July 18, 2011

Why Did I Move to Colorado? ~ Mandi Millar

Don’t expect an answer…

Photo: cityryde.com

“Why did you move to Col-lor-ahh-doe?” my five-year-old niece asks me in a sing-song voice when she and my sister are visiting. This is a question I have trouble answering when grownups ask me, so, wanting to provide a good, clear answer to a child, I undoubtedly stammer when Claire inquires. “Well, I needed a change of scenery,” I say vaguely before pointing at a pretty mountain and changing the subject. “You’re silly,” she informs me. It’s a fair assessment. I feel silly indeed. By now I should readily have an answer to that simple question…

Change of scenery, change of pace and for a breath of fresh air! Those are all dorky clichés I throw at people to dodge answering this question. Although there is a degree of truth in each of these “answers.” Colorado’s beauty, laid-back pace and air quality were not conscious factors in my decision to move out here. In fact, I did not appreciate these things until after living here awhile. So, why did I move to Colorado?

Photo: donjuaninc.com

I think back to my life in Philadelphia at the time when I decided to move. Four years ago, the most “work” I did at my desk job involved trying to meet people on dating sites, which didn’t relate to the job itself. For two years I had been living with my parents in order to save money and I coped with being a 26-year-old-who-lives-with-her-parents by hanging out with a group of friends who, like me at the time, were unmotivated, lazy and disgruntled. My body, mind and soul resorted to a lifestyle of disastrous habits in order to seem alive, which, in retrospect, only created voids rather than filled them. Like a fallen rock at the bottom of a canyon, I was stuck in a rut.

As chance would have it, at the same time that I was experiencing this somewhat dark period in my life, the electricity went out on the crowded subway and I could see no light coming from either end of the tunnel. I proceeded to have my first (and thankfully, last) panic attack. The outage and panic attack both lasted only a few minutes, but for the entire rest of that humid, 100+ degree, August day in Philadelphia, I felt that every short breath I managed to take was a polluted one. As chance would also have it, in the weeks that followed, there were several mentions to me by various random, complete strangers (okay, perhaps one or two of whom I met through online dating sites) of a place called Boulder, Colorado.

Within weeks, I used the money I had saved to buy my dad’s car from him for the sole purpose to fill every inch of it with my belongings and move from Philly to Boulder. With an old TV perched precariously behind the driver’s seat, held back from falling onto my head by only a piece of flimsy cardboard, random shoes stuffed into oddly shaped gaps between boxes of books and tchotchke I couldn’t part with. With my houseplants to keep me company, I embarked one September morning to start my life anew in a foreign and exotic place. Well, maybe not so much a foreign place since it was only a few days’ drive across part of America on essentially a single road, Highway 80. But I was leaving the east coast city I lived in for 27 years to reside indefinitely in a place I had never visited before, not even in a dream.

I spent the first few weeks exploring the mountains and getting a feel for the place. My entire life I had always loved hiking, but I never before experienced hikes so… vertical. At one point on the Mt. Sanitas trail, I found myself scaling a boulder on all fours, like a mountain lion, just to keep on the path. Another thing that blew my mind was that the Rocky Mountains, are, as it were, rocky. Who knew? The first time I saw the aftermath of a rock slide I shook my head at the disgraceful company that must have just dumped construction materials right onto a beautiful hiking trail. After closer inspection and realizing my folly, they were not man-made construction materials but beautiful pieces of Mother Earth, crumbling in the most natural of processes. The fact that I was not on the east coast anymore began to congeal.

Photo: Philadelphia by Mandi Millar

Adaptation sometimes is born from rude awakenings. Being newly landlocked had my soul thirsty for the element of water, while being in a semi-arid climate did the same for my skin. Not to mention, Colorado was a far-away place bereft of all my friends and family, an old and gritty metropolis, upfront attitude, a cozy blanket of grey skies, soft pretzels, decent pizza, hoagies, cheesesteaks and all other comfort foods and comfort everythings of Philadelphia and the east. I arrived in Boulder with no job lined up, no money and not a single piece of furniture. Albeit broke, uprooted and alone, not once during those first few weeks did I wonder why I moved to Colorado. Not because the reason why I moved was necessarily clear to me, I just never thought to ask.

When Boulderites would ask me what brought me to Colorado and I would answer, “I don’t know, a sort of feeling I guess.” I heard time and time again that this was a common reason why many other transplants were here. Amy, my roommate when I first moved to Boulder, also moved to Boulder “randomly” and says that Boulder is a healing place. It attracts people who are looking to heal. I’ve come to think of the mountains as enormous magnets protruding from the ground, attracting some people who come from very dark places, people who could use 300+ days of sunshine a year.

While I’m still not exactly sure how to answer why I moved to Colorado, I know why I am still here. The Colorado lifestyle embraces natural health and nutrition, and above all respect for the environment. Things are slower here than on the east coast, yes, but they are also more careful and more deliberate – more my speed.

Turns out, Colorado is a nice change of pace. And when the wind suddenly whips around the mountains and rattles everything, the leaves on Aspen trees sort of twinkle and the scent of pine is near intoxicating. It truly is a breath of fresh air. And when you are so high up on the side of a snow-capped mountain that you see a bird actually soar below you across a valley, I can’t think of better scenery.

Photo: Mandi Millar

By now my furniture is well worn in and I’ve been here in Colorado for four years. Although at work I do indeed still sit behind a desk, I no longer spend my work day on dating sites since after lots of loneliness followed by self-elected aloneness, I am in a healthy, loving relationship.

I work hard at my job during the day, take classes for my masters in the evenings, and actually seek and find passion in both. I’ve even made some friends in Colorado whose quality outweigh their quantity, and I’m still friends with the same people from back east (who are no longer lazy or disgruntled). Perhaps the change from a dissatisfied, mid-twenties urbanite to a holistic, nature loving, 30-year-old Coloradoan was not random happenstance, but was years in the making. From recognizing serendipity in strangers’ suggestions, to listening to my body when it was telling me I needed to leave an unhealthy place, over the years, and unbeknownst to me, I was following my gut feelings and planting seeds of self-love all along, not realizing that a garden would pop up in Colorado.


Mandi Millar is a researcher and massage therapist living in Denver, who is fascinated by the mind-body connection and the power of community to improve society. She is a rainbow chasing, picture taking, shower singing, travel dreaming, shamelessly dancing, mischief making, arts and crafting, wine and cheese pairing, adventure loving, ice cream enthusiast who channels peace and healing energy when she’s not busy shrugging off her sarcastic tendencies and retroactively plotting perfect responses to life’s conundrums.

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