I was laughing and crying with excitement as I drove across the Hood River Bridge between Oregon and Washington. I couldn’t believe I was moving to the beautiful state of Washington… It seemed so surreal for me at the moment. Shall I provide some backstory?
It was during the summer of 2015 that I fell in love with the northwest. The University of Georgia has a 2 month long summer program called the Interdisciplinary Field Program (IFP). This program takes a small group of students across the United States studying the geology, ecology, and anthropology of each place our vans are parked. As amazing as the schooling was for me, the meaning behind this flashback is to convey how life changing it was to live with the people of IFP. We formed a wholesome family, annoyances and all. It was incredible to be a part of such a thing. Students, teacher’s assistants, professors, and cooks sharing the world with one another… Because of this, I found my passion for building relationships with people in the glory of nature, and why I chose to join Mt. Adams Institute as a Public Lands Steward.
Now imagine finding yourself back in Georgia with this burning desire in your heart, but you have to sit down to write a paper. So i suffered… Somehow, I graduated with a degree in Anthropology from the University of Georgia, and, not surprisingly, that burning desire had dwindled. I was merely a recent graduate, only knowing that I wanted to be outside, fumbling around as I tried to conquer the complexity of USAJobs. Looking back now, I see that my mistake, and my fatal flaw, was my seclusion. I pushed away from the community I found on IFP, and was lost in my thoughts.
As usual, Taylor, my sister, saved the day! I woke up one day with a link to internships at the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy in San Francisco, the city where my sister resides. Fast forward to me flying to San Francisco, interviewing for the job, networking with amazing people, ultimately deciding that my place was on the West coast, and then finding out I didn’t get the job. I hit the road anyways! In November of 2016, I, once again, found that sense of purpose and connection with the world I had pushed away from in my seclusion. San Francisco then became home, with opportunity everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Fast forward once more to the discovery of AmeriCorps, applications, interviews, denials, a job with the Geek Squad, tons of waiting, and a breathtaking call from the Mt. Adams Institute!
It’s as I drove into Washington that, in the glimmer of a thought, I reflected on this journey. Surreal was not an exaggeration for me. I am beyond excited about this opportunity, and I will viciously fight for this dream I’ve found for myself. That brings me to the main purpose of this narrative, people. As I was journeying to my new job, I had no clue that 12 people, just as passionate and driven as me, were converging to the same place.
Mt. Adams Institute hosted an orientation week at their headquarters in Trout Lake, WA. So when I parked and got out of my car to look up at Mt. Adams, I decided that I would do all I could to form another family with these people like I did during IFP. I had one obstacle however. Orientation only lasts one week, and we all split into solo or 2-3 person groups as we head to our work sites located throughout Washington and Oregon. You needn’t worry though!
A large part of our group’s instantaneous cohesion can be attributed to the passion and energy shared with us by the staff of the Mt. Adams Institute. What really struck me was their heartfelt stories. It laid a foundation of thoughtfulness and ambition that really inspired me to give everything I had for my peers, superiors, and the public, whom these beautiful lands belong to. Our group was given all the tools necessary to form a community during the first day. We just had to run with it.
Even as enthusiastic as I’m portraying myself, I still experienced all of the strife a human feels when joining a new community. I felt doubt about my abilities, the desire to seclude myself, and impatience about not being at my real worksite yet. All of these things melted away each day as I forced myself to just be around these amazing people. We worked hard, learned hard, and ate hard all week.
It was between these shared work experiences that we got in a lot of laughs, philosophical discussions, and lakeside tomfoolery. For the second time in my life, I participated in the formation of a family with strangers. With that knowledge, I know for certain that one of the most important thing in life is the people you share it’s awesomeness with. That doesn’t mean that you can’t live a great life exploring, meditating, and knowing yourself. I love that stuff as well. But I found that you’re not going to experience the same kind of love and joy I felt after a week with strangers.
The people at my worksite in Cle Elum are just as incredible and complex! I hope they are prepared for the freight train of friendship named Jesse Merck. Oh yea… I forgot to explain what HAT means. In terms of kickball… HAT means annihilation. WE… ARE… HAT!!!