Tears stream down my face as I sit in the terminal at the Hayden, CO airport, reflecting on the summer that has come to an end way before I wanted it to. I make awkward eye contact with fellow travelers glancing up at me as I wipe my eyes. But I don’t care that I’m openly crying in public. I’m not ready to leave.
It’s 6 a.m. in Colorado and I’m facing the fact that I will arrive in Oxford in 24 hours. I’ve spent the past three months working on an isolated guest ranch in Clark, CO – 45 minutes away from the nearest grocery store. To say the ranch was completely different from Miami would be an understatement.
Working as a children’s supervisor, I spent every day leading a group of excited child-vacationers through the mountains of the Yampa Valley. We rode horses, hiked, swam, paddle-boarded and taught them how to develop a greater appreciation for the natural world. I learned right there with them.
Living out west, in the middle of nowhere, changed me in ways I didn’t expect.
Looking back, I was not myself during the second semester of last year. I threw myself into trying to perfectly balance my majors, multiple extracurriculars and maintaining somewhat of a social life. I was sick for nearly three months (my roommates can attest to this, having bought themselves earplugs for my ceaseless coughing), never allowing my body the chance to catch up on the rest it so desperately needed.
On top of the schoolwork and activities that filled my planner chalk-full, I struggled with comparison. The battle of comparing myself to others isn’t anything new – I’ve dealt with it my entire life. But for some reason, that feeling has always been escalated at Miami—known for its party scene and extremely attractive students. It’s easy to criticize myself for every little detail – from wearing the wrong outfit out to posting the wrong photo on Instagram.
My values were completely twisted. I was forcing myself to live up to the standards that the Miami University culture set out for me. I stressed myself out to the max worrying about looking perfect, getting the perfect grades and having the perfect additions to my resumé. Three months ago, I probably wouldn’t have the guts to publish my writing like this out of fear of judgment.
In the midst of the semester’s chaos, the thought of my upcoming summer at Vista Verde existed faintly in the back of my mind. I was nervous because I didn’t know anyone going, and I was almost mad at myself that I was allowing a summer out west to offset my track to the ideal resumé.
Oh how quickly my perspective changed after just a few weeks on the ranch. And thank goodness for the wake-up call. Staying off social media and freeing myself from comparison was the best thing I could’ve asked for at the time. After a refreshing restart this past summer, my values have realigned.
My friends on the ranch hailed from all over the country – from Maine to LA. Interacting with such a unique, diverse, kind group of people has put a lot into perspective for me. Not everyone lives in the same way that students at Miami do, and it’s so refreshing.
Half-way through the summer, during our weekly pool party, seven-year-old guest, Bella, motioned for me to lean down so she could whisper something in my ear. “Don’t tell anyone, but you’re the nicest person I’ve met,” she told me with a giggle.
If Bella had met me in the middle of March this past year, I doubt she’d feel the same way. Living out west, with the most incredible people, away from the semi-toxic life I created for myself in Oxford, has made me a happier, nicer person. The kind of person I genuinely want to be.