“These…days will add up to something…these days are your becoming.”

-Cheryl Strayed

Since one of the reasons behind this blog is to provide encouragement to those who have felt lost in finding their niche in life and also tentative about pursuing a passion point…I’m trying to be as honest as I can about sharing the highs and lows of my journey into forestry.

Today was a low.

Today was one of the hardest days I’ve had thus far, and I feel childish and melodramatic in this, and almost decided to not write about it at all because all day I have been trying to tell myself “GET OVER IT.”  But it is a real thing I felt today, and I don’t want to leave the impression that everything in the risk of trying something new is smooth sailing.

Today my forest recreation class went to Shaver Lake to help harvest 3 Christmas trees for three cities in the area.  I didn’t know what to expect from this, what our role would be.  I hope to make another post soon going into the details of the harvest, but for now I am just going to share what was hard in the day for me.

(Side bar: before I get into the lows of the day I want to share that I am very thankful for today too.  The weather was wonderful and it was such a blessing to be able to observe this whole process and spend a day in the woods.  I am so appreciative that our instructer worked hard to organize this experience.  I am sincerely very thankful for all of this.)

Since I am new and inexperienced, and because what we were doing was time sensitive and had some safety concerns if one was inexperienced, my role for the day was mostly observation and helping move equipment.  I don’t think such roles to be unimportant, and most times I am fine in such roles.  But, today was just one of those moments in which my lack of experience really pained me.

I am not sure why today in particular.  Maybe it is because so much of this forestry journey has consisted of daily face-to-face confrontations of just how much I don’t know about anything compared to everyone around me, of being blessed by kind instruction from others but being able to provide nothing to them in return.  Maybe it was because I saw this day in particular as a rare opportunity and a day I had looked forward to for most of the semester.  Maybe it was an accumulation of how much I wish I had more experience at this juncture, but don’t yet have.  But, I mean, I have not yet worked in the field or in anything related, and I’m not even 2-months deep into the program, so how much involvement could I really expect to have in such a thing?

This was certainly not the head space I wanted to be in today, and I was ashamed to be in it when just being there was such a gift, such a great thing to be able to even just observe.  And it was fun to be out there and see how Christmas tree harvest are done.  I wanted to be thankful. I wanted to be glad.  But I guess today was a day in which God wanted to build perseverance and patience in me, for “to never have suffered is to never have been blessed.” (E. A. Poe).

As I was trying to shake this head space off, I got an opportunity that I had been eagerly waiting for: my first try at using a chain saw.  To be more honest – it was an opportunity I had been both eagerly waiting for and had been terrified of.  I had not been terrified of the tool itself, but rather I had been terrified to fail at it.

And I did fail.  Despite the patient instruction and encouragement of my teacher and several of my classmates, after perhaps 100 attempts, when it was time to head home, I had still failed to start the chainsaw.

I was so embarrassed.  Not because of any judgement I felt, because everyone was kind and encouraging.  It was perhaps just the accumulation of fears I have had all along : that I won’t be able to do things, that things that shouldn’t be hard are hard for me, that everyone else will be great and I won’t be able to keep up.  I fear failing at this.  Because I want it so bad.  Because I uprooted myself from all I have ever known and all the friends and family I know to give this a shot.  I haven’t wanted something in so long, I haven’t had a goal that my heart wanted to deeply to work for, to pour 150% of myself into for longer than I can remember.  And it is because of this, and because I have become so invested in pursuing this career path that the tangible reality of trying something and failing just made all the forcefully constructed self-confidence I had been building up since I started this program crumble in one swift swipe.

I didn’t give up, I just wanted to dissolve.  I don’t plan on giving up though.  This will not be the only time I try to learn how to do this.  I will learn how to start chainsaw if it is the last thing I do.  Because if I do want this as bad as I say, then I have to build perseverance in all tasks I am taught…even the ones I struggle with most and fail at initially.

I will probably read this in a few weeks, or maybe even tomorrow, and want to delete it for the fear of sounding such a girl.  But I care about learning forestry, I care about being brave and trying my hardest and gaining all the experience I can, and I care about being as transparent as I can about what the experience of jumping into something outside the familiar feels like in the hopes it encourages others to do the same.

And…there is always the hope too that there will be forestry students in the future who will think they have no hope in learning this or that…and then they might hear the story of a girl who was quite possibly the worst student of chainsawing in known history…and she eventually got the thing to start.

If there was hope for me, then there is hope for them too.


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