The World Around You is Your Teacher
When I moved to Utah 11 years ago as a 23-year-old, I didn’t imagine I would still be here and more surprising to me, that I would end up as the single mom of a four-year-old. I often tell our staff that I wish I could give them the experience of raising a child because it would make them better at their jobs. This reminds me of the comment my boss made when I first told him I was pregnant, “This is going to be so good for you.” I have also experienced parents tell me how lucky I am to work for Evoke because I have all of the tools I need; tools they wish they had before raising their kids. And what I’ve come to realize is that we are all right. My experience in wilderness has informed how I parent and my experience as a Mom has informed how I lead our team at Evoke. Each makes me better at the other.
I remember several times early on in my son’s life thinking to myself, with desperation, “Why are you doing this to me?” This thought arose when the crying wouldn’t stop, when a diaper was blown out at the exact time I needed to be leaving, or when he wouldn’t sleep when I had work to do. I like control and I like being seen as put together, strong, and capable. These baby interruptions were cramping my style and I was alone in it. I often thought, why me? I remember coming completely undone on the phone with one of the owners of Evoke during that time. I was struggling to be the leader I wanted and needed to be and surely, I was failing at the Mom thing as well. He met me with compassion and then gently reminded me of two books that I soon chose to revisit. Leadership and Self Deception and The Anatomy of Peace, both out of the Arbinger Institute. This changed everything for me. I had read both books before, but they suddenly had new meaning. It clicked for me that what I was experiencing with my newborn was a metaphor for every human interaction I was having. I began to imagine everyone as an infant. I began to see everyone’s inner child. I got really good at being curious about what was behind someone’s behavior, defenses, emotions, etc. And simultaneously, I began to see a change in how I felt about the world around me.
I was scheduled to present on this topic of Navigating Wilderness Therapy and Motherhood at the Regional Wilderness Therapy Symposium in Asheville in March. I have joked with my peers that my presentation deserves the edited title of “Navigating Wilderness Therapy and Motherhood During a Pandemic” because this experience has brought up next level challenges for me. The Pandemic also serves as a stark reminder that life is precious, we all have triggers and you never know what tomorrow will bring. And really, that is how I’ve learned to be the best mom and leader I can be. To live in the moment. Take it one step at a time. To be curious about the needs of others, while trying really hard not to ignore my own. And to recognize that those needs might change in the next minute, hour, day, or week.
Parenting and leading are so closely aligned for me. I have cried in private. I have cried in public. I have felt frustrated, challenged, defeated, unappreciated, and unheard. I have wanted to quit or give up. I have also laughed until I cried. I have felt accomplished, joyful, challenged, inspired, and seen. I have felt camaraderie. I have felt all of these things in both roles. When I lean into these feelings, they teach me how to be better at both. I couldn’t have imagined I’d be here standing in this truth, but now I can’t imagine life any other way.