While We're Still Young

For as long as I can remember, I have always been the young one. I have always had older friends, been surrounded by adults, and grew up with two older brothers. This led to me being the youngest person in nearly every scenario, and that fact was being pointed out often. It wasn’t always necessarily a negative thing, but it was there, in the back of everyone’s mind, and of course my own mind.

My brothers used to give me the classic, “Maybe when you’re older, kid” whenever I wanted to join them in doing something. With there being an 11 year difference between us, me being too young for their activities was definitely real. While they were off smoking weed at 15, I was only five years old making mud pies; wishing desperately I could be old enough to fit in their crew and join in on the fun they seemed to be having.

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Then there were all of my relatives who saw me as the “baby”; my cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents. For many years, I was the youngest cousin, niece, grandchild on both my mother and father’s side of the family. This ultimately led to me being babied, spoiled, and undeniably loved of course. But I was especially seen as a child who didn’t know better for a lot of my life. I remember all too well what it felt like to have my opinion thrown out the window as soon as I opened my mouth, just because of my age. It seemed people would roll their eyes at the thought of me having anything important to say. “You’ll understand when you’re older,” they would tell me. 

This led to me being sort of bitter, and resentful of being a young person. I spent my days imaging what it would be like to sit at a desk, and organize Dog Adoption papers (for the animal shelter I want to open one day). I would sit at my mom’s computer and type out forms, and pretend fax, and I’d do a lot of highlighting with my mom’s fancy highlighters. I’d even dress in my nicer clothing to give the entire scenario more emphasis. I was a child playing, just as any child would, but the difference was I couldn’t wait to really get there.

I spent a good portion of my young life wishing I wasn’t so young.

In contrast, every once and awhile, I would meet somebody who would call me “an old soul”. This confirmed what I felt in my heart to be true: What I had to say mattered, what I thought for myself was valid, and my dreams and aspirations were not too far fetched despite how young I was. I was intelligent and wise, not young and dumb, just because I hadn’t “lived enough life yet to know better”. Age was and is nothing but a number. It does not dictate how much wisdom you carry, and how much information you possess. What time gives all of us is experience, and at a young age, I had already experienced a lot. Through our experiences, we find there are plenty of lessons, and over time, the more we learn. The beautiful part about being young, is the ability to bounce back, pick yourself up, and try again. You can do this at any time, but when you are young, the elasticity of everything is more potent.

There is a deep sense of longing when you are the youngest child, always plagued by this fact that you’re just too young for most things that you want to do. For me, it felt like being left out and feeling left behind. I think this burning desire to be old enough, made me grow up too fast in many ways; eager to let go of my child-like sense of wonder and head straight into adolescence. Which, as you know, comes with its own set of heartache, and vulnerability. There is a certain poetic beauty to being young and naive to a lot of things in life, and I believe most bitter adults are products of getting burnt by that young ignorance.

There is a young girl in my life now who I have known since she was born. She is brave, kind, and genuine. Part of me wants to shelter her from the pain of this world, but the other part of me knows that she is both young enough and wise enough to carry her heart gracefully through any storm that may come her way.

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So many of us spend our youth wishing it that it would go by faster, wishing the years would fast forward so maybe we could get to the good stuff. Even now, I will find myself longing for the days I get to be a mother, or for the day I write my book, or the laundry list of things that it just isn’t the time for yet. We can learn so much from ourselves at ages 4 or 5, when the world was just beginning for us, and we truly felt like anything was possible. Could you blame us? We really didn’t know any better…

I wanted to be a veterinarian and own animal shelter when I grew up. Oh, and I wanted to be an author. And I really wanted to be a singer. And… the list went on.

Jacob wanted to be an astronaut when he grew up. Guess he hasn’t grown up yet, because he is obviously not an astronaut (sorry, Jake, there’s still time).

I have known people who grew up to do exactly what their childhood selves always imagined for them. When I became of age to start filling out college applications, in the midst of my mother falling ill and my world falling apart, I quickly realized that my dreams of becoming a veterinarian were not going to work out for me. There was a different path in store for me, and in reality, most of us go through that moment of clarity or panic at those very crossroads. I chose not to go to college and travel instead. Some peers of mine were calling it something sophisticated like “a gap year” and I was referring to it as simply giving my soul a break. My entire life had changed in every single way, and everything I knew was different. This required my former self to level up. This is when I realized every decision I made for myself had to be for my own happiness.

I was finally in the position young Izzy desperately wanted to be in: an adult with no one to answer to, able to make my own decisions and live life on my terms.

And truthfully, I was terrified.

The years that followed were years of growth, mistakes, and an abundance of learning. I watched as many of my peers continued their college careers, graduated, got engaged, had babies, and started buying houses. I continued to travel, create art, write, and collect stories along the way. I moved six times, once to California and back, did a lot of silly things, and also did a lot of courageous things. Somehow, I still felt young, and I still felt like I was being left behind.

It has felt kind of exhausting, and a little bit annoying all at once.

How many times has a person over 50 heard an old song playing and scoffed, “Oh you’re too young to know this!” (The joke is always on them, I was raised on oldies and I always know the song.) Or “Gosh you were born what year?! I’d already done x y and z before you were born!” (I’m sure, Grandpa, I’m sure).

Even on the internet, comments often say things like:

“Come on, you kids.” “Ya’ll are just young” “Just wait until you grow up and have to live in the REAL world”

Leave it to people with a lot of regrets about the way they have spent their lives to project those fears, judgments and insecurities onto you. Again, age does not define you, or what you know. What this life gives us is experience, and what we do with that experience is our choice, no matter your age.

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This year, on my birthday, something shifted in me.

I realized I need to stop taking it for granted. I will never be this young again! Being young is a blessing. Being alive at all is a blessing. And every day on Earth is a gift.

Today, I am 23. That age somehow feels old and young all at the very same time. My brother was only 25 when he left this Earth. Maybe that is part of the shift that happened in me. I know how precious our time is here, and I don’t want to waste any of the years I have been given. This age feels refreshing and also kind of intimidating, in a good way.

I am only 23 and at times, I feel as though I have lived a hundred lives. To the depths I have felt, loved, and lost; there are moments when I close my eyes and I feel ancient. And then, I will be giggling, laughing like a child at an immature joke, and I’ll be reminded how young I still am.

And to be honest, I like that.

I like that I can dance effortlessly between those two places. This age I am at, this place I am in… it calls for all of me. Recently I dove head first into running my own online business, which, I have found, takes a lot of patience, organization, and dedication. It means being timely, and diligent. Things that I definitely was not, at age 15. Over time, I have become a person capable of managing this. The life I have built also requires a lot of effort in not taking myself too seriously. I want to write poetry and books, be playful, and learn how to let go. To me, that is wisdom I had at 7, that I must’ve lost somewhere along the way.

This age asks for every part of me to show up. I’m not too old to have wasted my youth. I’m not entering adulthood with too many regrets. I am young enough to be bold. And I am old enough to know when to be.

I am beginning and I have also begun. The same is true for you. At any age, you can start again. Do not wish for tomorrow to come sooner, instead think about what you can do today to improve tomorrow.

I wish I could send so much love to my younger self, and tell her that being young is wonderful.


Somebody said this to me the other day that inspired me writing this, they said,

“You know, you guys are still young, you can do this. You’re still young, so you have time to figure it out. You don’t have to have everything figured out right now, just live while you can, while you’re still young.”

Maybe at times I still feel lost, like I wonder when I will wake up one day and be a fully-functioning adult with all of life’s answers, and a set sleeping schedule, and even a planner maybe?

But I’m no longer in a hurry to figure any of that out right now. I don’t want to wish any of this away. Young, wild, dumb, and free.

So, I think we are just going to keep living, while we’re still young.


xoxo,

Izzy

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“An old soul with a child-like disposition.”



MEET RUBY

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We bought a van!

Her name is Ruby and we are in love. We plan to drive across the country in her and make endless memories. But the story of how we became her owners is pretty special and we wanted to share it with you…

Jacob and I had been discussing buying a van for years; our relationship has been composed of over thirty road trips together during the course of four years of dating. We have traveled to 8 states together, 7 National Parks and made countless memories on the road, even living in our truck for a month on several occasions. It was only a matter of time before we would buy a van together, but as most of you know, that can be a huge financial decision. Honestly, we have been entertaining the idea since we went on our first road trip back in 2015, but it had only ever been a dream, for “one day”. Fast forward to 2018, and a rainy afternoon on the internet, when Jacob pulls up a link and finds her: Crimson red and glistening. 

“Babe. This is the one.” Jacob said to me out of the blue. It seemed like for months I had been the one pushing that we continue our search for a van, and Jacob had continued to be the voice of reason. We needed to make sure this was what we truly wanted, because it is an important investment. Jacob was convinced that she was the one for us and insisted we go see her the very next day. She looked perfect, but admittedly, I had a doubt or two. 

Want to know what they were? 

“That one looks… too… clean.” If you’ve seen our Toyota Tacoma truck, you know that when you have two dogs, live in your car for months, and well, have two dogs, things can get a little beat up. And beat up, our truck was. My first thought when seeing the photos of her was that we would somehow ruin her, and I was almost more comfortable getting one with a little bit more wear. She was just so incredibly beautiful, and even by the photos you could tell that her current owner had taken sweet, gentle care of her. 

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That was silly. And we wanted to make a smart van purchase, one that we would be happy with. Her ad was posted in Olympia, Washington, which is only two hours away from where we live. Our engagement party was that weekend and that was another thing on my mind; but Jacob persisted. “If we don’t go see her, somebody will buy her.” His eyes lit up and I knew how serious he was. She had only been up for two or three days when we saw the ad, and I knew it was a good deal. Jacob found a tan-colored Westfalia available in Seattle, which is just one more hour North of Olympia, and suggested we make a trip out of it and see both of them in one day.  

When we arrived at the other van in Seattle that day, I immediately knew it was not the one. Not only was it in sort of bad shape and going for a lot more money, but we didn’t really vibe with the seller either—something I believe is important when making this kind of purchase. After we saw that van, we met up with an old family friend of mine who lives in Seattle before heading South to meet Ruby.

We met Ruby's owner at a local police station, surrounded by pine trees on a nice sunny day. We were instant pals with her; an older woman who desperately wanted to keep her but didn’t have the time or desire to keep up with a van like her anymore. She lovingly informed us that her very first owner named her "Ruby" and it has been passed down from every owner. She had her for 15 years and loved camping in her during the summer. It was her desire that she be sold to someone who would devote the time and care it takes to maintain an older Westfalia. Jacob had been doing research for months, and my father has owned over 200 VW’s in his life, so we were confident that we were prepared for what she needed. Upon looking at her, though, it is clear she didn’t need much. New engine, original paint job, clean interior, working pop-top, and so much more. She is equipped with a sink, a fridge, two beds, and shelf space. It was becoming clear that she was exactly what we were looking for. Jacob and I were extremely enthusiastic, and Jacob even got to test drive her in the parking lot; her owner riding shot-gun with him. 

We spent a good hour just speaking with her previous owner and basically drooling over the van. Unfortunately, we came with the intention only to look, and didn’t have enough cash on us for the deposit she wanted in order to hold Ruby for us. And she had other people coming to look at her before we could come back (like I mentioned, our engagement party was that weekend)…

Ruby’s old owner was a friendly soul, and we thanked her over and over for taking so much time out of her day to show us this van that we desperately hoped would be ours. She told us every quirk, every detail, every good, and even every bad about that van. We felt she was honest in her reason for selling, and that she was unbelievably fair in her price.

"Bye, Ruby…” I said solemnly as we were leaving, patting her. 

No more than an hour into our drive back home, we received a text from Ruby’s old owner. 

"So good to meet you both. I think Ruby would be perfect for you. Keep me posted on what you want to do.” 

As we were leaving from our meeting with her earlier, we discussed all the people who were coming to look at her that weekend. She said she would have to sell her to whoever was available to first, and we said we understood…

To our surprise, she pursued us. We worked it out to wire her a deposit, and then sat back in disbelief, and excitement. We promised to come pick her up as soon as we could, which turned out to be over a week as we had family in town and things to do—and she waited! Everyone involved knew it’d be a perfect fit, even Ruby.

We had a friend drive us up to pick her up, and finally, she was ours. 

Jacob was a natural at driving her, and she rode smoothly. So many moments, Jacob and I looked over at each other without words and said, “I can’t believe this is real…”

His sister, Molly, FaceTimed us as we were driving home, and was the first person to "see" her. She loved it and was happy for us, as was everybody else when they finally found out we bought a van, which was something we kind of kept from everyone until they could see it in person. That's kind of our thing, we want to show you, not tell you...

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What we have done to Ruby so far:

I say "we" but it has been mostly all Jacob. He has been so passionate about improving our van for us. We have both been cleaning the van; the extensive deep cleaning by him, and recently he replaced the stereo. Before, she didn't have an aux cord and that was essential for us. Our road trips are not the same without our music. 

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Of course, we put up some Christmas lights...

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What we plan to do to Ruby:

She doesn't need any of the things we are going to add/replace. Honestly, for a 31 year old Westfalia, she is in great condition and all of the things we do will just be for our own personal comfort. Eventually, we will... Replace the tires, add steel bumpers, replace the canvas pop-top, add a wooden table (our friend is currently building us one), add a new middle console, add a Yakima rack up top, bike rack, add a portable shower, add more shelving, remove the AC to make more storage room, add a second battery, add an awning, and replace the older, and worn upholstery. All of these things will be done gradually, and the table will probably be the first. 

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Where we plan to go in Ruby:

Our first travel destination will always be California. My brother lives there, and we are still totally infatuated with Northern California, The Redwoods and the secluded, breathtaking coastal range. So, in a few days, we'll take our first real road trip in her. Also known as Ruby's Maiden Voyage...

Next stop is Spokane, Washington. That's where Molly and Joel live, and so we will visit them, and potentially head to a few other sweet spots in Washington. After that, we are back here for more business, and I have my own booth to showcase my art at a festival early July. Once that is over, end of July, we will be heading back to California for a Roloff family reunion, then from there we will begin our journey across the country to Michigan, where I will meet Jacob's extended family, and on our way back, we will stop in Iowa where Jacob will meet my extended family! In other words, Ruby has a lot of driving to do in the next couple months, and we can't wait to see how she does...

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To answer a few frequently asked questions so far...

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"How will you travel in a van with dogs?"

Van life will be a new experience for all of us. However, we have lived in our truck with our dogs before. The van will be a lot more spacious. After a month in a truck, things can get cramped. The dogs love living on the road, and frankly, love being anywhere we are. They will have a blast. We are fully equipped to have two dogs live with us in our van; storage tins for their food, a 7 gallon water tank, leashes, tons of balls, toys, bones, and of course, their favorite thing, adventure. We never leave them in the van alone for longer than 15 min. (because Moose can be destructive at times if left alone too long) and we will only travel to mostly dog-friendly places. 

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"Where will you shower and go to the bathroom?"

Kind of like camping, you don't shower often and you use "Leave no trace" methods when you use the bathroom. Rest areas, campgrounds, and wherever we stop with bathrooms, just like any normal person uses on road trips... We have been told you can get a gym membership to Planet Fitness to use their shower anywhere in the country and we are considering that. But during the summer months we hope to use a portable shower that we will eventually get.

"How did you find her?"

The internet is a resourceful tool! We found her on a website called TheSamba.com. Craigslist, other websites, and even just asking around could lead you to your own van. 

"What is the gas mileage on an old vehicle like Ruby?"

Probably around 18-20 miles to the gallon. She takes regular gas and runs like a dream.

Hope that answers a few questions and lets you in on an exciting life update! We are so incredibly excited for this adventure and opportunity! As most of you know, we have a YouTube Channel: Rock & Roloff and we are going to start making videos again! We loved documenting our month-long road trip in May 2017, and now we are going to document what living on the road is like in a van. Hope you follow along and enjoy the videos!

Thank you for taking a peek into Ruby and our life with her so far. We are stoked on our decision to buy her, and can't wait to live in her and make her our home. Updates about it all will be mostly on our YouTube, but I could write more blog posts about it if that would be interesting to folks.

Van life people, reach out to us! We would love to connect with fellow travelers, and the road can always be more fun when enjoyed with others. Especially if you have dogs as well;) 

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Photo credit: Tori Roloff @toriroloffphotography

Photo credit: Tori Roloff @toriroloffphotography

Love, Izzy