It was the second time in two months that I had found myself on the shower floor sobbing. I don’t cry often, and rarely in front of people (hence the clever hidden location of the shower), but this was becoming a too frequent occurrence, and I didn’t know how to stop it. I had utterly failed, not once but twice. I could not seem to pick myself up and continue on after suffering these crippling defeats.
I hadn’t gotten the job, not once, but twice. Two completely different jobs, both I had felt totally qualified, and incredibly prepared for. I had gotten my hopes up so to speak, but damn if I hadn’t felt qualified with my education and internship experience. As often is the case though, someone also had those qualifications AND that one thing more. I had done everything I thought I was supposed to do in order to get the job. You know what I’m talking about, what we’re told throughout school, get good grades in high school, get into a good college, get your degree, do an internship, land the dream job. Well, sorry to burst the bubble for those of you still in the midst of that process, but it doesn’t always work (and if it worked for you, congratulations, please don’t tell me about it though, that is NOT helpful). Crushed, by the weight of this repeated failure, to gain a “real life” job (you know, one that actually pays the bills and has benefits), I felt I could tell no one; I don’t fail, and if I do, it doesn’t affect me like this, it just can’t when you feel as if you are a leader/mentor (and that just kinda happens when you work as long as I have at a summer camp).
And thus, the shower floor sobbing commenced. Not only did I feel like a complete failure and as if I would never succeed in the “real world” or would make a difference, like I had aspired to in college (why else do you get an interdisciplinary degree in Environmental Studies after all?), but I was also angry. I was angry with the state of the economy and such, in which I could do everything “right” and still not win. I could have all the right references, the right resume, ace the interview and still not get the job, because someone else did to, and oh by the way they had “regional experience” (or what else they might come up with). I was angry that the jobs in my chosen field of environmental education don’t seem to be valued enough to be “real life” jobs and instead remain a field of constant internships. I felt like a complete failure, with a slight anger issue (some swears may have been uttered amidst the sobs)
What do you do when that happens? Failure can knock you out, can take you completely out of the game. I tried to figure out what the hell I was supposed to do. I had applied everywhere, written more cover letters than I ever dreamed I would need to, and searched every job site on the internet within my field. But, I didn’t think I could handle any more applications, followed by failure. So after I picked myself off the shower floor, and washed my face, I binge watched some criminal minds on Netflix, because what else was I going to do with my life after all?
Then when I literally watched an entire season in 2 days (this is far too easy with criminal minds, that show is addictive!) I realized that this wasn’t me. Sure I can binge watch Netflix with the best of them (and every now and then we deserve a little lazy time), but I couldn’t go on like this. I needed some clarity and some me time, to challenge myself, not in the realm of business, and my future as I had done all too often as of late, but physically. So naturally, I climbed a mountain. Just kidding, I am nowhere near in shape enough to do that, but I certainly did hike one!
I took the time during the week that I wasn’t working with the masses and trekked out to Mount Rainier National Park, up to the Paradise area, where I hadn’t hiked in years due to the crowds on the weekends and holidays when I could normally hike. Here I soaked in the majesty that is Mount Rainier.
Mount Rainier as seen from Reflection Lakes (get it? It’s reflected there in the LAKE!)
I strapped on one of my new tie-dyed bandannas (made fresh from camp, full of memories and joy, a repeat companion on these treks) and hit the trail. I was (read: am) rather slow hiking the mountain. It is HECKA steep in areas (I mean it is a mountain after all) and I have arthritis in my knees already (yay for being 25 with a 60 year old body!), but I still go, and go and go. I stop frequently to take in the view and snap some pictures (read: use taking pictures as an excuse to catch my breath) but I keep hiking and get refreshed by the mountain air. I don’t know why, but sometimes I feel as if I am only ever able to think clearly when I am in the midst of the woods by myself. Stopping to take in the smallest detail, and be in the beauty that is God’s creation.
On this first hike, I realized that this is what gives me joy and fills me up. God’s creation, in all it’s glory, away from the stresses of making it in the “real world.” I could make it here, what I am is enough here. God meets me on that mountain (and in the woods, by the coast, near the lake, in the wilderness) God meets me when my face is red with exhaustion, my knees shaking from the climb, and sweat just dripping down my entire body (ya, I look AMAZING after hiking 😉 ). God meets me here and says “you are enough.” And then God says it again and again, because it never sinks in the first time (nor the 200th time), so God tells me again with added emphasis, “no really, Erin, you are enough.”
Driving back from the mountain I decided I would look beyond my “real world” failures, and see it as an opportunity to get back to what truly inspires and fills me up, nature. After that first adventure up the mountain I went on MANY more, because, let’s be real here, that message takes a LONG time to sink in, I will need many refreshers. I still had no job, and spent a majority of my time filling out job applications, but, at least once (if not twice) a week I went exploring into the woods. And there I would shed the stress and frustration of “real world” and step into the open arms of God’s beautiful creation and breath in the fresh air, filling my soul with God’s love and support. For in the wilderness is where I feel I can truly meet with God. And it is there that God repeatedly says, you are enough.