How did you get here?

The summer I turned 22, I drove across the country. I saw the green rolling hills of Appalachia, the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains, and the American Desert all for the first time in the span of two weeks. Oh man, what a sight! How I could be so lucky to spend time looking for the next beautiful thing to see, the next landscape to take my breath away, the anticipation of what I would see over the next ridge. I used National Parks to immerse myself in these worlds. I hopped from park to park and everywhere I went I looked at those park rangers with envy. They were living the dream! I would look at their patches and I begged for their attention – “How did you get here?”

“How do I get there?”

Apply they said, but competition is fierce. I’d leave every park looking back hoping for a miracle to make me stay and wear that grey and green. That patch would be a symbol of my success!

Today is one year later. Today I woke up to a hazy sunrise in the desert. Today I met my boss and I learned my responsibilities and goals for this summer. She encouraged me to ask questions, she encouraged me to be outspoken. When I saw something I wanted to learn, ask to be taught. She showed me photos, videos, maps, and data sets of the project she’s been working on the past 15 years: the longest radio telemetry project on desert tortoises in the US (and anywhere). A project that I would begin contributing to very soon. Today I sat down in front of Joshua Tree National Park’s entire upper level management team and introduced myself as the new wildlife intern. Today I was asked, “How did you get here?”

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