First, I would like to apologize for my lack of maintenance and posts. It's been almost five months--truthfully, I've either been too busy or too lazy. This will most likely be a long post, so get yourself comfortable.
This summer I worked as a crewmember for Virginia State Parks Youth Conservation Corps. And in all of its cliche, it was one of the most incredible experiences of my lifetime. See, YCC was all about bringing strangers together for one cause--bettering the state park and the environment. I learned so much down there and I wish to share these with you.
There were thirteen of us, ages 14-21. We had no cellphones, no laptops or internet, no Netflix. Nothing. Those three weeks were purely spent on working and learning to grow with absolute strangers and become a family. But let me tell you, that first week was god-awful. We were fighting, talking behind each others' backs, spreading lies. The worst part was that we would pretend everything was alright when in reality, we wanted nothing more than to go home. None of us were happy. But after that first week, we laid down all of our grievances, started a clean slate, and had a decent second week. There were still problems, but we made it through. And that last week... I don't believe I've ever grown closer to anyone than I had to those girls. It was the time of my life. Working with them, pouring our lives to each other, clucking in the middle of the night to see if someone else was awake--it was beautiful. It was real. We'd talk about our problems, our past lovers, our hard lives back at home. We'd share embarrassing stories by campfires or scare each other silly.
I learned a great deal down there. I learned that for one, you should never take your friends and family for granted. Because once you leave them, be it for three weeks or three years, you will spend the longest time telling yourself that you should have done this, you should have been there when that person needed you most, you should have appreciated that person and cared for them while you had the chance. Leaving my friends was hard, leaving my dog was harder, and leaving my family was tough, but nice at the beginning--let's face it, all of us need a break from our families once in a while.
And that was part of the reason why I applied for the job. I wanted to get away, I needed to breathe and get to know myself more and learn more about what I want to spend my future doing--saving the environment. And it was wonderful. Every single day after work I would go sit outside by the old shed and write in my journal for at least one hour--be it songs, four page journal entries, or letters. It helped me cope with being unhappy at first, it was my escape from everyone. I had time for my own thoughts, asking myself why am I here? Where will I go? Am I happy?
And I was happy. I am happy. When I was left behind on long bike rides I would sometimes just take a minute to stop, look around, breathe in the fresh, clean air, and appreciate all of what this beautiful earth has provided for me and imagine all of the things I look so forward to do to give back.
Two days before we left, my supervisor and bunkmate asked me to go on a run with them--given the fact that I am no runner and my supervisor was a marathon runner and the other a cross-country runner. One of the girls to whom I grew closest to ran with me. They told us they would go ahead twenty minutes and then come back to run with us back home. Well, three hours and seven miles later, no one in sight, the state park police picked us up and said everyone was looking for my friend and I and that Cassie and Desiree (the girls who asked me to run with them) were already home and had been for two hours. It was confusing and we will never really know what happened that day, but when we arrived home to girls crying, bringing us water, hugging us--I realized these girls were my family and I would do anything for them. And as I sit here typing this, now crying, I wish more than anything to go back and to tell every single one of them how much I adored them and how much I miss them. Because they all taught me one of the greatest lessons of all.
And that's teamwork. I realized then and there that it's not always about me--it's about everyone. We were forced to become close, to lessen the tension at breakfast in the mornings, to lift 200 pound timbers together without breaking someone's foot or hand. But after awhile, we loved it. Our supervisors would have to yell at us because we didn't want to go to sleep; we just wanted to keep talking and keep learning more and more. We loved each other and I know those girls won't forget our times together those three weeks. Because we became a family. Our supervisors were like our older sisters, and it felt that way to them instead of our babysitters.
It was the time of my life. I'll never forget the looks on all of our faces as we tubed down the river with the sun burning us alive, or the time we went to Cookout and could have clogged all of Foster Falls. How happy one of them looked when we tried to teach her how to swim, or when I beat them every single time we played Egyptian Rat Screw. We were beautiful and we were infinite, and as much as I longed to go home, I realized that last day that I would never be able to have something like that again.
So, with this post, I tell you all to go out there and be who you are and learn to love strangers and appreciate and hold the ones you have. We are all interconnected in some way, and once we open ourselves, it is like discovering the caves of our souls and how we are meant to be--how we want to be. Go for your dreams and your life aspirations. You will find happiness and you will discover inner peace. Thank you for taking the time to read this.
P.S. Tiara, Olivia, Gaby, Desiree, Evelina, Kaija, Amena, Sidney, Natassia, Cassie, Mary-Ellen, and Jade... if any of you are reading this, always know that I will always remember you and keep our memories with me forever, and that you all were such a huge part of my life. Thank you so much.