought one day he wanted his own backhoe so he could make $15 an hour running it. About 15 years later, he saw someone he graduated from high school with who had bought their first piece of heavy equipment and he guessed that if that guy could do it, so could he. Not long after that, my dad bought his first skidder and his been in the logging and excavating business ever since.

I’ve never seen my dad shy away from anything he doesn’t know how to do, he just figures it out.  When things go wrong, he doesn’t throw a fit. He just looks around and starts figuring out what direction to go to right them. I’ve never seen him give up on anything… ever. Even when he should! One time he needed a business loan and had to go to 36 banks before he got one, but he got one. When I was graduating high school and considering going to college for film he told me, “Well, you’re smart, you can do that without school.  Go buy a camera and figure it out!” This is basically his attitude about everything. He never thinks following the rules or normal ways of doing things holds a lot of merit.

My Mom

My mom

Not to mention my mom who is a force to be reckoned with. She has kept us all in line for years and has always done so with humor. My mom can make friends with anyone from someone who lives in their car to millionaires.  She treats them all with the same respect and she will invite them all for dinner. She always has a full house and can cook for 12 people and have dinner on the table in nothing flat. Although she thinks of herself as predictable she’s one of the more spontaneous people I know. I remember her going to get the mail when I was a kid and then jumping off a bridge and into the creek for fun because it was hot out.  When we went to the ocean for the first time she ran into the water before me and my little sister with all her clothes on. We all had on jeans and were totally soaked, but if it’s your first time near the ocean, why let your jeans stop you from jumping in? Whenever I’ve had doubts or been in a situation that wasn’t good for me, she’s the one who tells me to say “To hell with this!” and do something more adventurous.

Lacie

Breaking news!

My older sister Lacie went to college in Alaska and graduated with a dual degree in journalism and economics. She did an internship in London and then moved to Houston to work as a Financial Analyst for BP. Not long after she left to moved back to Alaska. I think the sunshine and steady income were disagreeing with her nature. Once back in Alaska she worked as a carpenter and lived in a cabin without running water.  She took me to a timber frame cabin she had been working on once when I came to visit her. I remember thinking she was the happiest I had seen her in a long time. After that, she became a news reporter and was nominated for a regional Emmy for a documentary she worked on. Now she lives in Montana and in one of the cutest cabins you’ve ever seen with her baby and is contemplating either starting an upholstery business or going to law school.  No one thinks this is particularly weird.  She could do either.

Lowell

Lowell and my niece

My brother Lowell is the same, he’s always done what he wanted. He grew up buying and selling equipment, skipping school to go to auctions with my dad. After high school graduation he wanted to move to Alaska for a while. For the trip up there he converted one of his trucks to run on fry grease and took it all the way up the Al-Can highway running on used French fry oil.  Who does that? He didn’t have a lot of money but he can weld or mechanic and does great carpenter work so he found a job fairly soon.  However, he didn’t have quite enough money to make it to his first paycheck. By the time he got paid he hadn’t eaten for four days. He could’ve asked my sister for money but was too proud. I asked him about it and he said, “Yeah, that kinda sucked but it wasn’t a big deal.” He now runs his own business in Montana now and will be getting married in January. Naturally, the wedding will be outdoors in January. He will make his entrance by snowmobiling to the alter while his wife-to-be will be skiing down the aisle.

Molly

Molly! How you get so tall?

My little sister Molly was 5’10” and never afraid of anything. Once when she was a toddler my dad came in the door from work and picked her up. She balled up her little fist and punched him in the eye. He had a black eye for days. I remember he called me once when she was doing concrete work for him in high school.  He said, “You know, you and Lacie used to tell me stuff was too heavy, but you oughtta see Molly work. You know when she’s taking boards off the forms she’s pulling so hard she breaks ‘em!” (The weirdest stuff impresses my dad.) When she was 18 she flew all the way to Thailand alone to meet me and acted like it was nothing. She drove our moped on the worst roads there because she was the best driver and didn’t mind the crazy traffic. When she was 19 she drove a haul truck in a mine that could have crushed her Mercury Comet without ever noticing it. She took it all in stride, never hesitating.

Now, being at home, I look around I realize why I am the way I am. My perspective changes and suddenly, none of the things I’m doing are that crazy.

I’m not crazy. I’m just like the rest of my family.

Before I was confused about why I couldn’t be like everyone else, I now understand. It’s not normal for my family to do things normally. We are all kind of weirdos.  We don’t fit the mold. Thank god.

I am just one of the family.