Friends & family. Smiles & laughter. Quiet time & excitement. The holidays are filled with a flight of contradictions, ups and downs, and a little but of everything, and this year for the first time in a long time it was exactly perfect. Sure, by the end of Christmas Day I was stir crazy, sitting on the couch with my best friend and my kid bored wishing there was somewhere to go or something to do as we marveled that every single restaurant and bar within a 40 min drive was closed…I know it’s Christmas! But where I used to live there were always one or two places we could go that would open up so that friends could meet up after family time. A place we could go to all get together so us misfits and broken pieces and jagged edges could just come together and fit in after the magic of the day wore off and the kids all wanted to be home catching up on sleep. After the Christmas wrapping made its way to the garbage, the presents were gone from under the tree, and, well, sometimes you just don’t want to be sitting on your couch watching football. Sometimes you want that laughter and good times to continue with a group of friends and loved ones.

This year, it was a little different. Even after the kids went to bed (one was out, the other asleep early), it was nice to not be alone watching TV again even if there was nowhere to go and our other best friends live over an hour away (we both agreed we should have stopped procrastinating sooner and just driven down there!) or the other person we were going to see wasn’t feeling up to it and his kid was tired from all the people-ing of the weekend (my youngest was too and hence went to bed early). It was in a lot of ways, for someone used to growing up with huge family gatherings and tons of people around, quite different. In other ways, it was another small step in the right direction after years of spending the holidays with even fewer people around us between the pandemic and distance and loss and change. It may not have been the huge gathering and celebration it used to be, and sure, some of the magic of Christmas may seem to dwindle as the kids get older (and mine came to me as teens well after the magic of Santa had already left), but after the kids went to bed, and me and my best friend watched the end of the very long football game that went into overtime (damn you Brady!), it was quiet – but peaceful and absolutely better than sitting and watching the rest of that game on the couch by myself. Thank you.

The holidays always seem to present their own struggle for everyone, so it was a welcome change this year that there was less struggle with my own thoughts and alone time than there has been in the recent past. I wish for my family and friends they felt the same, and if they didn’t, please know that my door is always open, and you are all always welcome here. Life is better when we do things together.

I am so looking forward to the year ahead. I am looking forward to being back on a plane again, traveling more, getting the hell outta Dodge (or maybe just back to Deadwood haha!), getting to Hawaii again, going to see friends in Texas, Florida, Colorado, and going back to hunter paces, road trips, theme parks, camping with and without the horses, and so much more. Life is full of great adventures if you’ll step out of your comfort zone and try something new, something different, something that scares you a little bit more than you’re willing to admit. For me, the scariest thing of all was learning to open up and let people in and I’ve done that more this year than I have in the past decades, with a few people who mean more to me than I can ever show enough gratitude for, and one person that has changed my life in so many ways that I am ever so grateful that he and his kids have become family too.

Life is amazing when you step into the unknown. But doing that means taking risks. Trying something new. Doing something different. Go fast take chances. But it doesn’t have to mean going so fast you’re going at breakneck speed, or taking chances so big that the risk outweighs the benefit or puts those you love at risk too. No. There’s ways to do all of this in a safe way that still pushes your limits and makes you see beyond the immediate horizon but over the mountains and the plains and the sky and the stars to everything else this world has to offer.

cjmillar82 cj millar Ahupuaʻa ʻO Kahana State Park

Hiking in Ahupuaʻa ʻO Kahana State Park in 2019

There’s certain fears I’ll likely never overcome, I know that and that’s okay. Take my fear of heights, for example. Heights are quite literally dizzying and disorienting to me, jut ask my DNA test (really apparently that’s a thing that has to do with depth perception) but that doesn’t mean I can’t fly. Airplanes are okay. I’ve tried bungee jumping as a kid a few times and it terrified me so I probably won’t do that again but hey, I tried. Roller coasters are amazing probably because my brain rarely has time to get disoriented from my depth perception challenges since you’re constantly moving (good because I LOVE roller coasters!). Skydiving is a no-go but indoor skydiving was a HUGE win! A wind tunnel is a pretty controlled environment so it was easy to relax and surrender control and just float/fly! I’ve hiked to places first with friends and my brother to near 2,670 feet at Puʻu Pauao on the crest of the Koʻolau mountains. And then in Deadwood alone just earlier this month along the ridge behind Mount Moriah cemetery to a height of nearly 5,400 feet where the air was so crisp and thin on a 20° morning that between that and the fear of heights I had to sit down for fear I would faint…and fall. But I didn’t. Instead I was rewarded with some of the most amazing views of my life and an experience that changed not just the way I look at the world but at myself, too.

cjmillar82 deadwood Moriah cemetery

The peak at the top of Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood, SD

cjmillar82 deadwood Moriah cemetery peak

Hiking up past Seth Bullock’s grave in Mount Moriah Cemetery

Yes, I’m standing in both of those photos. The peak behind me is the one I climbed to the top of, and I was rewarded with the most amazing views.

Have you ever done something so out of your comfort zone, by yourself – or with friends – that caught your breath in your throat and had you going from fear to wonder to amazement all in a matter of minutes or seconds even? If you haven’t, I suggest you do something about it. Find something. Try something new or different, or amazing. Challenge yourself. Live outside of your box, outside of your own little world, let your walls down, let people in, let life change you because you never know what you’ll learn about yourself or those you love when you take a deep breath and open your mind to something entirely new. Whether you’re taking Robin Williams’s advice and standing on a desk like he challenged the students to do in Dead Poet’s Society simply to change their perspective on the most mundane of their surroundings – their classroom, or challenging yourself to literal new heights on the side of a mountain, a snowy peak, a ski hill, a plane ride, or a summer trail to a Hawaiian summit, whatever it is, go do it. Do SOMETHING. Don’t just live. Suck the marrow out of life, breathe in the air for more than just survival but to really FEEL life. Figure out what passion is and I don’t mean in the bedroom, I mean in the every day. Stop living the ordinary. Start living the extraordinary. Believe in magic. Do something different. Now. There is no better time.

Life is different when you’re actually living it. Go live. Really live.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Cheers to an amazing year ahead and challenging yourself to live differently. I love you all. 

Mount Moriah Cemetery Deadwood South Dakota CJMillar82

The air and the sunrise are different up here.