I. I was putting samples away when I heard the bark. I turned around to see a large dog resembling a pit bull. He was barking furiously at me. I froze. I had been told stray dogs were around this property, but I hadn’t seen one until now. The neighbors adjacent to the property kept their dogs chained up. The dogs barked all day, with sad, frantic barks that made my coworker and I think they were abused. As the dog growled menacingly at me, I wondered if he was from the property next door and had somehow escaped.
When I was in high school, my dad and I were completing one of our early morning runs when a pack of dogs started running after us. My dad had dropped his voice to a growl and said forcefully, “GET OUT OF HERE.” The dogs scattered. “You can’t show fear,” he had said afterward. “They sense it.”
As the dog barked at me, I thought about that encounter and considered my options – would I have enough time to jump in the truck if he decided to charge at me? Channeling my dad with all my might, I straightened my shoulders, dropped my voice, and shouted, “GET OUT OF HERE.”
The dog continued barking, so a whole lot of good that did.
I tried again, but even I could sense the weakness in my voice. Finally, mustering my strength, I lowered my voice to a low register and bellowed, “GET OUT OF HERE.”
The dog stopped barking and looked at me. Then it retreated with its tail between its legs.
Not gonna lie – that kind of made me feel like a badass.
II. I went inside the gas station to purchase ice. It was shady-looking on the outside, with bars hanging ominously on the windows. Inside, the red decorations did nothing to brighten up the place. Greasy food sat unappealingly on the counter, waiting to make the person to eat it miserable. “Oh God, don’t ever eat there,” my coworker had warned me. “No, no, no, no, no.”
As I purchased the ice, the cashier looked at me, and pointed at my sweatshirt, which bore the name of my alma mater. “Is it okay that you’re missing school today?” she asked with apparent concern.
I couldn’t help smiling. I told her that I’m no longer in school, adding, “I’m 27.” “Oh my gosh,” she said, surprised. “You look so young!”
When I’m out in the field, I don’t wear any makeup, so I do look much younger. The older I get, the more I crave this mistaken youth. I will be 28 in the summer; I know this isn’t old. I know this. But I look at my face and see trace signs of laugh lines and crinkles around my eyes, despite the anti-aging creams I use. If I purchase alcohol, getting carded is no longer a guarantee. Stubborn strands of white are starting to appear amongst my dark hair. I was at my alma mater a couple of weeks ago and when I visited the library, I couldn’t get over just how young everyone looked. Then I realized that these students had been in elementary school when I had started college ten years ago.
So if someone thinks I’m still in college? I’ll take it.
III. If you get along with the person you’re working with, you’ll talk. A lot. You really get to know your coworker during these trips. Only once did I have a terrible working experience, where silences punctuated our bickering. But most of the time, I really enjoy the time I spend with a coworker out in the field. You will hear travel stories, confessionals, salacious bits of gossip about coworkers.
Eventually, the job will tire you and conversation lulls. This is the perfect time for self-reflection, especially since you usually are out in the middle of an empty field. I can’t say that it’s always the most scenic-looking field. But there might be a cow or horse keeping you company, and you find yourself staring at the empty expanse of land in front of you. The sun might be sitting prettily in the sky, and you realize you are grateful to be out here, in the middle of nowhere, reviewing what you’ve done with your life to get yourself here, right now, in the middle of this field.
The field, if you haven’t guessed, is the perfect setting to think deep thoughts – when you aren’t working, of course.
As I sat on my bucket, waiting to take my samples, I allowed myself to be lost in my thoughts. Like many people, I wear multiple hats and I try my best to balance the multiple roles I juggle in life. I strive to be a good daughter, an awesome sister, a loving girlfriend, a loyal friend, a hardworking employee, a dedicated runner, an interesting writer, a competent musician. No matter how hard I try, I can’t occupy these roles with perfection all at once. I struggle to find harmony between my roles to make everyone happy, and I cannot. It bothers me when I can’t.
But it all goes back to Radiohead – “If you can try the best you can, the best you can is good enough.”