Twenty years ago, my best friend Heather went to work at Windows on the World to bake, and roll, and mix, and serve creations from her delicious heart. It was her calling. From the age of four she used to thumb through Gourmet magazine and beg her mom to help her make anything that caught her eye. If there was anyone who was born to cook and delight thousands in the process, it was Heather. We met in junior high. In high school we became best friends. We were at each other’s sides for weddings and funerals, for proms and pregnancy, for better and for worse.
Busting is field slang for making fire with a bow-drill fire set. When I was a new field staff learning the ropes of wilderness therapy, we talked about the three pillars of the program. One of those pillars was busting; hiking and the “I feel” statement were the other two. Those three pillars still stand today.
When I became a parent, I felt determined to do things differently. I thought that being a “good parent” meant protecting my kids from the hurt and disappointment of a deeply dysfunctional world. It’s a common sentiment amongst parents to want to give our children a better life than the one we had. In recent years, I’ve come to realize how so many messages we hear about parenting are so incredibly flawed.
I was speaking with my mom on the phone the other day, letting her know my latest life plan which involved moving yet again to a new city. This would be my 5th move since graduating college and the 13th in total if looking back on my whole life. My mom responded by asking me, “Change has always been so hard for you, why do you keep wanting to change your life up so much?” I let that sink in for a moment and answered, “You are right, change has been hard. I don’t know.”
Laying on my yoga mat, breath heavy, body sweaty, tears rolling and filling my ears. Confusion sweeps my mind. Not knowing why or how this emotion is pouring out of me. It feels as though I’ve unlocked vessels and opened a storm I can’t stop. Cathartic, exhausting, and rejuvenating. All I can think is, “What is going on with me?!”
I spent a lot of my time as a field staff working with adolescent boys who were struggling with their anger. With a background in athletics, I often used sports to relate to them. I could bring in sports scores from the past week when I returned for another shift. We’d debate who was a better basketball player: Lebron James or Michael Jordan? (Clearly Michael Jordan if you’re asking me). And, we had a lot of fun playing games of ultimate frisbee or my personal favorite, sock hockey.
In May of 2009 I left my hometown in Virginia to embark on a journey to Southern Utah. I packed everything I owned in my car and headed west to start a career in wilderness therapy. I was new to the idea of a career in the outdoors after falling in love with backpacking at the conclusion of an Outward Bound course I took the previous fall.
As a parent coordinator, my job is to help guide parents through their child's stay at Evoke. I am here to offer support, assist in any way I can, and answer any questions a parent might have (don't worry, there aren't any "silly" questions). One of the main questions I get from parents is, "When can I visit my child in the field?" For most, it's been a long time since they last saw their son or daughter, and the anticipation for connection, and even just a hug, can be difficult.
Before leaving my group each week, I create space to engage with one of my favorite facets of Evoke’s staff development--reviewing what our participants refer to as “yellows” (the list of weekly treatment goals and assignments for each student that are documented on yellow sheets of carbon-copy paper). Not only do these conversations allow me to clarify my intentions and vision with specific assignments, (and, yes, to also spare field instructors from having to decipher my notoriously poor handwriting) but they also allow me to gauge and cultivate each instructor’s creativity and insight into the therapeutic process. And following my conversations this past week, I found myself reflecting on what a special opportunity this is for our participants, our staff, and our clinicians.
With a grin from ear to ear, Andrew* reaches the top of a beautiful limestone cliff on a warm autumn evening in Southern Utah. Scraped hands and knees are the temporary trophies of his triumph, although he won’t notice until dinner later that night. The sounds of his Mom and Dad cheering him on from below and the rush of adrenalin are the only things on his mind. Andrew has officially completed his first outdoor rock climb. This experience of overcoming a challenge together as a whole family is commonplace at an Evoke Transition Pursuit.