Recap Time. I felt good Friday morning. Jolly, semi-hyper. When I walked to work, I listened to my music and sang out loud. Danced a little. Thinking back, I believe my mood stemmed from the knowledge that I had truly tried my best all week. No matter what happened, no matter what anybody thought or said, I had put in killer effort for this job. Not everybody could say that if they were in my position.
I arrived at the shop at 9:30am since Korey and I were doing a GCA, and I got everything ready.
This trip was to be my time. My time to shine. The night before, Korey told me that the best way to lead the trip was to wait to be asked questions first, then I could answer and slowly gain the trust of the passengers.
Well, this is what happened.
The boat filled up with passengers, and I began talking about safety, fumbling a few words as I backed out smoothly. It became very obvious very quickly that the crowd was rough. There was very little response to anything, quite unlike the atmosphere of Thursday's trip. I made a bad, pre-arrangedjoke about how it was my first day, and that was why I was wearing a lifejacket. No laughter. At this point, we technically still hadn't left the dam yet. I gave an insufficient introduction about the area, even though I had sat through five introductions throughout the week. No response. Korey later told me: “You gotta get them from beginning.”
I didn't do so hot with that goal.
After the intro, followed by what was pretty much silence, I lost all the information that I knew, that I had studied all week, that I had heard repeated to me all week from the mouths of different people, in different ways. My “interp” was suddenly gone. I didn't obsessively cram the night before or anything, and I avoided doing the same thing the morning of. I treated the day as normal, but though the trip wasn't becoming a nightmare, it wasn't turning out as I had hoped it would. The thought of driving and talking no longer seemed possible. After I made another attempt to “Interp” (it's a verb now, yes haha!), I gave Korey a partially-helpless look, and he didn't let me linger alone for much longer. I silently thanked him.
After that, Korey made a few attempts to include me and get me talking, but I could contribute very little in the way of history facts. I had truly lost my info. When we got to the first beach stop, I didn't park well. Korey pretty much took over after this, and for some reason, I wasn't embarrassed. I guess I was tired of feeling as such, so I instead adopted a critical aspect of river-guiding: personal connection.
As the boss, Korey was doing a superb job of both driving and talking (he even had a few props: some canyon pictures, a notebook full of invigorating quotes, and a fun water-gun-hose-pump thing), but the passengers were still kind of quiet. During the tail-end of my boat-driving, I slowly called on a few people and asked them what they were about, making jokes. At beach stops, I got out of the boat and interacted with passengers, even some from other boats. I got overwhelmingly positive responses and by the end of the trip, I was communicating freely with people. An important part of being a river guide is being able to read your audience, like I mentioned during my time with Easy. Well, our passengers were stiff, but just needed pushing...they kinda needed to be spoon-fed, so that's what Korey and I had to do. I with the conversation-starting, and Korey with the good story-telling.
I wasn't educating anyone about Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and I wasn't driving a boat, but I was still making people feel comfortable, and that's important anywhere, for any type of job. Here's some proof of the bonding I'm talking about:
I mentioned that Korey did a great job as a river guide, but I should add that it was the best trip I'd been on in terms of who was running it. During much of the second half of the trip, I sat with the passengers and listened to Korey tell the stories of the Canyon. It was like being in a history class except the history class met around a fire in the middle of the woods. Everything is calm and quiet, and the only voice you can hear is that of the storyteller, whose words are released with a humble pride, assurance, and genuine respect and love for the tales. I've mentioned the different methods of the different guides before. Well, that also pertained to the actual facts being presented. It was funny to hear slightly-different numbers or quantities being recited. It made me wonder where each river guide got their extra information, or rather, what their rationalization was for rounding or not rounding. All in all, history's somewhat unstable. But exciting nonetheless.
When we got to the end of the trip, people were asking Korey much more than they were in the beginning. Despite the rocky start, Korey had “caught” them and kept them. Nearing Lee's Ferry, I looked up and saw the eyes of most every passenger looking up at Korey, ready for the next piece of history he was going to share.
He actually ended the trip with what sounded like a poem, entitled “A Song of Glen”. In short, the song talks about the importance of preserving the natural state of Glen Canyon, a passionate plea to prevent the damming of it. As Korey read through each stanza, it was surprisingly un-corny. When he finished, I shook my head in awe, disbelief, and with a little bit of laughter. I clapped, and everyone joined in heartily. The trip was in a league of its own, and even though I barely led it, even though it turned out nothing like I had hoped, especially when I had committed in my mind to actually doing it, I was happy to end my time on the river with an exceptional trip. I call Korey “The Glen Guru” now. I don't think he finds the name as clever as I do, but I will persist with it. :)
I drove the boat back to the dam one last time, navigating better than I had ever done before. It was windy again, but not as much as it was on Wednesday. At the end of the day, each river guide has to park their boats away from the dock, and one river guide has to pick everyone up and drop them back at the dock. That was me, and I did well at this in my opinion! I rammed into one staircase, but it was all good! I then parked the “22' x 14' inflatable, aluminum-framed raft” near the dock. I had gotten better at a lot of things this week. Not all the things I wanted to, but that was more than okay. I truly believed that now. I walked up the staircase, gathered all my belongings and turned around to look at the bridge, dam, and river. I physically waved my hand in thanks to the view. Bye. Thanks for the ride. Literally and figuratively, haha. I was sad to leave.
I wanted to stay and learn more. Practice more. Improve more.
When we all got back to the shop, everyone went their separate ways after cleaning up. It was Friday, and everyone was tired and ready to go home. Drew met us at the back, and he, Korey, and I talked about my week. Korey stayed to do some work, while I got some wise words from Drew, which you can hear here:
Drew offered to drop me off at Korey's, and I gladly accepted. In the driveway, we wrapped things up. I thanked him for his patience, guidance, and encouragement, and he wished me well. As he drove off, I again wished I could stay in town longer. I wanted to know more about Drew too.
That night, Korey, Kyle, and I went out to eat. I was really excited about this. I had spent quite a bit of time with Kyle, but I felt like getting to know Korey had only begun that morning, and I was eager to continue. We went to this really nice sushi lounge, a restaurant that didn't seem like it belonged in Page at all. It looked like a sleek, uptown hotspot for singles – a completely new world. We saw Kyle Davis and Matia at one point too!
The three of us shared rolls, and it was the greatest meal. I was still affected days after. This was only my second time for sushi, and it was cool to realize that my taste buds had matured greatly since that time. One of my flexible goals for this journey was to acquire more distinct tastes, and it was nice to know that I was succeeding.
While eating, there was some more discussion of college and careerism. Both Korey and Kyle did not finish college, and I pressed further, asking if they were ever worried or embarrassed by their “unfinished” education. The Seyler brothers are very talented, intelligent individuals and they agreed that the degree never came because they were simply busy living life and being successful. They liked their lives as such, and they didn't want it to change by any means. They both have significant experience with the job industry, and talked about the importance of working hard at whatever you did in life, with some goal of passion in mind of course. Korey told me how learning was life and vice-versa...so he just always operated that way. Just because he didn't get a huge portion of his learning from a college classroom didn't mean that any part of his life was unfulfilled. He told me this in a content, “it is what it is” tone, and I liked that.
We then talked about my life after the Program, and I told them what I was thinking: “I don't know what I'm doing. I feel as if everyone's moving back in with their parents.” When I said this, Korey immediately spoke up, saying that he didn't understand the trend. “What people should do is save up a little money, combine it with friends' funds, move to a big young city, and make it happen. Make it happen, that's what I did and do.”
I hate to keep repeating myself but I have to give you the facts. “Oh.” was how I responded. I never thought of things that way. Make it happen. I had a lot of thinking to do. The end of OWJ was fast approaching.
After dinner, we got dessert at a convenience store and went back home. I washed my clothes while Korey and Kyle had a heart-to-heart. I overheard Kyle say something that was really cute: “Man, I don't know. I'm going to miss working here all summer. I like Tucson a lot, but being a river guide is the best job. I know I won't ever find anything like it.” I smiled. That's another reason I wanted to be so good at river-guiding. The novelty.
After awhile, Kyle and I went out dancing, and Korey stayed in. Kyle and I connect on the issue of how dancing is necessary for nightlife. “You need to come down to Tucson,” he told me several times. “People really know how to dance there. They let go.” Of course I was going to remember that. I always find myself in places where people like to stand around and talk instead of dance to the music that is clearly begging to be treated right. Nonsense.
The night ended too soon, I slept, and then woke up early to finalize my packing and cleaning. I never said goodbye to Kyle as I left the house, but I did get to see Easy, Kyle Davis, and Korey off when I dropped by the shop in the morning. As the warehouse door closed behind me, I heard Easy say "Have a nice life, Michelle!" I could feel his grin.
I don't think I've ever heard that statement delivered in such a genuinely positive manner. I've got to copy that dude more. He's just too good with his words. I mean, he's in Arizona, and I'm in Texas. No one will ever know.
What did you dislike about the job?
Having to constantly deal with multiple fears was never fun. It was stressful. That can be assumed. I also wish I had come earlier in the summer, because a lot of the river guides were burnt out by the time I got there. Had I gotten there in June or July, I would've gotten to experience more energy early on.
What did you like about the job?
I liked meeting new people every day, both guides and passengers. I liked the universal nature of being a river guide. Passengers come from all over the world, and according to Korey, the ages of guides range from age 18 to 65. That's a lot of years and lot of different backgrounds/stories on both sides. In this way, working with CRD was a gold mine for me. I also liked being outside, something I never thought...I would say. Everything that came from being outside was positive for me. The fresh air kept me well. Being surrounded by beauty every day of the job did wonders for my mind. The different effects of working within canyon walls and within office walls is astounding. I'm willing to bet that working as a river guide could be an effective part of a work-therapy program or something. To add to the healing aspect of being outdoors, being in Page enabled me to relive my childhood. Practicing slacklining, biking the streets, and playing catch/soccer with Iggy was so very rejuvenating for my soul and it made me want to revamp my life. I think I even like dogs now. I'm used to staying “in” things: indoors, in bed, in chair. I grew up without sand in my toes and bugs in my hair at any point in my life. I have always wondered if I could handle working outside. Being a river guide made me realize that it actually might be best for me. In short, my moments of diffidence and negativity were matched by moments of peace and tranquility.
What lessons did you learn from being a river guide / Week 7?
Tons. Tons. I think I will come to know more of them in the future as time passes and I have other experiences that I can apply the lessons to, but here are a few:
- Limits can always keep moving. They don't have to move fast, but they can still move.
- College is an opportunity, NOT a necessity. It may make things easier, but you create your destiny. You can make something out of anything.
- People are probably just as insecure as you are. Never assume anyone is better than you.
- Feelings of fear, insecurity, or negativity are not bad. They make you human. Express them to the right people, and you won't regret it.
- Small towns can have healing characteristics. Too much of something is never good, so get out into the big city when you feel yourself reaching the breaking point. But never underestimate the small. Nothing beats the power of now, and having no choice but to live by that power for a few weeks.
- Dogs aren't so bad...
- Neither is driving...
- Or being in a body of water....
- Or being outside....
- Basically, you can always do more than you think [See Lesson 1].
Would you do this as a more-than-one-week-job?
Yes. Because I was so trapped in my limited knowledge, this job is one that I most wish I had more time for. With time and practice, I know that I could be an amazing river guide. I just need a lot of practice. I'm not quite sure if I can get as much as I need. But yes, I would do it. Best job ever, why wouldn't I?
When it comes to writing, there's always pressure to hold back, to not mention the not-so-cheery things. And it seems no matter how much you write about the positive, if you write about a hardship of some sort, people will only remember the latter. For the past seven weeks, I've only given you the truth. The unbridled truth, with all the easy, hard, and silly details. That's the only way I can share, and perhaps it's risky, but being me is better than anything else, in my opinion.
I feel the need to check in with You for a second and make sure that you understand the scope of my seventh job assessment. Here is the gist:
Learning to be a river guide was hard, and I was stressed and out-of-place the entire time. But I experienced many other, more positive emotions as well. The time I spent in Page, Arizona was good, because I improved in many areas that were virtually untouched before and I have hope as a result. I met great people who supported me and worked with a great company that does its job well. I was anxious all the time, but I relaxed a lot too. I mean come on, I was in the middle of nowhere, basically on vacation, increasing my life-expectancy through nature exposure. Overall, the week was a fruitful, necessary week.
AND I'm proud of myself for putting myself in the position to grow like I never have before.
I want to thank Korey and Drew for putting up with all my emotions, and for listening to me and working with me. You can imagine how awesome these two men are if they were able to handle me in my all-over-the-place state for an entire week. Thank you to all the CRD guides that trained me and again, listened to me talk about whatever I felt like talking about.
At the Sushi Lounge, Korey and Kyle made a good point. If an employer looks at your resume and they see the Job Title “River Guide,” they will almost always be impressed. They will definitely question you at the very least. I would recommend this job to anyone. There's a reason people call it “the best job ever," and a reason I have no problem using the phrase over and over, bringing it near ad nauseam. Anyone would do well to travel to Page, Arizona and work for CRD. If you don't want to work, go and experience the town, if anything. It's all beauty, so do it.
Now that I've done so many things on the water, I've got to get that swimming thing down and conquered. A good river guide would be better with swimming ability. I need to put my Week 7 experience to good use and I'll admit that I am running out of excuses. I guess I'll call Beth for swimming lessons soon.
If you want to know more about how you can apply to work at the Colorado River Discovery, click here!