Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Trail Crew

By Isaac Grayson                

                I have been working on my resume lately. I feel like have a very strange work history, but the skills I was able to learn I believe have helped during my school and will continue to direct me during my career.
                After my first year of college I was looking for an escape from the long studio nights and hours of huddling over a drafting board and operating a computer. I have always longed for outdoor experiences and as such I looked for a job that would get me outside. I happened upon the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps program out of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Here I really got to experience being part of a team as we worked as a trail crew traveling through Colorado doing various jobs for different Forest Service Districts.
                The first day I had showed up late because of flight scheduling difficulties and just walked up to the first group I saw and they told me I was in their group. So without question I put my bag on the trailer got in the van and we were off. That was the start of a great summer where I lived out of a tent in in constant contact with these eight people. I learned a lot about group dynamics and team operations this first summer. It is a very different experience to not only work with these people but to wake up and have breakfast with them, commute to the work site together and then return to camp to create dinner and participate in group discussions or educational programs.

                Very quickly you develop and intimate trust and family level of friendship with these people. But there are always issues to work through. The summer always starts really well everyone is nice and does a good job of keeping their civilized face on so as not to offend anyone. But after a couple of week’s people tend to get real and misery really brings out peoples true character. Most often our misery came in the form of rain and lightning. I have spent several hours squatting under a short tree or out in the open when I lighting storm rolls up on us. 
It may sound strange to squat during a storm but the reason ultimately comes down to safety. We work in very remote areas, hours away from medical care, utilizing metal tools to carve the earth into an appropriate path. When out in the open we are a lightning magnet. So we throw our tool far away and either squat into lighting position or hid under an average sized tree and wait the storm out. Inevitably this lightning storm is followed by rain, then a sharp drop in temperature and something’s graupel.  
Cold, wet, and tired will make people real very quickly. When this happens you really learn to deal with people at their worst. This requires extensive communication on varying levels. No matter how much communication occurs there will always be conflict. This experience was really beneficial because when conflict occurred I had to be dealt with. Living in this intimate setting conflict must be addressed at some point or else the whole group dynamics will unravel.
I believe these skills have been useful in navigating studio culture. We may not live in confines as intimate as I did out in Colorado but there are times when studio feels very small. This is especially true when a conflict is occurring. But having the maturity and responsibility to deal with it proves beneficial to everyone and can really create a beautiful place to work and live.

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