Chasing The Dragon (An Adventurer’s High)

I don’t really have a clever intro like I usually do when it’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog. No zingers, one liners, no witty puns, no nothing. I’m very painfully aware I haven’t posted on here for quite some time; I think about it every fucking day and its quite maddening. Like what the fuck happened to me? I was a guy brimming with so much creative energy, but I’ve been creatively dead for quite some time; well not completely creatively dead because I’ve taken on photography which once you get the hang of it is easier than writing a blog. You just point, frame correctly in the right direction, shoot, and edit in Lightroom if that’s your cup of tea. Blogging is mentally daunting because I put too much pressure on myself to create a masterpiece. Gotta top the last blog that moved people, or just gotta put something together that will get people thinking.

I know it ain’t healthy and I know that not every blog I drop has to be a masterpiece. I’m aware that it just has to be authentic. I guess the problem is that if I get rolling on here I already know what I’m gonna vent about on here because it’s the same fucking thing I vented about the last time I wrote a blog. I’d rather not vent about it over and over. I’ve been dealing with some serious burnout in many aspects of life and it stems from being run down by an incredibly important, but emotionally and mentally draining job that doesn’t always yield the same reward and satisfaction it once did. It’s a great service and an awesome company with awesome staff and leadership that I’ve been honored to serve all these years, but human interaction at that level takes its toll, especially when working with much older clients with more complex needs and some emotional wounds from abandonment, abuse, and other tribulations life throws at people.

I still haven’t quite figured out what the next step in life is, but in the process of finding excuses to go out in to the world with my camera and take pretty pictures, I inadvertently found an outlet for said burnout and lack of fulfillment. You see, back at the end of 2020 I was dealing with a bout of burnout and even some depression. Isolation from friends due to the pandemic took its toll and work was rough on me emotionally. I had to discharge a long time client who I had suspicions was abusing the system and had developed and unhealthy emotional dependency on my and other staff’s presence in their life. The discharge was the right decision, but I still felt absolutely horrible, especially when I started ignoring all their calls and messages. I know I did everything I could for them, but I still felt like a horrible person.

From isolation, to work burnout and an overwhelming lack of meaning in life, I felt lost. Out of nowhere, I developed this strange urge to get back into photography. I had attempted to pick it up in 2017, but I fell out of it when I felt hamstrung by the camera I bought. After some research I landed on this Canon T5i which provided enough to get me going with some room to grow.

I started small with a few photos around the house and the neighborhood, and in parts of Boston, eventually taking the camera with me on my wife and I’s year trip to upstate NY.

Following that vacation August 2021 would be an incredibly rough month. I was slammed to the brim with clients new and old. Normally I feel recharged after a vacation, but opening my Outlook and having to look through all those missed emails dragged my mood down real quick. I grinded my way through August and got to the end where I took a week off. This is the week where things would take an interesting turn. My love of photography would inadvertently reawaken a zest for a hobby I hadn’t partaken in in years. During my staycation at the end of August into September, I decided to take a day trip to Bish Bash Falls in Western MA. The falls were solid, but the journey to the falls felt underwhelming. I was itching for some awesome views when I realized there was another hike in the area that would grant me that. I would hike up to Alander Mountain which would give me some much needed views of the Taconic Valley and the Berkshires.

It was fucking exhilarating, I hadn’t hiked up a mountain in quite some time and damn it I wanted more. I took a hit of adventure and I needed more of the drug, so much so that going back to work felt like such a drag. Sure I was helping people live independently and providing people opportunities to Live Learn Work and Play (Shameless plugs yay!) (although to be honest I haven’t had the chance to provide opportunities for play due to having mostly older clients), I was providing a good service, and yet I felt a bit empty on the inside yearned for more adventure. That day out in Western MA made me realize that life was too short to sit around and be unhappy. I had used my car mostly for work and I rack up on average 300 to sometimes 400 miles a week. It was time I devoted some millage to going on adventures.

I still felt a bit meh at work, not to mention I still felt a bit isolated from humans as I didn’t have much community where I lived (I had moved out of Boston a year prior). Going down the conservative YouTube rabbit hole didn’t help with my mood either. I needed something to look forward to even when I felt down, so I started planning trips every couple of weeks to coincide with my pay cycles.

My next trip would be out to Mount Harvey in Upstate NY and a day trip into Albany. It wasn’t much, but it was nice to get back out in the woods for some awesome views.

As with any drug though, eventually the high comes down, you crash, and you need another hit. I then remember a place my family drove by in NY when visiting family called Bear Mountain. After researching the hike, I put it in my calendar to coincide with yet another pay cycle. Saturday morning at 4 am I took off with the plan of stopping at Upper Delaware Scenic Byway for some photos followed by a day at Bear Mountain.

It was another fun hike which provided me with stellar views. I hope you’ve already figured out this pattern by now because it’s going to be a constant throughout. I once again crashed hard and this time and I was pretty down in the dumps. From working myself to a pulp to pumping myself with more political YouTube and even more cynicism, I was at a low and yearned for more adventure. Marriage was great, I was healthy, my family was great, I wasn’t broke, and yet I was down. I still lacked community close by and even with the church group I travelled to in Boston once a week, I felt like something was missing but I didn’t know what. There’d be nights where my wife would come home to find me laying on the couch just depressed and consuming more political YouTube and would have to pull me away from it.

The political YouTube in itself was a drug. I thought the world was absolute shit at the tine and needed something to validate that, so I’d drown in the political videos. I’d hear one outrage, get mad and needed to get madder so I’d tune in everyday waiting for the next outrage, hoping it would be bigger than the last. I was never a huge TV person aside from some shows and video games when the right one came around, but before the pandemic came around, sitting in front of the TV for hours wasn’t common for me as I spent most of my time out in the community, hanging out with friends and attending various groups and meetups.

The pandemic lockdowns changed all of that when I was cooped up inside, only going out to work or shop. Even when things started to lift, it took a very long time for many of the groups I frequented to start hosting actual in person events again. To this day, some of the former groups I used to frequent have yet to actually have any in person events and I don’t know if they ever will, not to mention many people were afraid to have parties for quite some time. It was tough because while I took whatever precautions I could (masking, hygiene, managing my own personal health), I was never afraid of this thing. I actually got it at the end of 2021 and compared to my worst flu it wasn’t horrible (The efficacy of the first shots I got had long waned and I didn’t even bother with a booster so needless to say I have a pretty great immune system, yay to all the broccoli I eat and good physical fitness). It wasn’t fun and I lost my smell for a bit, but I managed through it. I think the worst part was being stuck at home for two weeks in quarantine.

To be honest, I wasn’t really down with some of the decisions made during the pandemic; I didn’t mind the initial lockdown seeing as we knew next to nothing about this virus, but we prolonged the lockdowns and heavy restrictions much to detriment of our economy and the mental wellbeing of people, while royally fucking up and an entire generation of children, but that’s an entire blog in itself. Just know that being cooped up at home and being isolated from people and my usual routine, only interacting with people behind a screen for a prolonged period really fucked me up.

After a while it became too much and I needed to get the fuck out of my house and away from my TV, so I took a bit of a hiatus from political YouTube and I planned my next journey. A church group I was attending in Boston had a trip out to Mt Moosilauke in NH. You bet your ass I jumped on the opportunity to do a bigger hike. It was so fun and just what I needed.

Once again I crashed and I crashed hard. I needed more adventure, and it had to be big. I realized a few of my trips took me into upstate NY and I really wanted to go back, but in a far more epic fashion. In the last few years I’ve absolutely fallen in love with the Finger Lakes region and wanted more. My wife and I had been taking yearly trips out there; we were there earlier in the summer and I wanted to go back. With my wife’s permission, I took a solo trip back out to the Finger Lakes in the middle of October for an overnight. It was fun, but it felt weird not having my wife with me. It was the first time in a while we had been apart. Sleeping in bed alone without my wife feels so wrong. Everything in my body and soul was screaming “someone is missing”.

Nevertheless I had a ton of fun and it was a shame it ended so soon. Once again I crashed and I crashed hard, but without the endless political YouTube I can’t say I was as depressed as I was before. I still felt pretty meh at work and needed some more adventure in my life. I was starting to run out of time when it came to hiking. I tend to ski more in the winter since winter hiking isn’t my forte; not to mention my wife wanted me to cool it with the road trips since the gas expenditure was burning through our finances a bit. I needed one more trip to top it all off. During the month of October someone I knew on Facebook hiked Mt Greylock in Western MA and it looked like the perfect place to take my camera. I convinced my wife to let me have one last hurrah before dialing it back on the longer trips (at least until ski season).

Winter and ski season went off with much of a hitch. I still managed to get some decent photography in which is typically hard to do during the winter. Aside from skiing, I don’t go out much for winter because I’m not crazy about the cold. I still managed to get some decent pics during that time frame. A wedding in Newport RI allowed me to get some great shots on the cliff walk and after one of my ski trips I took some pics out in the White Mountains.

Ski season was okay, but mostly lackluster due to a lack of snow and money to ski as much as I would’ve wanted to (I had to save up for a trip down to Virginia Beach for a wedding). I had some pretty big ambitions in 2022; Given my love for upstate NY I always wanted to climb it’s highest point (Mt Marcy in the Adirondacks). It was time to warm up the hiking legs so in April my wife and I took a trip out to Quechee Gorge to test out a new camera and lens I got a few days prior.

It was a great start, but I knew I had bigger ambitions. I would start a training regimen in the gym to get ready for the big 17 mile hike, but while training in the gym, I sprained my ankle pretty good. A momentary inconvenience I thought but little did I know, ankles are complicated as EVERY FUCKING DOCTOR AND THEY MAMA would tell me every time I presented the issue to them. Like this ankle was not healing quickly. I would try do do some more hike a few weeks after and while ascending was easy, the descents down each mountain would prove difficult as planting on the ankle would cause pain. My ankle would feel fine not doing much, but when ever I hiked I would be in pain for several days.

Mt Roberts; Gunstock Piper and Belknap; Mt Monadnock

Doctors would constantly give me the run around and because my ankle didn’t look broken, but I was still in pain, even when I didn’t do much. Like nigga! I’m in pain when I walk on the fucking thing for too long to which they’d shrug their shoulders and end with “ankles are complicated” and would move the goal posts for when they would do imaging. I was pretty fucking fed up doctors that summer and I still don’t have much faith in doctors these days. No one was taking me seriously and I would deal with pain through the summer. When it became apparent that big hike I planned wouldn’t happen, I fell into yet another depression.

The summer was mostly just work and I felt like I was barely dragging myself through each day. Without that drug called adventure, there wasn’t a crazy amount to keep my spirits up during the summer. I decided to take it easy and refrain from any harder hikes so that I could heal. Some days I could barely get myself out of bed due to my mood. I didn’t want to work, but I knew I had to. The clients whom I served needed me to provide them services and more importantly, my wife needed me. I guess you can say it was a sense of duty to people that kept me going and my Catholic faith of course.

Anyways, regardless of how shitty I felt and regardless of my ankle pain I did push through to do some adventures within my means. They weren’t the biggest mountains, but they were something.

Welch Dickey Loop, Mt Frissell, and Brace Mountain:

Aside from being in an ankle boot all of August into September which sucked big donkey balls, the summer wasn’t a huge wash. I watched my sister get married, and there were plenty of adventures that didn’t completely kill my ankle.

Upstate NY (Lake Ontario, Robert Treman State Park, Montezuma Wildlife Refuge, Letchworth State Park, Chimney Bluffs State Park)

I also managed to get a nice hike of Mount Major in NH before having to chill in an ankle boot for the rest of the summer.

During this time I managed to get my doctor to finally refer me to a a foot specialist whom would eventually do some much needed imaging, rule out any serious injury and get me started with some physical therapy. It was slow at first, but eventually I saw significant improvement in my ankle function and strength. By October, I felt confident putting it to the test with a hike to the Adirondacks in upstate NY.

It was the first time in a while I could do a hike that steep without significant pain. It felt great and I sought to do more. I did a smaller hike of Artists Bluff in NH to get some good fall foliage pics.

It wasn’t a huge test of the ankle, but it was still nice to do post work. I still needed a bigger test, so I decided to attempt a hike I had in my back pocket. I originally planned to do this one to train for hiking Mt Marcy, but anything over 4 miles was out of the question given the state of my ankle at the time. It was yet another upstate NY hike in the Minnewaska State Park Preserve.

It was the first time since the ankle sprain that I could do a hike over five miles (7.13 miles to to be exact). It was great, but sadly it was getting colder and the days getting shorter. November is also a rainy season which makes hiking a huge pain. I managed to squeeze in some post work hikes near some clients in Gloucester and Rockport.

The winter came and I exchanged hiking boots for ski boots, but fear not, because after some awesome skiing at the end of January, February would be a crap month for it. Fear not because after a client in Springfield, I decided to take a little excursion into the Catskills region of upstate NY.

It was an awesome 50 degree day that was a huge tease for warmer days to come. It was also the first time I’ve hiked down a mountain in the dark (I had a headlamp). I remember walking towards my car looking up to the sky. There was zero noise pollution so I saw constellations I haven’t seen in years and quite possibly a planet or two. It was breathtaking and I wanted more, but it would be a while before I got to hike again, but with old age time flies and Spring would come eventually. In April I got a brand new pair of hiking boots. After work I decided to put them to the test with a hike in Connecticut after work.

It was nice to get back outside with my camera and more importantly, boots with better grip. My older boots were losing their grip after years of excessive use. It was time for something new. A few weeks later, after enduring the yearly slog that is our Safety Care training, I took yet another road trip into the Catskills region of upstate NY for more hiking.

In a perfect world I’d live some place where we could own an RV; I would have a large sum of money and I’d spend most of my days travelling, seeing the world, and just being outside. There’s a part of me that would really love to move to upstate NY. The geography of upstate NY is some of the best in the northeast; I’d argue it blows New Hampshire and Vermont out of the water. NY was a huge beneficiary of the ice age, so it results in some unique but beautiful geography you can’t get in many places. If its politicians weren’t so fucking incompetent when it came to curbing crime I might consider moving out there, but let me stop myself before I get political on here (It’s funny because I joked about the Epic Autistic not getting involved in politics in a blog years back).

There, I think I have the best synopsis of my two year absence from this blog as well as a flex of my photography and the places I have gone. Looking back, I think maybe I relied too heavily on adventure and long trips to lift my spirits rather than getting to the root of my unhappiness. Adventure is great, but sometimes it can be a band aid. With each adventure I’d come home yearning for more so I’d plan another adventure, get the adventurer’s high, come back, and plan the next trip. Rather than sorting out my own issues and really sitting with my unhappiness I’d just plan another adventure to mask it all. It’s a great hobby that I plan to continue, but I realize it can’t be a solution to every problem in life. A band aid can’t hold together a wound that needs special care. As you gain a tolerance to any drug, your body craves more of said drug to feel the same effects. I’ve gotten to a point where I crave more adventure than time and money will realistically allow.

Somedays I feel bad that I feel the way I do about my job, because its such an awesome company that provides such an awesome service and changed my life in so many ways. I’d say it saved my life because working at that summer camp almost 13 years ago gave me meaning and purpose at a time I felt useless and wanted to end my life. I frequently describe my job to people and before I can mention that I’m unfulfilled, said person will respond with “WOW! YOUR JOB MUST SEEM SO REWARDING” which at that point I feel guilty about airing my grievences.

Because of our new culture where people assume the employee is always correct, when people hear that you’re unhappy at your job, some people automatically assume your company did you dirty and that’s so far from the case here. It’s a me problem and the last few years have been extremely challenging. There’s a lot of shit I need to figure out and sometimes I feel that I don’t have the head space to sort it all out. Some of it is the sometimes long workdays, but there’s a good amount of it that is my own poor management of time and obligations. Hopefully I’ll find peace at some point, but for now I’ve gotta stay the course and of course squeeze in some more adventures when the time and finances allow it.

As for the political YouTube, I’ve drastically cut down on it. During August 2022 I got wrapped up in some tech projects and frankly, I got really bored of political YouTube. I watch just enough to know what’s going in the world, but I’m just bored of it. Your outrage is their fuel and honestly I don’t have the head space for it any longer. There was a point where my car rides consisted entirely of political podcasts and I spent hours upon hours watching YouTube videos, it was pretty fucking bad. I’m just tired of it all and there’s so much better to be done with my time.

I pray one day God gives me some much needed clarity but until then, there are people out there who need my help and I’m not gonna let this several year funk prevent me from ensuring them a good quality of life. I also hope that it doesn’t take me two years to write another one of these blogs and that the next blog is something fun.

Stay classy y’all…


1 thought on “Chasing The Dragon (An Adventurer’s High)

  1. Wow.

    When you talked about New York being a beneficiary of the Ice Age, I could see it and feel it.

    Many places are beautiful and I think upstate New York does deserve the title of UNIQUE.

    Western Massachusetts is really special too – especially the Berkshires.

    [Grace Dow is based in that part of the world].

    That risk-reward ratio is no longer what it would be.

    I hope you do find peace and adventures.

    And connecting with other photographers and sight-seers would be great.

    I may or may not remember that apolitical joke Flemmings!

    Love all the galleries and themes in this post.

    I can feel the Canon EOS being scary and intimidating.

    Hooray for broccoli and fitness! Add sprouts, maybe?

    And the Adrionacks would be a big test of any physical therapy…

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