This evening I read a blog post on The Big Outside. I always love reading Michael Lanza‘s work…it’s inspiring, informative, and his writing allows the reader to join in the adventure. After finishing posts, I tend to reminisce about past trips and dream of future excursions…but this one was different. As my mind flashed images of parks and trails I’ve visited and ramblings through mountains and along creeks, one trip in particular kept pushing the others to the side.
It was 2009. I was preparing to graduate from my undergraduate program – pending one last assignment: an internship.
Over the previous three years, I had worked each late spring through early fall as a seasonal Park Ranger with the National Park Service. Starting as a lowly fee collector, I landed my “dream job” two summers later in the Interpretation & Education Division.
::Ranger’ing about at Delaware Water Gap NRA (Pennsylvania/New Jersey 2008)::
Since this final semester was mandatory for graduation and encouraged challenging yourself and who you wanted to be in life, I took a bold and brave step: I left the place that inspired my passion for an agency, natural history education, and so many other aspects of who I was to to embark on a journey I only dreamt of: Colorado – a place I only imagined visiting not living!
So, I packed my ’98 Jetta and headed west – with ice cream, I’m sure.
Colorado welcomed me with open arms, well…more like big skies, tall trees, and more public land than I ever imaged possible. I moved into a 1-room cabin in Summit County, worked long days, long nights, and weekends, but still found time to travel north to points outside Steamboat Springs and eventually a little further west to my first western park: Arches National Park.
The job I held was likely one of the most challenging experiences of my young adult life. I moved into a completely foreign environment where I was responsible for other people – not just myself, but groups of some of the raddest kids I had met in my life. It was powerful. To say the least.
It was my job to lead this youngsters in outdoor pursuits while teaching them a little bit about the world they were walking, paddling, and climbing through..about the stars they slept beneath, and about the respect and appreciation we owe it all. Stewardship.
For a long time, I thought I knew who I was and what I wanted. But after that summer, something changed. I left Colorado reluctantly – as I mentioned in a previous post – and found myself bouncing around Pennsylvania and Maryland for a few years, but each time I watched that eastern sun sink into the western sky, I felt a tug on my soul.
If you have read other posts on this blog, you know what happened five years later…
Tonight, my mother-in-law mentioned how we’re “livin’ the life” out here…I think she’s right. We’re living the life we sought, but weren’t quite sure where to find it. Now I’m back with the agency that opened my eyes to so many things back when I was just a kid (a younger kid than I am now, that is). So go out, live that life you want to live, even if you don’t quite know how to do it. My dad always told me life is the longest thing you’ll ever do. We might as well make a good go of it, huh?