Life Until Now

Published on 29 November 2021 at 17:46

Around this time last year, my sister sent me a Tik Tok with the caption "this is your sign to work at a National Park with your best friends", with my sister's attached caption as "GG!!!! Look into this!!!".  We were deep into the pandemic, I had just taken a semester to travel the east coast, and I had no idea what next week had in store for me, let alone next summer.  I remember thinking "I have nothing better to do, might as well look into it", so that night I got on coolworks.com (my favorite social media, please sponsor me) and scrolled for hours making a list of all the jobs I was interested in applying to. By the next week I had applied to more than five National Parks, and by the next month, I had been offered a job at Yellowstone.  Once I was offered the job, I had three days to accept.  This was mid-January 2021 and again, I had always been the person to do things last minute so I was in a panic that I had to decide what to do with my life five months in advance, but I guess that's how the real world works or something?? So I decided, I was going to go.  

For the next four months, I didn't think much about going.  People would ask me what I was doing for the summer and I would say I was working at Yellowstone, to which they would say "National Park? Like in Wyoming?",  I would hurriedly respond "yeah!" and not give it another thought. It wasn't until late April that it clicked I was actually going and I started to get worried.  It was the summer after my freshman year in college, the first time my high school friends would be reunited, to make memories - that I was going to miss out on.  I spent nights going back and forth about not going and just finding a local summer job, but at that point it was too late, I was going, so it was time to get ready.  

May was a flurry of buying everything I would need from hiking boots to Tevas (also sponsor me PLEASE), to work shoes (oh I guess I just bought a lot of shoes), and planning out my road trip to get out there.  The week before I left I tried to fit in as many visits with people that I could before I would have little to no contact with anyone for the next two months.  May 29th came around and it was time to pack up my car and head out, it would take four days to get there and we would check in on June 2nd.  The first three days of the trip were great, I saw the Badlands where we got the last spot at a secluded and FREE (!!!!) campground, watched the sunset over the park, and looked up at the sky at night to see more stars than I had seen in years.  The fourth day, not so awesome.  We got lost on the drive, I got a speeding ticket (it's ok! my parents know! but I definitely did sob cry to the cop because I felt so bad), and the day ended off with a 6 mile hike where we went DOWN FIRST.  Now this might mean nothing to you, but that means that the last 3 miles were 100% uphill and I was 100% unprepared.  I cried and I cried, I thought I wasn't ready to be there, to make such a drastic life change while everyone I knew and loved were together, over 1,000 miles away.  

But, surprise! I stayed. I checked in, got my horribly ugly chef uniform, and off I went.  I remember when I pulled up to my dorm, there were people outside who came right up to me, asked where I was from and took my stuff up to my new room for me.  I got lunch with people who I had met minutes before, and I right away knew the people here were special.  The next day, I started work, and met the people who would become my best friends for the rest of the summer, and for life.  The two months I spent at Yellowstone were indubitably the best two months of my life.  There is something special about moving across the country, with people you have never met before, and experiencing life two hours from any civilization.  I became closer with the people I met at Yellowstone in two months than almost every person I had met before in my life.

 

It wasn't all rainbows and butterflies, though.  I remember the first week was really tough for me.   The work was hard.  We were understaffed, worked long hours, and it was tiring.  But after some time, I realized, I was never again going to get to work with my best friends every day at the same place.   We got two days off a week, but when I noticed that I wasn't living for those two days, but that I enjoyed every single day, that's when I knew I was truly lucky to be there.  I fell in love with it.  With the people, the place, the experience, all of it.  (love letter coming soon).

 

When my contract was over, I left Yellowstone and went to my Uncle's house by Glacier National Park for a week with my best friends that I had met through the summer.  It was a last hurrah and if there was one week of my life I could live on repeat, it would be that.  With them, even the worst things - like getting a flat tire in the middle of no where with no service, became some of the best moments.  I wouldn't trade my experience this summer for anything, literally not even $100,000 (and I'm broke), that's how life-changing and amazing it was.  

Likely, if you're here reading this, you already know all of what I've already said.  What you're really interested in is what happened next.  Well, I flew home from Glacier on August 8th with the intention of moving back to West Virginia for fall semester on the next Saturday, August 14th.  The week that I was home was hard.  I just had such a life-changing experience, that I was just supposed to move on from and restart my old life.  No one really understood how hard it was to grieve leaving my Yellowstone life, and the person I had become when I was there.  All summer I had toyed with the idea of not going back to school, continuing traveling and just working like I had in Yellowstone, but it didn't seem realistic.

 

On the Wednesday before I was supposed to leave, I finally let it all out - I let myself cry for the first time since leaving, and boy did I cry.  For hours; about how much I had changed,  how much happier I was when I was out west, about the friends I made, and the experiences I had.  In my mess of tears, I looked to the floor of my childhood bedroom and I saw my two red suitcases, that I hadn't unpacked since I returned, and not a single thing packed for school.  And that right there my friends, was a sign.  I was supposed to be leaving for school in less than 72 hours and I didn't have even have a shirt folded, no comforter bought for my new bed, and nothing prepared to leave.  So, surprise! I wasn't leaving.  On Thursday I sat on my kitchen floor sobbing (god I really do cry a lot I guess) to my mom and sister about how I didn't want to go back to school and I wanted to go back out west to live how I wanted to.  To my (honestly not really) surprise, they were totally on board.  

 

Remember when I said I liked making decisions last minute? Yeah, I wasn't kidding. I finalized everything less than 24 hours before I was supposed to be leaving to return to school.  Friday was filled with phone calls to the school to make sure I could take a leave of absence, contacting my sorority to say I wouldn't be back, and the dreaded conversations with friends from school to tell them I wouldn't get to see them the next day.  Everything was a whirlwind.  I had never been one to follow the course of what we were "supposed" to do, so this seemed fitting for me. I realized that I was more excited about a new adventure out west than I had ever been about going to school, again a sign.  It just seemed right.  

This past semester honestly didn't go how I expected, I thought I would already be out west at a new job having another great experience but it just didn't make sense to jump into that.  Instead, I've gotten to spend a lot of time with my family, I've been working and saving money, and I've travelled every weekend.  In the past 10 weeks,  I have travelled to 11 different states.  I've been to a music festival, on trips with family, and visited friends -  I truly think I was meant to travel.  In January I'm packing up my life again to move to Zion National Park with a girl that I met less than six months ago, who is now one of my best friends.  I know that not everything can be Yellowstone and I can't hold onto this summer forever, but I think Zion and my life beyond that will hold more surprises and adventures than I can even comprehend at this point.  

 

So for now, I'm savoring time with family and friends before I make another big move and hopefully have another experience of a lifetime.  I'm hoping to update this blog often until then and through my travels, because although this past year has been anything but ordinary, I wouldn't want it to be any other way.  


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Comments

Nana
6 months ago

I truly enjoyed reading your blog. Looking forward to reading about your adventures. Love you much,

Nana

Gracie
6 months ago

Love you so much! So many adventures await :)