Leading adventure trips means I’m gone for long periods of time. It means that when I’m gone, I’m dedicating all my time and energy to my participants. This summer was no exception.
Where have I been? What have I been doing? The short story: leading trips (i.e. my normal summer gig) in Costa Rica for six weeks. For the the long story, keep reading (and read the whole thing).
I’ll start by saying I’m feeling pretty vulnerable sharing this. At first I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to divulge about this summer. It’s taken me a while to find the right words. But as it turns out, something people like about me in real life (and on the internet) is that I’m honest. So I’m gonna do that instead.
So, you know when you go into an experience knowing it could potentially be a little crazy? That is how I felt leaving for Costa Rica. It was happening, and I was excited to do an awesome job and have a ton of fun with my campers. I jumped in just like I have jumped into leading many trips before. My trips this summer were two back-to-back 21-day trips.
So let’s first talk about staff training, which happens a week before trips start for the summer. My boss tells me I need to SHINE at training, and my response is “Of course!,” because I consider myself to be a pretty shiny, or otherwise charismatic person. A week before staff training I come down with a cold, to the point where I’m at my desk and my boss is sending me emails where the subject is “Go Home” and “Sick Erin” until I leave, which is honestly pretty funny. Staff training comes and it’s awesome, even though I am getting over The Sickness. At staff training, I do a great impression of the Neature guy, talk to all the trip leaders about feelings, and have lots of genuine conversations. I leave staff training feeling great about the connections I made and the way I represented my company.
Then it’s time to go to Costa Rica. My kids arrive, I LOVE them and we start the trip. The kids are awesome, but I have to send a few home early. This is because sometimes, believe it or not, teenagers try to get away with stuff! I stay up all night to get these kids home, and as a result, I start feeling sick again. In between trips, I chug lemon and ginger water and go to the pharmacy and buy everything they tell me to. I make phone calls to my next group of campers and hope I sound normal. My attitude is that I’m definitely going to kick whatever this is and crush my second trip. YEAH!
My second group of kids arrive, and they are amazing. On the first day we play Settlers of Catan and they teach me how to play Kent, which is probably my new favorite card game of all time. The second trip is different from the first, AND just as great.
I still have a cough and it’s super annoying. I go to the hospital and they tell me I have bronchitis. My response to this is “LOL” and I buy more drugs from the pharmacy. I get a few injections and I don’t really know what is in them. Everyone tells me my cough is “feo” (ugly) and “fatal” (fatal), which aren’t the best words to use when describing anything. All that being said, the doctor says I am fine to continue leading my trip, I’m not contagious and I should just take care of myself.
Throughout all of this, my grandma dies, which is really difficult and I wish I could be there for my dad. But there is nothing I can do about this, so I again resolve to have a blast with my awesome campers, which I do. We listen to a lot of that Whip, Nae Nae song.
Fast forward through beaches, forests, laughing, crying, singing loud, smiling big, and lots of rice & beans. The end of the summer comes and I send the last of my campers back home. I am super proud of them and feel great about myself, because I just spent six weeks leading trips and influencing teenagers, and that’s pretty rewarding and great. Suddenly I am not surrounded by ten teenagers, so I spend a day finishing paperwork in Costa Rica and fly back to Colorado. I go in to the office the next day to close up my trips for the summer. I hug my work buddies and my boss and go talk to him in his office.
I wasn’t ready for this next part.
He tells me he is not renewing my contract. I try to understand. He tells me that it’s not a good fit and that I didn’t make an impact. This is extremely surprising to me. I respect my boss a lot, and I feel totally blindsided. Over the next few days, I don’t really know where to start, and I don’t really feel like this is reality. I wonder when I’m going to wake up from this bizarre dream. Suddenly I am unemployed with no plans.
Every time something would happen this summer, I would think “Whoa! Crazy! Well, at least this is the last thing that could possibly happen.” …And it was never the last thing. I’m not even sure if me being let go is the last thing.
So here you go:
LIFE HAPPENS, AND YOU ARE GOING TO BE OKAY.
I never thought I would be let go from a job, but I was. What happened was quite frankly shocking, and I didn’t plan for it. But I’ll come out of this stronger and better. I already am.
Life happens. It might break you, it might make you fragile, it might make you weak. Let it make you vulnerable. Let it then make you stronger. Let it fuel your fire. Let it reveal the things in your life that truly matter until you can be yourself again in your best, purest, most genuine form.
Life is giving me some BIG lemons. The saying goes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Instead, I am going to make a massive citrus mojito. Then I’m going to laugh, cry and get totally drunk with life’s lemons because life is full of crazy, amazing, achingly beautiful moments and that is EXACTLY what I want to do.
This change was not expected. This change leaves me disappointed in many ways, on many levels. It’s not simple. But this change is allowing me to explore. It’s allowing me the time to think, to write, to treat myself really well and re-visit the extremely important question of what do I want? This change means showing myself that in fact, I can bounce back quickly. Like I said, I am feeling very vulnerable right now. I’m terrified. But I am also so excited to see what is around the corner, and how I am going to get there.
Whatever cards life deals you, you can decide to be okay. Honestly, the other options suck anyway. It might take time. You might have to be really gentle with yourself at first. Then, decide to be brave. Decide to be stronger.
Dear Life: thanks for the lemons.
Note: Leading adventure trips is a serious job that requires a huge amount of energy. I am a professional in this field. I take this responsibility extremely seriously and would never, ever lead a trip if I felt it was dangerous for myself or my participants. Being sick this summer was an annoyance, and only that.