The Story of a Denver Transplant

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This is the story of a Denver transplant.

To many on the east coast, moving “out west” becomes like taking an expedition to Mars…maybe not that extreme, but Colorado to many out East has an image of a mystical land, with Mountains and good beer and legal marijuana…I mean in your early 20’s, to many, this is highly attractive, liberating sort of a” play loud rock and roll music and no one can stop me” teenage feeling the first time you see the Rocky Mountains. They emerged, and were magnificent and huge and I was terrified in suddenly realizing I had zero friends…

This is also the story of a Denver transplant, and a thank you to this Denver transplants friends.

First of all, I should make it clear that I am from New Jersey. Although a HUGE part of me adores craft beer, hiking, skiing and all of the wonders that come with living in proximity to the mountains, I am and always will be a Jersey girl…who didn’t know how to pump her own gas until college.

Ask any of my friends and I am the first person to crack a joke about “the dirty jerz.” I am often told that I don’t look like I’m from New Jersey (apparently, we Jersians have a look? Characteristically like Snookie or GTL…if you don’t know what GTL means watch Jersey shore.) I am admittedly the BIGGEST fan of Wawa Hoagie Fest (if you don’t know what a WAWA is, I am sad for you) and no, a SUB is not a hoagie. My good friends here probably want to kill me every time I talk about going “down the shore.” If you think bacon is good, you’ve never had pork roll.

As much as I joke about New Jersey, and it’s Jersey ways, I am grateful for my childhood. For being able to take a 10 minute drive for a good Philly cheese-stake, and understanding “wiz wit o’ witout.” For memorial day weekends, sticking all limbs out the window with new license teenage freedom and screaming in glee as salty air sprayed our sunglasses and tossled our hair. Watching the sun glisten in the diamondy bay from the highway. Sucking on a strand of my salty hair walking back from the beach. Replacing dips in the ocean for showers. Eating ice-cream on the jetti and watching the sun set. Walking back from the beach barefoot and watching the sunrise sideways as we layed on a surfboard. Twizzlers and seagulls and long sunny naps. Bagels. Fudgy wugies and run the bases and the boardwalk. Water-ice. Family. Cousins.

We all have these “things” from our childhoods and hometowns that Denver doesn’t have, but the thing is I’ve found a discovery here, a sense of freedom and love and friendship that has replaced that first smell of salty air feeling (don’t get me wrong…I was really really sad not being by an ocean this summer.)

For a Denver transplant, it’s normal to sit at a random bar table and hear “Minnesota, Chicago, California” as hometowns. For a Denver transplant, fresh powder is the hardest thing to ever learn to ski on (but also the best thing ever). For a Denver transplant, you’ll miss snow days and appreciate the sun and dry air (humidity can be awful.)

For this doe-eyed Denver transplant, I was looking for an out, I was tired of the traffic of the cut-throat east coast personalities, I needed to discover and learn and grow and hastily took a year long service position without thinking much about the implications (which looking back was a little irresponsible.) Also…like many fresh out of college grads, I needed to stretch my legs a little. I had an idea of where I wanted my life to go…but really didn’t have a clue. Sadly organic chemistry and frat parties don’t give you much experience.

The thing is, looking back on the past year, that can’t breathe kind of feeling summiting a mountain has replaced the feeling of the salt air. The smell of fresh aspens and looking at the skyline sunsets has taken place of the jetti and ice cream. The “clear your head” ability to submerge yourself in wilderness whenever you want, as long as you have access to a car is unbelievable. Discovering the widespread vast tear jerking beauty, the kind that reminds you to look up from the trail every once in a while. Conquering your first black diamond and actually thinking you might break your legs. Falling head first into a tree (yikes…this unfortunately happened.) Encountering the “nice” personalities that hold the door and want to talk to you. Falling asleep to the sounds of crickets and wildlife while cocooning yourself in a thermal sleeping bag mid-summer. The triumph of carrying everything on your back for 19 miles, and finally reaching the top. The satisfaction of living simply. Early morning trail runs. The lingering campfire smell on your hair. The abundance of craft breweries and new favorite beers. Music. Cheap, good, wonderful live music.

The thing is…I would have never had these experiences if it wasn’t for the friends I’ve made, the people who were willing to adventure with me and take these risks. The families that welcomed me into their homes for the Thanksgivings I couldn’t afford to go home, the friends that gave me the hats and gloves and jackets and hiking boots to have some of these experiences (these items are very difficult to fit into a suitcase when you only move out with one…did I mention this move was irresponsible?) The people who welcomed me into their already existing friend groups, have watched (and mostly listened) to me vent my way through some growing pains of relationships and hardships and transitions. For those craigslist friends that just spend a day staring at art with me and talk of travel. The road trips and new states and rocks.

The truth is…Denver, like any other city, is just a place, it’s the people that have made this place home. I’m not the first person to hastily move here, to have that terrified no-friends feeling getting off the plane feeling.

While I may be a tiny bit wiser (mind you…I’ve accrued a very negligible amount of wisdom…I still have a LOT to learn) I know I still have a lot of moves I want to make, and friends that I will have, and mountains to climb (ignore the cheesy pun…) I’ve learned a lot from this place but even more from the relationships I’ve formed.

So this is a synopsis of Colorado from a Denver transplants eyes, and the story is similar for many. The interests and the feelings and the sticker covered Nalgene water bottles and love of beer. More-so this is a thank you to my friends here…because if there is one thing I’ve learned in my short lived “real world” experiences, it’s not where you are, it’s who your with that makes life (and crazy moves) worth it.

-Rachel McAuley


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