Working from home this year has presented me with multiple opportunities to investigate my relationship with myself. Moving from an office where I would average at least five human interactions an hour, to my kitchen table where human interaction became limited to Zoom boxes and phone calls, I found a huge transformation in how I approached the day. Of course the internet has portrayed this transition through various jokes in videos or memes, but in real life there really was the struggle of what to wear, how early to get up, what does a lunch break look like? Working in mental health, I have always prided myself on my ability to fill my cup when I was at home so that when I walked out the door to be a mental health provider, I was ready to face whatever the day needed of me. Without crossing that threshold, however, I found myself utterly confused at those basic questions.
Before diving into this blog, I feel compelled to speak to a couple of different things that this blog will not be. This will not be a political statement. This will not be a reflection of my spirituality or religion. This will not be a recommended path for anyone else, this will not be advice. This is not an academic exploration, nor is it sanctioned by any professional who might teach or coach around anti-racism work. This is not a story of how I have triumphed and succeeded in doing the work.
Election day is just around the corner. September 22nd was National Voter Registration day, and a great reminder for all citizens of the United States to take a little time in their day to ensure their voter registration. Since our staff and clients have a harder time accessing the internet, the seamless process of voter registration, or at least confirming that they are registered, is a more tedious task for our wilderness folks.
Most folks who have worked in wilderness have become familiar with strange languages borne from years of living in the wild. To this day I find myself saying things like, “Did you bring your wig?” when asking my partner if they have their sleeping bag for a camping trip, or “Do we have torts for taco night?” to my roommate at the grocery store in reference to the tortilla rack. Even staff who have been gone for years and are now working in non-wilderness realms will throw Evokian lingo into our daily conversations, “I could just really use some p-time right now,” when rain-checking plans in order to have some personal/alone time.
Being a field instructor can be one of the most simultaneously challenging and rewarding jobs. There are instances when you find yourself in a group of clients, all belly-laughing at something small and silly, lit by the unreal pinks and purples of a desert sunset, and then there are moments where you are navigating a series of emotional upsets, drenched by an untimely rainstorm. Regardless of the disposition of the clients or the climate, one of the most important expectations of field staff is that they maintain a stable baseline of unconditional positive regard for every single person, including their peers, in the group for the entirety of their shift. This expectation is laid out on the first day of training, and is reinforced during off-shift trainings, mid-week check-ins, and post-shift debriefs. This particular skill, approaching all people with unconditional positive regard, is one that takes great personal awareness in order to work.
Field staff at Evoke are required to attend and complete several different types of trainings throughout their career in the field. Initial medical training includes First Aid and CPR training, which is required of all staff members working in the field. As staff work toward their development as a Senior, they are required to get their Wilderness First Responder training, which requires attending an off-site 10-day training from a medically accredited company. This particular training equips field staff with the ability to respond to a majority of wilderness related injuries and illnesses in a wilderness setting. In the rare case that an injury or illness happens that requires more intense medical attention, our staff are also trained to prep and evacuate clients in collaboration with other medical professionals.
In my last year of college, I began feeling the pressure to know what my next steps would be after I donned my cap and gown and left academia. I spent equal time scouring the internet for positions as I did formatting my bibliography for my thesis. When I found Evoke, I was beyond excited to have found this miraculous company that blended my interest in psychology with my wilderness skills. One of the most valuable things I learned in my process of applying to Evoke was the power of effective communication and patience. I applied to Evoke in January of 2013, and was not contacted about an interview until sometime in late March, for the orientation that was scheduled in June. I joined the team as a field instructor in early July of the same year, and haven’t left. As the Assistant Field Director at our Cascades branch, I now have the pleasure of recruiting field staff. Having been an eager applicant myself, I thought it would be important to share the process of recruiting for all of you as you embark on the journey of applying to be a part of Evoke.
At Evoke, we practice family communication through letter writing. One of the reasons we do this is the obvious lack of technology that our participants have in the wilderness – they are free of the usual convenience of texting, messaging, emailing and social media. Instead, they are left with pen and paper, and therefore, are only able to communicate with their loved ones through handwritten letters. Because of this, families have to respond through letter writing as well.