JOURNAL

Crater Lake National Park

Oregon

Ali

I didn’t grow up in the great outdoors. I didn’t know how much I craved fresh mountain air until I moved from my home right outside Manhattan to a beautiful tiny mountain town in upstate New York for college. Once I took my first hike, I was hooked. Achy legs, sweaty face, sore feet – I was in love like never before. I spent every spare moment outside from then on out.

Once I graduated from college, I forgot about my love for the outdoors and traded it for what I thought was the real love of my life. I began working full-time as a social worker in foster care and moved in with my partner. I didn’t have time for adventuring and hiking anymore. I was consumed by my 9 a.m- 5 p.m job (which usually turned into a 7 a.m to 8 p.m job), and my partner. A year later, I barely recognized myself in the mirror. My vibrant personality, love for adventure, and enthusiasm for life was stripped away. My job had burned me out, and my partner had become physically and emotionally abusive. What kept me sane was daydreaming at night on CoolWorks.com, looking at all the amazing potential the world had to offer. Maybe I could become a whitewater kayaking guide, or work at the visitor center in Yosemite, or lead rock-climbing tours in Yosemite, or zipline in the Smoky Mountains. I held on to that final one and entertained myself with the possibility. Still working as a social worker and still living with that man, I applied for the job in January of 2018. I did a FaceTime interview on a friend’s couch in February. I sent away my deposit and reserved my spot in the group apartments a week later. The excitement in my body was unbearable, I hadn’t felt it in so long. I knew what I had to do. I gave a few weeks’ notice at my job and then a few weeks later, I gathered up all my things in the middle of the night and finally left him once and for all. I drove 14 hours to Tennessee and breathed in the fresh mountain air. I was free. I was happy. I was alive.

As fate would have it, once I listened to my heart and followed my passion, I met the true love of my life at this job. My soon-to-be husband was going through a similar situation across the country and found his own personal reprieve in the ziplining as well. We love being outside as much as we love each other and plan to build our lives around this love. We decided, after leaving the summer seasonal job to find a new winter one together using CoolWorks. We ended up becoming ski lift operators in Colorado, and he taught me to snowboard for a whole winter. Now, we’re back to working full-time, but with a mission in mind: to open a camp on a ranch to help more young people experience the healing power of the outdoors and adventure the same way we did. We hope to hire some more CoolWorks kids and to be the backdrop for some life-changing summers one day!

CoolWorks, you truly have changed my life for the better. Thank you for being a well of inspiration, excitement, and life-changing possibility. I truly believe this experience not only saved my life, but gave me life.

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COMMENTS

I’m an ex-social worker as well who became a park educator after working in low income public housing for 10 years. I love my job & my life. Sanity is back…I still practice social work in a different way by teaching STEAM education in low income rural schools.

Reply

Lee June 16, 2019

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