Hello there, blogging family. I have neglected my blog these past few months in a way absolutely unprecedented in the Invincible Summer's nearly 6 year history (6 years?! Yeah, I know, right?). The last five months have been tumultuous, to say the least. They have been so unexpected that I started having random flashbacks to that one year when I lived alone in a studio in a high school in France for 7 months and had to take to talking to myself just fill up the empty air (okay, just kidding. I totally talked to myself before that).
A lot of stuff happened, but for time's sake, let's just blame school. It's the least complicated scapegoat, and the least likely to land me in some hot water for posting about it in a public forum. I had probably the worst semester of my 12+ semester college career, which is really saying something, since I don't like school to begin with. The indoctrination and onesidedness of my education classes finally became too much for me, and I maybe let me pride and righteous-indignation show to the point of getting called into an instructor's office and given an official printed and signed letter telling me that if I didn't step in line and act a little more professional, I would fail out of the program.
It's rough realizing you're in the position of exactly zero power. Let's just say that after the three-year personal tour of the public education system that has been this master's degree, I'm pretty sure I'm going to be homeschooling my own children one day.
That being said, there were plenty of good things that happened these past few months, and despite being way, way over grad school, I've managed to keep my chin up and keep some perspective. I wish it were over, but you know what? It will be soon. I have a really good life, I really can't be anything other than grateful. This, however, is all kind of beside the point... the point is why I haven't been blogging lately and how I'm coming to the light and repenting of my ways.
I love writing. I'm a religious journal writer, and though lately this blog has felt more like an empty space to post pictures than anything else, the real reason I keep blogging (I feel like a contestant on survivor - 99% of my blogging friends seem to have taken a permanent hike in the direction of faster, hipper [read: instagram] social media outlets) is because I like to write. So, I thought I'd jump back in with a post that's more about the words than the images. Though, don't you worry, there will be many, many pictures.
It's the last day of 2013, and I can't let this year slip away without looking back to an extremely important experience that came into my life 10 years ago, in 2003.
In 2003 I was 19 years old. I had just finished my first year of college when I got a job at a ranch owned by BYU-Idaho called Badger Creek. Badger Creek is a ranch that hosts a variety of outdoor church camps for teenagers through out the summer. I had visited Badger Creek once before in 1999 as a 15 year-old participant in one of said summer camp programs. I fell completely in love.
I've always loved the outdoors, but growing up, my family didn't ever spend an exceptional amount of time in nature, with the exception of the occasional barbecue in the mountains and a handful of car-camping trips. I never made the link as a kid, but as an adult looking back, I realized that all of my favorite childhood books had a similar theme: survival in the outdoors, adventure, and running away from home (The Hatchet, Sign of the Beaver, My Side of the Mountain, etc). Badger Creek allowed me, in a way, to live out the adventures I loved reading about so much. I was determined to go back and work there during college.
Fast forward 4 years, and after wrestling with what I should be doing the summer and 2003 and where I felt I needed to be, I turned in an application for a position at Badger Creek the day before they were due. My interview went well and I was offered a spot.
I maybe had some feeling for the kinds of activities I would be involved in working at Badger Creek, seeing as how I had spent a week there some years before, but I never could have imagined what kind of experience awaited me. It changed me.
For 11 weeks I lived and worked side-by-side with 20 or so other staff members. We ate together, worked together, sweat together, played together, sang together, laughed a whole lot together, slept under the stars together, pulled pranks together, and grew a lot together.
I was the youngest member on staff that summer. The other staff members were all giants in my eyes, and I wanted to be just like them. They were super cool, and fun, and spiritual giants. They new so much about the outdoors, how to climb, whitewater raft, and pack a backpack for an overnight adventure in the mountains. With them I tied my first figure-eight, climbed my first 11,000 foot peak, learned how to start a fire without matches, and learned a lot about living a Christ-centered life and how to share the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with those around me. They challenged me, taught me what I was capable of, showed me how to live life with real passion and wonder, and kept me focused on what's most important. They became my best friends.
10 years have come and gone, and I have had many wonderful, deep, important experiences to add to my list since my summer at Badger Creek, but those three months often come back to my mind, and seem to stand out among all my other adventures. Maybe it's because it was, in some ways, the first. It was my first big adventure, and I feel like it prepared me for all the rest. It prepared me for my mission to Switzerland and France. It gave me the skills that helped me acquire other jobs in the outdoors. Most of all, it opened my eyes to what is possible, and taught me that it's okay to dream big.
I'm grateful for the pattern that Badger Creek set forth for my life at such a pivotal time for me. It is this: work hard, play hard, and put people first. Above all else: Carpe Diem. You have the power to make your life extraordinary.