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A Solo Mission

The new year always comes with a lot of pressure.

On the eve of it, generally one of two things happen – either you a) do something really freakin’ fun or b) just barely stay awake past 10 o’clock. I am normally of the option a) type, as New Year’s Eve is the only night of the year I can wholeheartedly convince (and by that I mean guilt trip) myself to stay up past my bedtime.

Early on during that last week in December, I had every intention of doing something cool. I’d batted around the idea of going biking and camping with friends in Pisgah National Forest, or maybe cranking out an overnight paddling trip on the Chattooga, perhaps even catching a little RJD2 at the Orange Peel in Asheville. Something, at the very least, that would get me psyched to be alive and stoked for 2015.

Through a series of unfortunate events, my New Year’s Eve was not spent on a bike or in the cockpit of my kayak. It wasn’t on the summit of some mountain or nestled cozily in a tent. No, my 2014 ended not with a bang but with a whimper and was very nearly spent in bed. After countless failed attempts at rallying my friends in Virginia I’d all but lost my motivation to go out and celebrate the coming of the new year. A shot of whiskey and a 20-minute power nap later, however, I had a change of heart.

To hell with it, I proclaimed (to no one in particular). I’ll celebrate by myself!

I donned my cleanest and least wrinkly set of clothes, scooted into town, and posted up at the Southern. It was only 11 o’clock, so I still had an hour to kill until the countdown. I ordered a beer and took the last seat at the end of the bar.

After the first few sips, I started to regret my decision. The few people that were lingering at the bar were all paired up, throwing back shots with their friends and laughing a little too loudly for my sober self. Immediately, feelings about celebrating by myself shifted from stubborn certainty to pathetic helplessness.

Why did you think this was a good idea? I thought, scolding myself. You are such a loser.

An overwhelming urge to flee took over. For a moment, I considered donating the drink I’d barely touched to the girl sitting next to me, buying a drink for a lucky stranger so I could hit the $10 card limit, and aborting my New Year’s solo mission. I’d chalk up the small financial loss as an act of selfless goodwill and cross my fingers that the good karma would show itself sooner rather than later.

I took another sip.

Breathe. It’s only been 10 minutes. You can sit still longer than that.

I looked around the room. On closer inspection, there were beautiful people paired up together, yes, and I was the only single person at the bar, yes, but I was also the only person in the room without the glare from a cell phone radiating off my cheeks. In fact, I didn’t even have my phone on me. I’d intentionally left it in the car so I could be “in the moment” when 2015 showed itself.

I was shocked. Couples stood silently side-by-side, clicking away at their screens. Even the bartenders were checking Facebook statuses in between drink orders.

I grabbed a napkin. Overcome by the scene before me, I decided to write down my New Year’s resolutions before 2015 arrived.

Though I certainly knocked off a lot of firsts this past year with the Live Outside and Play project, there are plenty of personal goals I have yet to tackle, and the first one starts with cell phones.


At least once a week, for 24 hours. I wrote about this before after I went off the grid in West Virginia’s Cranberry Wilderness for a few days, but as the weeks following that trip wore on, my commitment to unplugging from technology waned. It’s time to change that.


Face-to-face. With people. Emails, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, those things are great and all for engaging with fans, staying connected, and meeting like-minded individuals, but there’s absolutely nothing in this world that beats a good in-person conversation. Even if it’s choosing to make a phone call instead of shooting an email, taking the extra effort to make a personal connection with someone goes a long way.


More specifically, paddle more and paddle harder. The Green River Narrows, Chattooga, Tallulah, Top Yough, Cheat River, Big Sandy, and Wilson Creek are just a few PFDs I’d like to knock off this year. Some more laps on Watauga, the Upper Gauley, and the Russell Fork Gorge would be nice, too.


If there’s one thing this New Year’s Eve has taught me, it’s that I really struggle with staying in one place by myself for very long. I usually always find myself around old friends or new, and after awhile, you start to become dependent on that company. The importance of finding stillness is not a new concept to me, yet being comfortable with it is definitely a challenge. From here on out, I vow to sit still, by myself, for one evening, in every town I visit in 2015. Reading that sentence aloud gives me anxiety, even now.


Over the holidays, I read six books in less than a month. Most were narrative nonfiction. Everything from Hemingway’s An Unmovable Feast to Richard Grant’s God’s Middle Finger, once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. But once you do stop, it’s hard to start again. So don’t stop reading.


Everything and everyone. The small things and big adventures. The inspirational people and the Negative Nanceys. View the world as one big classroom – the opportunities I encounter and the folks I meet are the professors and I am to learn something from them, for better or for worse.

Satisfied with my list (thinking I’d embrace the under-promise, over-deliver mentality of executing resolutions), I folded the paper napkin and stuck it in my jacket pocket. It was almost midnight, so I ordered another beer and weaved through the steady flow of newcomers heading for the dance floor. The DJ was playing some old school, bee-boppin’ soul funk tunes, and I folded into the crowd, dancing along without a care in the world that I didn’t have a friend to boogie with.

“Alright y’all, here comes 2015 in 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 … Happy New Year!”

Someone popped a bottle of champagne. Couples around me leaned in for the kiss. And I? I raised my glass to the sky, leaned my head back and gave a (likely obnoxious) YEEEWWWWEEEE, and toasted to books, people, and solo-missions-to-come in 2015.


Like my resolutions? Want to share some of your own? I’d love to hear your thoughts on goals and plans for the new year! Happy 2015!

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