Before pulling into Camp Wilmot in southern New Hampshire for Climate Summer Training 2012, I had started the process of mentally preparing myself. I was ready to dive headfirst into an experience filled of abounding possibilities. (Now, that isn’t to say that I was fully attuned to every last particular of this summer internship—some details were still pretty hazy, i.e. what’s a team program coordinator?—but I did tell myself that as a rule of thumb, I would be open to discovering new ideas and allowing familiar ideas room for adjustment.) I told myself that I would be open to meeting new people, staying in unfamiliar places, and creating manageable goals to benefit a colossal vision.
I would take difficulties in stride. I would evaluate pluses before deltas—and keep all my key learnings on a mental metal loop. I would ride hard and earn the downhills. I would laugh with my teammates! I would meet all sorts of Rhode Islanders and Connecticutters. I would have fun!
I understood before I met any fellow interns, before I mounted the 27-inch Fuji Pulsar from 1988 that I borrowed from the program, before I lugged an eighty-pound trailer up a 9 % grade hill (in Connecticut) that I had committed myself to this program and my team (RIConn!). I was going to spend nine weeks living and breathing in this experience, and I was going to like it.
But that was before I realized that the Team RIConn Climate Caravan moved at a steady pace of five miles per hour. I locked in those ideals before I knew it was possible for the soles of my tennis shoes to slow-roast from the heat reflecting off asphalt roads, before I realized the dull soreness in my calves, knees, and quads wasn’t just visiting, it was there to stay.
I signed over my summer before I ever mounted a bike that was saddled like a burro with stuffed panniers, topped off with a backpack and a sleeping pad, and attached to a solidly packed, 37-gallon trailer. I signed myself over to this program before I felt the weight of my team’s and my baggage pulling me down the edge of a precipitous incline. I waived and initialed away my doubt and pessimism—no doubt they are waiting to pounce on me when I return home to Chicago at the end of August—because those are, by far, more difficult items to carry than panniers and trailers.
Anyway, back to the experience, I told myself that I was going to like it. Too bad I haven’t.
I’ve loved it. Even the bad parts—the crunchy, fried rice bits at the bottom of the pan, the charcoaled con con—I’ve scooped up, savored, and swallowed because even the low points are a part of the total experience.
See you in Arlington, Climate Summer.