I walked into the gym on my very first day with the Boys & Girls Club to find near chaos. There were moments in the beginning where I wondered how we were going to survive the summer, let alone figure out who was who and what to do with them all. And yet by the time I said goodbye to this same group a week ago – nearly 100 different children attended the club – I knew every one of their names, their faces, their distinct personalities, their struggles, and their strengths.
I haven’t written much about my summer with the Boys & Girls Club in Estes Park, but it’s not for lack of things to say. Working with these kids for the past few months has by far been the most rewarding job I have ever had. Being greeted in the mornings by their sweet hugs and big smiles rivaled even the most amazing of the many views I was afforded as a Park Ranger. I loved that I could see their progress every day, rather than working hard and wondering whether anyone at all ever noticed or cared. The personal connections I was able to forge with the children motivated me not only to show up at work and to work hard, but also to happily churn out lesson plans late into the night. This is the first job I’ve ever had where I really didn’t mind taking my work home with me. Anyone who ran into me this summer could tell you about my new (and likely annoying) habit of talking about ‘my kids’ and the amazing things they did non-stop.
There have been moments in the past few years where I worried I was wandering a bit too aimlessly. I realize now, however, that everything I’ve ever done has lead up to this. I’ve never been a particular believer in that thing called ‘fate’, but when I look at how I’ve come to this place, it’s hard to imagine that it all happened at random. In 2010 I graduated school with a degree in marketing, and yet something inside was sighing that a career in PR just wasn’t right for me. On a whim I went to Canyonlands and started working for the Park Service, where I had an inkling I was getting closer to wherever it was that I needed to be. But by the time I left Mesa Verde last November I knew that Interpretation wasn’t for me either. Now I see clearly that what I loved about being an Interpretive Ranger is not so far away from what I loved about working for the Boys & Girls Club.
I already knew I loved to learn. What I didn’t realize was what a wonderful avenue that love is to teaching.
My upcoming trip to Nicaragua is motivated by my experiences this summer. So many of the children I worked with came from homes where Spanish was the only language spoken. This should be an advantage right? To grow up a product of two different but wonderful worlds? And yet so many of these children struggle to keep up with their English-speaking counterparts. It occurred to me then that if I wanted to seriously pursue a career in education, I needed to take the first step towards bridging the gap between these children and so many of their challenges. I needed to learn to speak to them in their own language.
So I will go to Nicaragua and do my best to finally gain proficiency in Spanish. And when I come back – after almost five years of being ‘on the move’ – I’ll start to settle. My last project before leaving the states is to apply to teacher licensure programs.
I have often referred to the journey I’ve been on over the past few years as my ‘quarter-life crisis.’ It was a pretty good one, as far as crises go. But for the first time in my adult life, I’m finally feeling sure about my direction. For the time being at least, it seems as if my quarter-life crisis has been resolved.