Adjustments

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When I took off in May for my camp experience I did so with the intention of “getting it out of my system”.  I thought I was too old to be so interested in the woods, thought that I needed to “grow up” and get a real job.  The closer the end of camp came, the more I dreaded going back to the real world and finding a job that I didn’t enjoy.

But that is certainly not what I did.  I don’t adjust well, and when I find something I enjoy doing, I don’t tend to give up on it very easily.  So instead of applying for jobs that I didn’t want, and that would ultimately make me miserable until I quit, I stayed wild.

Working with an outdoor education company has really fulfilled me, and made my adjustment back to the real world much more bearable.  I sometimes get to go backpacking for days, I sometimes get to play games and initiatives with school groups, I sometimes get to spend the entire day cleaning gear and organizing shelves. The important part is that I am outside (even in a dirty garage) and I feel so much closer to happiness there.

Moving to North Carolina has changed my expectations of what I should do.  Why should I go to a job I hate everyday?  Why should I do a job that doesn’t help me grow? I Shouldn’t. And I won’t.  Sometimes that makes me feel like a spoiled kid throwing a temper tantrum, but at the same time – at 25 how can I settle for something to make me miserable.

I haven’t adjusted well to life outside of camp, with no real structure and routine.  But it’s been easier knowing that I am still doing what I love, I am still learning, and I am still having fun.

I won’t trade my dreams for the expectations of society, I’ll make my adjustments the way I want to.

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Someday Honey, You’ve Got To Come Back Down

20248512_10154990396134773_4284026093863007182_o.jpgConsistently inconsistent seems to be who I am, and sometimes that’s okay.  I left summer camp and cried the whole way home, reminiscent of the time I spent.  I was terrified to go home, terrified to go back to my responsibilities and the unknown.

Camp was predictable, I was up at the same time and went through the same routine.  I took out trips and they followed a schedule, they met certain expectations.  Surrounded by beauty and happiness for 3 months, my mind changed, my expectations changed.  Leaving camp I was sad that I wouldn’t see the same faces, wouldn’t have the conversations, wouldn’t have the screaming laughter and singing to carry me through the rough days.  I cried for myself, in the most selfish way, I cried that I would no longer have those things to help me cope and to forget about the bad that happens around me. Camp was my most welcome distraction, even when it was most exhausting.  Camp was my refuge.

I sit at my desk, in my thrown together office that doesn’t quite seem like home.  I think of the places I have gone, the things I have done.  I feed the dogs and wash the dishes as I daydream of places that are not so far away.

Life is different at camp, life is different in the woods.  I cling to it, not wanting to completely come down just yet – knowing that I need to.  I live in the most eco-diverse place in the world, and the closer I get to it, the more I absolutely yearn for it.  I laughed when I got the camp job, my friends called me a hippie, but I don’t laugh now.  I was changed at camp, wanting to learn something new I learned something new about myself.

Luke 5:16 Your soul needs the wild

As I sit here and stare out my window there is no doubt that my soul is wild.

Tongue Tied

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My days often blur together at camp, but not in a way that is inconvenient.  Time has a different meaning here, and although we follow a schedule, it’s more forgiving then the world outside camp. I keep track of the days in terms of activities and trips, because that is what my days consist of… activities and trips.

All too often John gets a text message or phone call to let him know that my day off is changing.  I have back to back trips, there is a trip that I really want to be part of, or we don’t have the staff here needed to facilitate class.  Whatever the case may be, more often than not my days are changed, which is never more than a very mild inconvenience.

There are four weeks left to camp, four weeks of activities and trips, two more closing days and one more opening.  Four weeks to try to teach a new group of girls the skills that I’ve perfected over the last few months.  Four weeks to explore the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina, four weeks and I have to return to the harsh reality of the real work force.  Four weeks to accomplish my goals as an instructor, because this summer is about my growth as much as it is about the campers.

These next four weeks will blur together as haphazardly as the last 6 have, and I will spend my time covered in dirt and bug spray. Some nights I will sleep on the hard ground surrounded by giggles and incessant chatting.  Days will be spent fighting to be heard over the singing in the dining hall.  I will watch as they run, scream, laugh, and cry.

I took the job at camp selfishly because I wanted to experience the outdoors in a new way.  But I got more than I bargained for here, new friendships, new skills, a new meaning of the word instructor.  I have learned just as much from these girls as they (hopefully) have learned from me.

As these next four weeks fly by around me, I will sit quietly and watch campers teach each other.  I will encourage children to push themselves just a little outside their comfort zone.  I will meticulously tie my knots, fill out my forms, drive with a van full of kids.  Tired and a little worn down, I will face these next four weeks like they were the first.  Because as tired as I may be, I still get choked up and tongue tied when they accomplish that bar, hit that goal, or climb that mountain.

 

 

 

Find Your Serenity

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It’s a funny thing experiencing the largeness of the wilderness.  Standing on a ledge and staring up at the mountains above. It’s surreal to be totally surrounded by the beauty of it all.  At the same time, it can be terrifying, standing on the ledge that drops hundreds of feet into a waterfall, or being trapped at that altitude in a thuderstorm.

Worrying about these types of situations is my job, to teach others to be prepared, but to overall be prepared enough for each person on my trip. Often it can be exhausting and makes me forget why I love the outdoors.  Working 18 hour days, spending nights in the woods with children who are not entirely equipped to handle it, often I feel burdened and fear I can’t lead them like I should.

But then, I bring myself back, sometimes all it takes is a quiet hike in the woods with a co-counselor.  To take the time I need for myself to reconnect with the woods, to find wild blueberries, and identify new plants.

Whatever our jobs may be, and wherever they happen to lead us, it is so important to take that step back occasionally.  We are all in fear of losing interest, and it can be avoided by taking the necessary steps to ground ourselves.

Here I sit, halfway through my 11-week summer, exhausted and overwhelmed.  But I remind myself that when these next 5 weeks end I will come out of this stronger and more educated.  That it is just as important for me to find my serenity as it is to help the next camper reach their goals.  Without my direction, their progression doesn’t happen.

So I lose myself in the woods for the day, and I come back refreshed and ready to lead my next trip. Finding my serenity, I find my love for my job, each and every week.

Homecoming

19621151_10154916235589773_5954282615432018847_oThe decrease in elevation, even this little of a change, always has a profound impact on my mood.  I left camp today for a short break in my summer, returning home to the lower ground, missing the mountains almost as soon as they were out of sight. The drive home is less than spectacular, crossing state lines to sand and long needle pine trees, I watch in my rearview as the mountains slowly disappear.  But I drive closer to home, closer to the three dogs I’ve left for the summer, closer to my SO who supported my decision all along, closer to my home – although it lay a mess from a recent fire – and my warm, comfortable bed.  I’m giddy, and the drive takes longer as I fight anticipation.

My homecoming is not unlike the one I have after each trip, anticipating the comfort of a real bed and a warm shower. While I’m out the trail consumes me, immersing myself in my trip I enjoy it completely, but the closer I get to home the more I long for the everyday comforts of home.  I love camp, I love the mountains that I get to stay in, and the whole time I am there I am completely immersed, swallowed by the magic.  But the closer I get to home – or my day off – the more I miss it, and the conveniences.

So tonight I will cuddle in my bed, and gladly lose my spot to one of my dogs.  I will stand a little too long in my shower enjoying the consistent water temperature and pressure.  I will childishly demand his attention the entire time I am home.  And when it’s time for me to leave, I’ll be somber and homesick.  But I will return to the mountains, and my heart will be full in a different way.

 

 

End with a Bang

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Being a camp counselor is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done, and even in the midst of exhaustion, I stand behind that statement.  Often I get asked if I enjoy what I do, and I can honestly say yes.  Having the opportunity to share something I am passionate about, makes me even more passionate about it.  But there is a totally different reward in instructing, and that is the moment my campers accomplish something they didn’t think they could do.

Recently, I had the amazing opportunity to take a decent sized group on a day hike that I was not entirely familiar with.  It was going to be a chance for me to scout a trail for future hikes.  The trail turned out to be slightly more challenging then my co-instructor and I had anticipated, making it a relatively difficult ~6-mile hike.  The girls slipped on rocks, they sunk their tennis shoes into several inches of mud, they braved thorny bushes that lined the trail.

I’ve been on hikes that are challenging and every step I take I just want to stop, turn around, and go back to a more comfortable place; hikes that I truly feel in my heart that I will not be able to finish.  As we continued down into the valley, and I cheerfully pointed up at the gigantic mountain towering above us, I feared that this might be that hike for some of these girls.

Instead, they sang camp songs and helped each other through the puddles.  They played “Marco, Polo” with a passing group until they screamed in glea.   They laughed, talked in weird accents, and listened diligently as I pointed out things along the trail.

5 and a half hours into a hike that was supposed to take us 4 hours at most, we summited Tennent Mountain, and their faces told me the hike was definitely worth it.  Quietly we walked along the ridge, trudging towards Black Balsam – an equally impressive peak.  Our trip was coming to an end, but at the moment they were embracing the beauty around them.

This was the last trip for some of these girls, it will not be the last time I take that trip.  On the van ride back we reflected as a group, and they impressed me with their answers.  As they slept, I silently reflected on how important it was to end that trip on the peak. The girls in my group reminded me how important perseverance is, their collective attitudes at the end was inspiring.

Backpacking can be challenging both physically and mentally, but even when your socks are so wet you can ring them out, you must always find the good and end with a bang.

Beyond the Comfort Zone

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Hey there,

Let me introduce myself a little bit, and give you an idea of what is going on here.  I am a 20-something-year-old who has absolutely nothing in her life figured out.  I am pulled in multiple directions like every other 20-something year old.  I maintain my home, sustain my dogs, barely make it through my college classes, and struggle through work.  My very supportive significant other likes to remind me that the cause of my death will most likely be a stroke from stress… he’s not wrong.  Most of the stress in my life is caused by my incessant need to make sure everything is okay.

The outdoors has always had a calming effect on me, allowing me to briefly forget that I live in a panic most of the time.  Star maps, late spring blossoms, the cool, crisp fall colors; they all bring me a deep peace that brings me back to my naturally collected self.  Mountains are my weak spot, the methodical sound of feet on the trail is soothing to me.  The softness of a pine forest, the bare, windblown peaks, the change in vegetation when rising in elevation, the warmth from the sun and the quick brisk air that can blow in at any moment.  I can taste pure happiness at 4000+ ft in elevation, that we so adequately refer to as God’s country.

As a young adult, I fought so hard to get out of the mountains, sick of the small town that I grew up in, sick of the lack of opportunity, sick of being in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Abandoning home, I landed in a flat, sandy, wet place that averaged 20 degrees warmer on any given day.  Desperately trying to convince myself that this is where I wanted to be, all along yearning to be back in the crisp, fresh air of the mountains.  They call to me, inside I know that they will always be home to me, no matter what mountains they may be, I will always live in the sky.

Giving up backpacking was the start of my downfall.  When I stopped exploring, I stopped finding happiness and beauty around me.  Slowly working to get that back, already I am feeling joy in small things again.  I still struggle with negativity, but I am fighting back.

The largest step in my self-progression was to decide to be a backpacking instructor at a summer camp.  Sharing my joy, and instructing others, has allowed me to reopen the love I have for the outdoors.  This opportunity is something that, as cliched as it seems, will save my childish dreams and my sense of adventure.

Join me in my journey to find my wanderlust again! And maybe also learn some really cool things about backpacking 😀

-K