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Seasonal Service and Lasting Lessons

By Elizabeth Collins

There I found myself - at the end of yet another seasonal job. I was getting good at this - not making any commitments lasting longer than one year (career-wise, anyway). Three workplaces down - one for each year since graduating college. But this time, I was on the hunt for a “real job.” Oh yeah - a real job - that thing adults do. It would be valuable, I thought, to get in with an organization for a few years.

I’d move in with my parents during the job search. This shouldn’t (better not) take long - maybe a month, no biggie. Okay... maximum two months. Three, four, five…? Finally, exhausted from applying for, and not hearing back from, more jobs than I will likely confess, I serendipitously learned of a seasonal Wilderness Ranger position in the mountains with which I first fell in love – the Appalachians.

Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards, SAWS for short, was my new short-term commitment. At first, not completely sure of the decision, I felt as though I’d settled short of the goal of finding a permanent position. I was wrong. I admit to this now because of the amazing experience SAWS has afforded me. I’ve spent this past summer, and now this autumn, experiencing and serving the wild places of North Carolina in a way I couldn’t have imagined.

I remember why I fell in love with seasonal work; to experience a new place, to meet new people, to gain a new skill-set. I’m usually challenged to re-think and re-imagine concepts I thought I understood, opinions I thought I held.

For me, a job doesn’t have to be permanent to be real, but it does have to leave a permanent mark – on me. And sometimes I’m lucky enough to feel as though I’ve left a permanent mark on the people and places I’ve served.

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