When I was a kid, my summers meant the beginning of a new adventure beneath the Henry Mountains of Southern Utah. The town was called Hanksville and it was here that I hid from the outside world. In this town, there wasn’t really anything spectacular. In fact, most people would drive through it and wonder, “why would anyone live here?” Indeed, it was in the middle of the red covered desert, only had one gas station, two small burger shacks, a Bed and Breakfast, and a grocery store that was the size of the local trailers. Not only this, but the place was known for it’s constant change in population due to the fact that no one stayed for long. Most drifters were just looking for a little work before moving on to the next city, but as unlikely as it sounds, I found a sense of self, purpose, and home here.
As a teen I was able to do far more in this small town than the big city. Here I could drive a four-wheeler, help with customers, ride horses, and even drive the car (shh I was 12) down to the grocery store to get our favorite snack; 2 ‘Big Hunks’, and a Crème Soda. It literally took about 30 minutes to walk from one end of town to the other, 15 minutes by tractor, 5 minutes by horse. I remember sitting on my grandmother’s porch every night, counting the vast amount of stars in the sky and listening to the coyotes howl in the distance.
During that time, I felt my busy life at school and in the city had me focusing more on what I wanted to “have” or “do” to prove myself. But in Hanksville, I could just be whatever I wanted, a cowgirl, an indian, or just an awesome burger chief. It didn’t matter. In Hanksville, I was Haley.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this place and what it meant to me since my grandma’s passing last October. I think about how those quiet moments on her porch shaped who I am, and how I view the world. Truthfully, Hanksville contradicted my city life and what I was being taught to value. It seemed at home we focused more on two things:
1. Increasing your material weath (what you have)
2. Improving your skills (what you do)
But on that porch and with my Grandmother rocking beside me, there was only one value that was emphasized:
3. Developing your “being” (who you are)
Being an adult now, I have witnessed many people live for the first two. Don’t get me wrong, these are great goals to have, but I believe the most fundamental goal is to develop a good sense of WHO you are during the process. As a teen, it took travelling to a deserted town every summer to discover who I was over and over again. It gave me an opportunity to accept myself without distraction or expectation, making it easy to live fully in the present. Since then, I’ve had to learn how to do this without the stillness of grandma’s porch, but rather, with the added distractions of adulthood.
Today I am refocusing on developing my sense of self, much like I did during my teenage years. Today I am going to live like I did among the coyotes and stars; being Haley.
I feel blessed that last year I was able to bring my step-children and husband to Hanksville and show them my country roots, telling them stories of my adventures along the way.
I feel grateful every day that I have those memories. They encouraged me to live in the present and allow myself the freedom to be whatever version of “Haley” I want to be. I would encourage anyone reading to take yourself to your quiet place; the ocean, atop a mountain, in a tree, or on the porch. Take yourself anywhere that you can Be Silent, Be Present, Be Conscious, and most importantly, Be You….