I grew up in the outdoors as a big environmental advocate. I found happiness being outside with my brother, whether it was skiing, hiking, or mountain biking. About a year and a half ago I was working at a landscaping job but found I had no passion or feeling of betterment from that work. Feeling lost and out of touch with nature and sustainability, I decided to spend the next year farming, growing, and nurturing the part of me that was lacking a sense of individuality and passion. I found solace in spending my time doing something I truly cared about. Then, I learned about conservation corps through a fellow farmhand and I was hooked. The idea of continuing to develop as a leader and person, and contributing a big chunk of my time to conservation work planted the biggest seed in my mind and it seemed to sprout instantly. I found myself on the MCC website that same day. Now here we are!
I tend to be quite shy. Before MCC, I spent a lot of time on my own. After my hours on the farm were complete I would usually hide away foraging for mushrooms for hours on end. However, I soon realized that the social aspects of my life were lagging. I knew I had a tendency to latch on to labels I associate myself with - awkward, weird, etc. And I really believed them. Other than working on conservation and bettering the environment with MCC, I also wanted to build confidence, discover the power that my voice can have, and develop leadership qualities where I could be in a room (or campsite) filled with people and feel like I belonged.
The adaptability I’ve learned has given me patience, caring for the crew has given me confidence, and doing work that I believe in and making a difference has given me purpose.
The first day I walked into the MCC office, I felt a sense of security in that room filled with strangers (now my closest friends) that I didn't expect. I felt like I’d found my place. Throughout my season, I've grown in ways that I would never have imagined for myself. I feel comfortable advocating for myself, directing my crew, and speaking up. I'm starting to find comfort in my ability to make interpersonal connections to those around me. Something that really made this possible is how amazing the staff is here. I feel cared for, heard, and affirmed in hard times. I’m extremely grateful to be here.
One thing that I'm taking away from this experience is that caring for others and building interpersonal relationships is just as important, if not more important, than being the first one to the top of the hill, or being able to swing a pulaski the fastest. Recently I found myself feeling like the work I put in on trail was the only thing I could offer to gain the respect of my crew and project partners. I still had those limiting thoughts of being awkward and anti-social and by working faster I found an escape from having to deal with the anxiety of talking. I ended up injuring myself from overdoing it and it completely shattered my sense of value to the crew and MCC. But with amazing support from the staff, I saw it as a blessing in disguise. With those two days left on the hitch, I had no option but to talk with my crew members.
Within that time I started to form genuine connections with them, and it made my perception of what it's like to be a leader completely different. Working hard is great, and it's super important and rewarding. But forming connections and trust with your crew gave me more sense of value than I could have expected. MCC has been a life-changing experience. The adaptability I’ve learned has given me patience, caring for the crew has given me confidence, and doing work that I believe in and making a difference has given me purpose.