The habit of always looking forward is dangerous

Backpacking with friends in Idaho’s Sawtooth Range during the summer of 2019.

The problem with having a favorite time of year is the temptation to wish away the rest of it.

Outdoorsmen and women, probably men more than women, can get so fixated on an identity that we can’t live year-round, we just punt away so much of our time.

This makes us risk totally miss the point when the time comes, especially if things start to go south. Every year my guide buddies tell me about the guy who shows up desperate for a 50-pound king salmon because he likely spent the winter bragging to his friends about how he was headed to Alaska. He sees no whales. He enjoys no conversation. It’s hero shot or bust. He goes home with plenty of fish, but not the right one. He calls himself a hunter or angler, but really, he’s just a dude looking to stroke his ego.

I know this guy because he can be me. It can be any or all of us.

There has to be more. It can’t all come down to 1/52nd of our year. We can’t be outdoorsmen and women at the expense of our general happiness, responsibilities as family members, employees or otherwise. We can’t be the people who are only happy when it’s time for us to do what we’ve been looking forward to.

If you’re only a hunter, and that means you can only be happy when you are hunting, what about the rest of the year? Who is suffering because of it? What are you missing? Because hunting can’t solve your problems, it only offers a setting to deal, cope, forget or ignore them. Hunting is an activity that can be therapeutic, but you have to do the work.

The old saying “A bad day fishing is better than the best day of work” doesn’t have to be true. It may be used to be for me, but then I realized how stupid it was to outsource control over my happiness to my job, which affords me the opportunity to get outside. It’s a necessity. There is no way work will be as fun as fishing or hunting, but my day doesn’t have to suck just because I’m not outdoors.

I also realized how ridiculous it is to attempt to win people to my point of view on social media. We know there is no common sense in it. We know algorithms feed us antagonistic material. Why, again, outsource control over my happiness to something I can’t control? Additionally, a militant approach to defending a lifestyle rarely converts people. Think about a group of people who thinks your way of living is outdated, murderous and small-brained. How many of them have convinced you to see their side by calling you those things?

We must take care of ourselves. We are better not only when we are together, but when we are heathier. When we are the leaders of good, happy, interesting lives, not just followers of those who live the most interesting lives.

If you cheer for a sports team, the players thank you as a member of the “fans.” They don’t send you a card for buying their jersey. They don’t text you after the game, thanking you for telling Ohbilliam to shut up when he was running his mouth from the La-Z-Boy while drinking his sixth craft beer. Yet we give teams so much control over our lives and mood. We the consumers, them the producers. The same thing can happen with hunting and fishing. The faces of the industry have worked tirelessly to get where they are and their place atop the Pantheon is earned. But don’t live through their posts, videos or podcasts. If the titans of hunting or angling never like the post you’ve tagged them in, that’s fine. The question shouldn’t be if you got their attention, the question should be, are you living the life? Could you be happy with a like-less existence?

I ask myself that often, because I can get caught up in chasing likes and, I know it sounds selfish, but I have to remember to live for myself and those close to me. Not trying to impress people I don’t know or will never meet. Listen to the big podcasts, buy the gear, cookbooks, whatever. But make sure you’re living a good story too.

Hunting and fishing have been some of the best highlights of my life, no doubt, and I am incredibly excited for what the future holds. But there’s also today. To get better with my bow, better with my rifle, stronger, healthier. To read more, write more. To otherwise be productive and active. Not just waiting around.

Jeff Lund is a freelance writer and high school teacher in Ketchikan, Alaska. His podcast The Mediocre Alaskan Podcast is available on iTunes and Spotify.

Raised in rural Alaska, now a teacher and freelance writer in Ketchikan, Alaska. TheMediocreAlaskan.com

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