- September 18, 2017
- Posted by Meaghan Ricks, Youth Crew Leader
I was the epitome of unprepared, mentally and physically, for the job of Youth Crew Leader for Montana Conservation Corps. I led a handful of university students on service trips while attending college and done a grand total of a day and a half of trail work on the Ozark Trail in SE Missouri. I had never slept in a tent for more than a night and had never backpacked over 5 miles.
There were times when the lack of experience seemed so insurmountable that I could not believe I had been hired; I felt like I was pretending to be a cool outdoorsy person.
“I don’t know if I can do this”, became a prevalent thought.
Moving to Montana within a week of being hired, being snowed on and freezing during backcountry training (the first time I truly backpacked). having to lead a backcountry Crew Leader hitch within two weeks of arriving, and being sent off with the YCC leaders for Technical Skill training/certification. All that, within three weeks of moving to Montana.
It was terrifying.
I never wanted to quit but I often came back to the same thought: “I don’t know if I can do this”.
Everything felt so difficult and hard. There didn’t seem enough time to be properly prepared. I didn’t think I knew enough to facilitate a well-rounded experience for the youth. I didn’t have the background in camping or hiking or backpacking.
“I don’t know if I can do this”.
Had I made the right choice? Is the experience too much to handle?
I forged ahead trying to absorb as much as I could. One of the other leaders remarked on my lack of complaint and that it was crazy to think this was my first foray into backpacking and trail work. That comment made my season. While I was far from perfect and]made some stupid mistakes, I persisted.
I spent 11 consecutive nights in a tent, four different times, supervised 9 youth during the season, spent 5 weeks in Glacier National Park, went 11 days without showering or doing laundry, saw two full moons (one on the PNT, one in Glacier National Park), saw my first: bear, wildfire, mountain goat, and pika, spent endless time stressing about my crew and how I was impacting their experience, and was more exhausted than I have ever been in my life.
Three months ago I thought I made the craziest decision of my life moving from the Midwest to Montana. I was right. It was the craziest decision I had ever made.
And while I thought I couldn’t do it; the truth was, and is, that I can.
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