Desert Multitude

Change is a funny thing. Leaving Wisconsin, I had prepared myself for a life of constant external flux. A life that would be tumultuous and unpredictable. I figured that, without the strong and supportive community that had propped me up for the last eight years, I would need to internalize that stability. By nature, I am a distractible dreamer. Starting audacious projects is my forte. Finishing them is not. A charmed life has meant that common sense and responsibility have been qualities that are not endemic to my person. Fortunately, I had been able to surround myself with a group of people that not only modeled my weaknesses, but held me accountable to overcome these petty struggles. And in order to live in a van without those structures, I had to develop a whole different approach to getting things done.

Life on the road has its challenges, but I've gotten pretty good at dealing with them. Life in a brick and mortar house? With roommates? That's a whole different ballgame. Stupid California.

Stupid beautiful California

I was prepared for working hard. I was prepared to put my head down and be exhausted. I was prepared to have emotionally draining days and weeks. I was prepared to deal with difficult coworkers, to grit my teeth and hold my tongue. I was prepared to adjust to new settings, to new weather, and to a new set of skills that don’t come naturally to me. I was also prepared to have time to myself to process all of these things.

That last aspect is the thing that I no longer have, or at least not as much as I’ve trained myself to need. Up here on this mountain, all of the people that work together also live together. And spend all of their free time together. And care about each other. And engage with each other. And support each other.

It’s an amazing, overwhelming, and gratifying experience that has also completely destroyed my carefully calibrated internal coping mechanisms.

And so it’s with an appreciative heart and wistful smile that I complain about this unexpected blessing of community that’s been given to me here.

(I’d also like to use it to apologize for my lack of correspondences – phone calls, post cards, texts, emails, etc)

Travel has also been stymied by engine problems and busy schedules. Not entirely, though. In February, the crew made a trip to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park for some desert camping. The weather was unbelievably temperate, and the scenery wasn’t bad either.

I convinced my mechanic to let me have the van for the weekend, and kicked up some serious sand into the cargo area. As much as I love living on top of a mountain, it was great to get away, even if it was just for a few days. I also felt an embarrassingly materialistic joy to be driving the van again. It’s been in the shop for the better part of the last month. Fortunately, it’s not breaking the bank, and there’s an end in sight, but since the nearest competent mechanic is a solid hour’s drive away, and my cell reception is virtually nonexistent up here, everything takes a lot longer these days.

Our campsite, where I found out that frisbee golf is a lot harder than Ultimate.

I’m slowly adjusting to life as part of a large group. The work is engaging and difficult, too, which helps. Learning how to teach 6th graders is something that I could work on every day for the rest of my life and still never master. I’m not sure if the balance of “emotionally rewarding” to “completely exhausting and terrifying” comes out to be in the direction of a sustainable career, but I’m willing to explore it for now.

In addition, I am aware that it's been about 3 months since my last post. I have a couple more entries to catch up on in the next couple of weeks, and then we should be up to date. It's crazy how time flies.

 

-Austin

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