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Retirement.

Even now, it feels surreal writing this. My last field season. The end. The realizations. The struggle. The tears. The utter confusion. The guilt. The shame. The courage. The bravery.

This season was one for growth and also stepping into my power as a geologist. Finally, being in a management role. Finally, mentoring younger geologists. Finally, using the skills and leadership abilities I’ve wanted to use for years. Finally.

There was a lot of travel, more time at home, much helicopter time, and one too many polar bears. Overall, I was generally exhausted. It felt so different from other field seasons, and yet hints of 2018 came out, and why I struggled the way I did during that season.

It hit me like a ton of bricks on June 21st, the summer solstice to be exact. I was sitting in the helicopter on the way back to camp. I started to wonder what the hell I was doing. Why was I spending my life sitting in a helicopter, so far away from everything? It was the first time I’d questioned it in such a deep, profound way. I remember the deep green hues of the tundra reflecting back up at me, with no inspiration or wonder left. I wasn’t sure what to think, how to respond to my inner self.

A few days later in the helicopter I was listening to a podcast. A fantastic interview with Kute Blackson on ManTalks. By the end, I couldn’t deny the reality of what had happened a few days prior. As he preached about the fragility of life and unlocking your true gifts, a cosmic wave of truth washed over me. I couldn’t do this anymore. I didn’t want to. My passion was gone, just like that. Run out and run dry.

The next few months, were dark. July was spent generally exhausted and often crying. I was lost and confused during Cancer, the emotional watery sign, season. I didn’t understand why this was happening and what the hell I was going to do with it. Balls deep in my masters thesis and finally having the “things you are supposed to want and need” in life, ie: a stable job, sweet place to work, great colleagues, career success, recognition. It all fell in my lap and I wanted none of it. It didn’t matter how many people praised my skills or told me what a great geologist I was. I felt as though, with those words, I’d reached a pinnacle I’d been climbing since I was 23…back when someone told me I wasn’t smart enough. The fire ignited that night had been burning stronger and stronger. But as I reached the top of the mountain, a gust of wind came and the fire blew right out. Gone. Done. It was as if I’d completed all that I needed to, and what was next?

August came, and I pushed on. Field season objectives were completed, my geologists grew and learned, knowledge of the area expanded. All was seemingly well. Our weather was unprecedented, the best I’ve seen in my 4 summers spent in the Arctic. I did my job well, and I took pride in anything attached to my name, as I always do. Yet, it felt so weird. So detached, doing something so well, with no heart behind it. I felt it most on traverse, where all I could do was turn the well oiled dials of my right-brained self and keep my legs moving forward each day. The rocks were there, but the excitement was fleeting. Reflection made me realize that one year prior, my deep agony of life off grid was less about my budding relationship than I thought. Hints of truth about my future as a geologist I ignored, and pushed aside.

First I thought I was just burnt out, that I needed a break. I considered doing fewer, smaller contracts to figure out what I wanted to do. I thought it might get better after the field season, as I’d been exhausted from all the travel. I looked at it every which way I could, to try and find some semblance of a solution for my predicament. I blamed it on all my moving around, and my need for some stability like a regular human being. For many weeks, there were no answers.

As the answers came to me, as the ideas revealed themselves, I was scared. I put forth all the projections I’d lived about writers…about artists and creators. I thought about success and what it means to me. I thought about the entirety of my 20s and the choices I’d made. I thought about the life I’ve lived and where I want it to go moving forward into my 30s.

As all of this developed, I felt so much guilt and shame. To my colleagues, to my geologists, to my friends, family and mentors. To everyone who knew me as a certain way in this world. How could I do this? How could I tell anyone how I felt? It was torturous. I didn’t even have the guts to call my mentor until November, for fears he would abandon me if I left geology because that’s where the mentorship began.

Right up until the bitter end, I wasn’t sure. I knew what was coming, and I knew it would be hard to say no. I wasn’t sure if I could, if I had the strength. I knew how easy it would be to just say yes, and go with it. The idea of doing something I was good at, have a regular paycheque and work with wonderful people wasn’t so bad. Ten years ago when I almost dropped out of university, I didn’t have the guts. I wondered what I’d do this time, and I truly did not know. The words coming out of my mouth to my boss surprised me as much as him. I surrendered. I trusted myself. I jumped.

I poured myself into my last field season in the biggest way I ever have. It wasn’t the same way I had attacked all my other field seasons. It was meaningful on so many levels. The grit and perseverance I gave to myself and to my colleagues is something I will always be proud of. The guilt I often felt (to myself and to others) drove me to work incredibly hard, and I wanted to leave an imprint that meant something. Making my last geological map was surreal and bittersweet. When I look back I will remember this field season the most.

And so here it is. With my 7th field season in the books, I close this chapter. There will be no more singing over the radio, no more impromptu field dance sessions, no more evading polar bears, no more heavy packs full of rocks, no more traverses. My time as a geologist will forever influence and impact me as a person; coming through now in my writing.

To everyone I have ever worked with, thank you. You have forever imprinted your stories, connection, laughter, knowledge, wisdom, and love of onto me of magnitude 10 on the Richter Scale.

“We feel a deeper truth in our hearts, but in fear we lie to ourselves. We betray our truth inside, out of fear. When I surrendered, the Universe opened up, and my journey began. This is my life.” -Kute Blackson

There will be no lies. I speak my truth, and I am afraid. I am afraid and I am ready.

And with that, I leave you with the minute of Kute Blackson’s words that forever changed me.

“You are going to die. Yes, you are going to die. How’s that for motivation? So I would invite you. Not as a morbid thing, or a negative thing but as a bold wake up call. Feel your death each day. Don’t hide from it. Bring death close to you. Feel death in your heart. Feel your death as an inspiration to living life. If there’s a conversation you want to have, if there’s someone you need to speak to, if there’s someone you need to reach out to and forgive, if there’s someone you need to kiss, if there’s someone you need to commit to, if there’s something you need to launch. I would like you to use this conversation as a bold catapult, wake up call, to go do it now. Right now. This moment is all we have.”

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