My summer job

It’s 8:30 on my third day of work and we are already drenched from collecting wet firewood to light a fire for the school group that will be arriving in 30 min. We get a tarp up and drag the wet picnic table under it. The group of 4th and 5th graders arrives, rowdy and cheeky. Most than half of them don’t have raincoats. Chris, the owner of Equinox Adventures, leads a simple introduction game and the kids can’t seem to be able to follow basic instructions. Two boys take off in the forest. The teachers yell. We try the game again. It’s only 9:15. It’s gonna be a long day. I’m usually still in bed at that time. What am I doing here? Why did I say yes to this? A challenge? Really? Getting out of my comfort zone? Learning new skills? Is this all worth it? Am I not too old for that?

Chris divides the group in half, girls on one side and boys on the other to do what he calls GPTeaming, an activity similar to geocaching, but with a team building/problem solving activity at each station (that the kids find with the help of a map and GPS). He assigns me the rowdy boys group. I’m sure that if he had looked at me at that moment, what he would have seen in my eyes was sheer fear. He was feeding me to the wolves. I wanted to run. My comfort zone was long gone.

The day went on, we got wetter and colder, but the kids seemed to have fun and to listen to me pretty well. A small victory. I was doing this.

Next thing I knew, it was lunch time and we tried to dry our feet and warm up our hands by the fire (that was June 13th, and it was 6 degrees Celsius all day...). Then, it was time for games. Panic stroke again. Games? I think we need to find more dry firewood, don’t we?

Finally, it was rock climbing time. An area I feel competent and comfortable in. My rowdiest little friend worked hard on a route, fought tears and finally trusted me enough to get all the way to the top. It was a very touching moment and I felt privileged to be a part of that.

By the time we had coiled the ropes and packed the helmets and harnesses back in the bins, I felt like myself again, humbled and full... and tired and cold.

As I drove back to the bus, my hair still dripping wet, I searched my mind to figure out why I committed to do this for the next 6 weeks. It really wasn’t for the money... it wasn’t because it was easy either. What was it then? Working hard physically outside? Yes, but there was more to it... Why was I putting myself in that position? I felt like a teenager at his first job. Trying to look confident but feeling pretty vulnerable inside.

Do I want to prove myself that I can still learn new things that are outside of my area of study and expertise? Do I simply like the idea of leaving in the morning and coming back home at night? Do I do it for the intensity and adrenaline, the newness of the experience? Yes, that is all possible...

I’ve started feeling bored since we have stopped moving for the summer. Not bored in a there-is-nothing-to-do kind of way, because the Yukon is full of awesome people and things to do, but bored in a more personal way. It’s been brewing for a few years since the girls are more and more independent. Bored in a what-do-I-contribute-to-the-world way. In a how-do-I-exist-outside-of-my-family-and-translator-title way.

And I wanted to have fun! And as much as this third day of work wasn’t really my definition of fun, all the other days have been great and fulfilling. For the last two weeks of June, I worked with Junior Rangers from the Northern communities of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut (some children came from the southern part of Baffin Island!) and it was a fascinating experience. These were mostly First Nation kids (half of them Inuits) and for most of them, English was their second language. Some didn’t speak English at all and needed an interpreter! I belayed a guy named Courage (it was pretty cool to say Go, Courage, Go!). They were also terrified of bugs and bears (because when you live in polar bear country, you should be!) and kept breaking tree branches (most of them live in the alpine tundra and are not used to be in the forest). Some of them had never ridden in cars before… One morning, my girls even joined the group and got to climb and learn to belay! They loved it.

Equinox is an adventure company that uses rock climbing, canoeing, ziplining, GPS/map & compass navigation and outdoor living skills to build character, trust, communication, teamwork, problem solving and leadership. I really resonate with Equinox’s mission and feel excited to be a camp leader this summer!