Miles 0-312: Training Wheels

One of the first things I learn about my new job – after driving in our new ride for the first time and meeting the other teams for the first time and making a family dinner that, despite the fact that it is the first time, actually feels like a family dinner – is that everyone, across the board, is an early riser. For the returning teams, this seems to be partially a function of the relative earliness of events, and for the other new team, it’s more a function of coming from the East Coast and attempting to maintain a normal-for-them rigorous exercise regime; for Spesh, it seems to be a function of either insomnia or his ability to effortlessly fit in. Aaaand then there’s me.

I don’t think I’ve ever been possessed by a desire to see the morning outside of something specific to do, like not wanting to roast in the desert sun while hiking.  I’m much more a child of the evening hours; I’d rather see both a dusk and a dawn than just the latter. Probably doesn’t help that I’m not myself in the morning, a woken giant more prone to wrath than to benevolence – which is something I hear anew through the filter of all the new ears around me.

The mornings afternoons evenings pass and I start to have a crisis of faith – I’m hyperaware of my moods, of my negativity. Maybe being a hermit working from home these past two months has made me like this, smirking sarcasm turning to bitterness somewhere between forming the words and releasing them into the air. I try to stop, to turn it positive, but I can’t quite seem to get a handle on exactly how that works. I start to question myself: am I like this? Have I always been like this? Can I change?

The negativity – or my at least my apparent inability to stop being negative – seems to poison me slowly, pushing me further and further over the edge into illness. On the first morning of our Master Educator course, I can barely hold my head up for the fever wracking my body. It’s only in sleep that I find some amount of peace, though it’s a fight to actually get to sleep once I’m in the field  at Carter Lake – Colorado’s having a cold snap, and my sick brain’s left my sleeping socks back at the house. Cold feet mean cold sleep, and I become an object lesson in how only your core has to stay warm to stay on the good side of hypothermia. I wonder more than once if my feet have ever really felt warm.

My sickness progresses and I find myself completely useless, wrapped in a sleeping bag and marshmallow-like down coat at all times, hiding from the snow-spitting weather under tarps that seem insufficient. Despite my fervent desire to help, I stay out of the way per everyone’s request when anything needs to be done, though it’s incredibly difficult. I want to do something, something besides standing on the outside looking in at the bonding over shared workload, something besides feeling alone, lost, shivering in the physical and metaphysical cold. I know that feeling unneeded, superfluous, is the fastest way to talk myself out of caring about something I’ve put my mind to, and I keep myself awake at night with worry – I don’t want to talk myself out of this job before it even really begins.

It’s warmer on our second-to-last day than it’s been all week, and I feel like I’ve been given a bit of a reprieve after all of this humble pie. I take some time for myself in the morning, write, feel like I’m defrosting more than just my poor, blue-tinged feet. There are lessons in the morning and then hail, hail, the gang’s all here, the rest of the trainers arrive and suddenly the day takes wing between lessons and conversations and stolen laughs by the lakeside. A stone sent skipping across the lake sends ripples through my thoughts, ripples that echo somewhere I thought I’d lost. Somewhere that almost feels like peace.

The sky turns rosier with the sunset, and as it mellows further into dusk, the laughter of Master Educators present and future peals over the campground. Looking out at the lake, I’m struck by the fact that this, this moment, this life, will be home for the next year.

A smile steals its way across my face. Might not be much, but it’s a start.

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