Another Voice: Yellowstone, Pt. 1-My Summer Adventure

Forward:  KJ here. You know those times when you’re wondering why in the world you agreed to do something? That would be now for me. Despite a decades-long career as a business writer, I’m terrified by having said “yes” when Sharon asked me to write for her blog while she’s off having a blast in Costa Rica and collecting more fabulous adventures for this blog. What was I thinking??? But, here goes. Sharon will be back no later than next Monday, Nov. 19.

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Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.
Abraham Maslow

Grand Prismatic Spring

“Was it wonderful?” or something along those lines is typically how folks ask about my four months working in Yellowstone National Park.

“Yes,” I reply with a big smile, when I choose not to be forthcoming, but the real answer is, “Sorta….”

The idea for my summer adventure was planted 15 years ago when my sister and I visited Yellowstone for a couple of days. When we realized working there was a possibility, we hatched a plan to try and do that once we retired. She was the trailblazer (isn’t that the older sister’s job??), and I finally followed in her footsteps this year. It really was wonderful, but it was also challenging, discomfiting, awkward, lonely, scary, and painful.

My sister’s pic

You see, two of my biggest fears are being judged and looking stupid. So what possessed me to go to an unfamiliar place and take a job unlike any I’ve ever held, where I knew absolutely no one? Well, it is Yellowstone, after all, which is an amazing, beautiful, endlessly fascinating natural wonder. But beyond the pull of the Park, I had a desire to do something I thought would be fun and outside my box. After all, my sister not only survived it, she thrived. I thought I just might, too. Besides I figured, it wouldn’t kill me, and I could leave if I decided being there wasn’t the right thing for me. You know, it was a growth opportunity….

Old Faithful Lodge where I worked

My job was Guest Services Agent, a.k.a. front desk clerk. Countless times I doubted that I’d ever be good at it. For the first 6 weeks, all I felt was stupid as I struggled to learn the computer system, familiarized myself with the Park’s features, trails, and activities, handled money, and helped guests. Most all of it was on-the-job learning because I received only 4 days of formal training.

My side

In addition to the challenges of the job, I was living dormitory style among complete strangers. Adjusting myself to three others (a roommate and two suitemates) while being clear and kind about my boundaries took work, especially after living alone for 9 years. Oh, and did I mention I’m an introvert who loves her alone time and her privacy?? In other words, I spent a good deal of time nowhere near my comfort zone.

On the way to physical therapy

Finally, financial constraints, work schedule, and an unexpected health issue put constraints on many of the things I wanted to experience. I couldn’t afford to explore the Park and surrounding areas, my always changing work schedule made finding a hiking partner difficult (one generally doesn’t hike alone at Yellowstone), and my health problem required my driving 90 minutes to physical therapy weekly and two hours to doctor’s appointments. Doesn’t sound like the makings of a fun summer does it?

Yet, when I’m asked, “Will you return?” my honest answer is, “Yes.” The insights and reminders I gained about myself, my feeling of accomplishment, a job that I grew to love, the fun I had, and living in Yellowstone for 4 months, comprise one of the high points of my life. If you have something you’ve thought about attempting for a while and you’ve reached the point where you can do it, have at it. I hope it will mean as much to you as my Yellowstone adventure has meant to me.

Beehive Geyser

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