I find it peculiar and ironic that I am writing a blog entry in the woods, miles away from the nearest computer. The concept of “blog” and social media is totally contrary to my experiences with NYC, wherein I and my compatriots are spared the stresses and distractions of the life electric.
It is no stretch to say that in comparing my life in civilization of daily showers, internet access, and toasters to my life in the backcountry of intense labor and weather exposure; the less stressful of the two is the one in which I live a Spartan, almost ascetic lifestyle without the messes, complications and smog of the city. I breathe easier, both literally and figuratively.
This is the reason I keep coming back to NYC during my summers-I am as I write this midway through my fourth session. I can list many other reasons for choosing to come back; such as the excitement of exploring new places; the growth of strength both physical and mental; the experience of being one of ten people who turn from strangers in to a crew, into a family. The untaxed stipend also doesn’t hurt. There is one reason for my presence here that I cannot list, but only because I don’t know what it is yet.
Allow me (not that you are capable of raising an objection) to elaborate. In each of my prior NYC experiences I have come away changed and improved, in a manner I could never have predicted. I went into my second session expecting more of the same and found myself growing. Not as much in ability, but greatly in personality. I went into my thirds session unsure what I would find. I found humanity.
I won’t know until afterward, when I have reflected what it is that I have achieved in my time here that is truly lasting and unique. I’m excited to find out. But the point is this: every time I come to NYC my life changes. The clay from which my nature is hewn is molded, partially into the person that I am going to become; that I should and must become.
And that person is freaking awesome.
Making the decision to lead a SEED lesson was a big step for me because it could easily go one way or the other in terms of my effectiveness. I had really wanted to take the initiative to try and be on a more personal level with my crew and share my experiences on the topic that I was teaching. I felt that the topic of ‘leave no trace’ was one that I was knowledgeable in and could teach exceptionally well. In my past experiences with SEED lessons, I had always learned and cared a lot more about the topics than I ever did in school. Although SEED teaches about one focused topic at a time, the expansive knowledge that comes from all of the crew members and leaders on that subject is fathomless; we learn far more than just what is in the crew’s SEED manuals. SEED is important and even beneficial to corps’ members because it allows room for questions, thought, overall curiosity, and the demand for more education.
As circumstance would have it, one of NYC’s Program Directors, Ryan, had also volunteered to lead the same SEED lesson that I was planning on teaching. Before the crew assembled, he and I went over the game plan for about 15 minutes. This gave me time to read the crew leaders’ SEED book on the topic that I was going to be teaching. The real trail for me was the intensity that I felt when the crew came together for the lesson; this was my first time really leading my crew through something! Not only that, our Program Director was seated right next to me helping me lead the crew. At first I felt in way over my head! Surely enough the beginning of the lesson was shaky for me but as it went on, I became more comfortable teaching. I started asking questions that corps members could respond and relate to, and I got them thinking about what I was getting at. Towards the end of the SEED lesson, I recognized that Ryan was no longer seated next to me and was not even speaking as often as in the beginning. It was amazing in the fact that the crew noticed me in leadership role where I was an effective and engaging teacher. It was really gratifying!
Overall, I believe that NYC has provided me the most amazing opportunities to gain, build, and work on my leadership skills. Teaching the SEED lesson about ‘leave no trace’ felt beyond amazing, especially when I figured out how to keep my momentum constant. Taking the initiative to ask to lead a SEED was one of the best choices that I have made at NYC and I’ll encourage others to try it as well.