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Stranded in the Adirondack Wilderness: Thoughts on Learning

27 Jul

Hello all! In case you were wondering, I do happen to still be alive and well. If you weren’t wondering, too bad, because now you know anyway.

I will hopefully start posting more entries again soon, but at the moment I am short on time. In my previous entry I mentioned I was getting ready to leave Oregon soon for a job as a dishwasher at a summer camp in upstate NY. I have been here for a month now, and boy, what a lifestyle change! Camp Unirondack is situated on Beaver Lake in the Adirondack mountains. We have cabins for campers and counselors, and staff; a big lodge, a kitchen and mess hall, an outdoor pavilion, a shower house, an art shop down on the water’s edge with a boathouse underneath, a waterfront, a campfire circle… it is impossible to be bored here. I do dishes for 110 people 3 times a day and keep the kitchen as squeaky clean as possible; then I devote some more time to continuing to do customer service for my dad; and I am still trucking away at my novel that I started in Ashland.

“STILL working on that novel, Jessica?? I thought you were supposed to finish it way back when.”

Too bad. It’s become a lot more complicated than I originally planned. Novels do that to you sometimes.

Occasionally I feel a bit stagnant here because my job here does not directly coincide with some sort of skill-gaining experience. I am now an expert with steel wool, can run the dish sanitizer by ear, and stack plates like a mad woman. However, at the end of the day I have not learned how to handle a raptor or bandage a seal fin or something that feels more relevant to what I ultimately want to do with my life. It often feels like I am just doing this for the money. Sure, I am surrounded by beauty, inspiration, and great new friends. But why am I here?

It’s interesting how humbling this realization is. “I’m a worldschooler;” I would proudly proclaim not that long ago; “I learn from everything.”

Have I been stumped?

I could blame my surroundings for not being things I could learn from, but is that really fair? I think one can choose to learn from something or not learn from it. Perhaps I have been unintentionally choosing to ignore all the information and experience that is right in front of my face; maybe I am even going so far as to say, “that’s not a learning opportunity, that’s just life stuff.”

Perhaps a good exercise for me would be to stand back, look at my month here so far, and ask myself: what have I learned? What am I currently learning? What am I going to learn for my remaining month?

What have I learned here at Unirondack? I’ve learned all about industrial kitchen sanitation. I’ve learned how to operate a musical theatre workshop. I’ve learned that I can figure out and memorize an entire song from Sweeney Todd on piano in three days. I’ve learned that if I get insufficient amounts of sleep for 3 weeks in a row my body’s immune system all but disappears completely. I’ve learned about loons because they’re all over the place here and very intriguing. I’ve learned that maybe I am a more extraverted person than I thought (which is why I have an issue with getting sufficient amounts of sleep). I’ve learned how to work with the people I live with, and live with the people I work with. I’ve learned about human nature, and how we are all so afraid to be ourselves, or to show that we have souls. I’ve learned how easy it is to fall into temptations of judgement and gossip. I’ve learned more about communication and its importance than I think I ever would have picked up anywhere else. I’ve learned it takes a long walk in the rain, or a day sitting and writing in the woods, or a kayak expedition to really ground me. I’ve learned the importance of ever being grounded and never forgetting myself.

What am I learning? Well, I am still learning a lot of the things I listed as things I’ve learned. I am not sure it’s quite right to say I have fully learned anything, so perhaps the last question should just be this question, but never mind. I am still learning how to love completely, how to not assume anything about anybody; how someone at first sight may seem like someone you never want to get to know; but later, they turn out to be your best friend. I’m learning who my true friends are here; what people build me up and what people tear me down. I am learning how to be a builder-upper and not a tearer-downer. I am learning from example of all my fellow staff members the virtue of perseverance, and I am learning self-control so I can get work done; so I can write; so I can have time alone to recharge; so I can sleep.

What do I want to learn? I want to learn how a summer camp runs and how to communicate with campers. I want to learn how to be a blessing to other people and not a curse. I don’t know if I am a curse, but it’s much better to be a blessing regardless of what I am when I am not being a blessing. I want to learn how to play guitar and write poetry better. I want to learn about different people’s lives by listening to them talk and observing their interactions here. I want to learn about other people’s skills and interests and see what doors have opened and will open for them. I want to learn contentment. I want to learn about more of the animals here; such as the 7,000 different species of moths I see flying around every day, and which half of the staff is unjustifiably frightened of. I want to learn how to dance better. I want to learn how to be the best person I can be so I can go home and show my family how I’ve changed for good.

There really is so much to learn here. It may not be directly “educational”, but maybe the biggest thing I am learning now is that the school of life has a time and place for that. It’s comforting to know.

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Posted by on July 27, 2010 in Identity, Life Pursuits, Unschooling

 

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