In 5th grade I was blessed with the coolest teacher in my elementary school, who taught us so much more than the standard curriculum. We started every day writing in our “on this day” journals, did monthly art projects, acquired nicknames, and most importantly, we went for BOFAs. For kids, getting enough time and space to let out energy and be wiggly is vital for their focus and performance in school. That is why recess time is so important even though it has been getting cut shorter and shorter over time. Well, my rad 5th grade teacher would take notice if we were starting to fade, lose focus, and let some wiggles out. He would sigh, look out the window and say “well guys, do you think its time for a breath of fresh air?” Our faces would light up and everyone would ditch whatever we were in the middle of and run to the door for BOFA time.
Of course, we outgrow BOFA time, right?
Spending time outside is vital for most people’s sanity and rejuvenation. Maybe I’m not speaking for everyone, but I imagine that walking down a path of crunchy leaves is more peaceful and recharging than walking through a mall.
I am very adamant about giving myself ample time to be outside. Throughout university, I would make sure to schedule myself 3 day weekends and cram my time at my jobs in during the week, so I could have complete freedom from responsibility every week so I could escape. And that is how I handled being in a city when I was clearly meant to breath fresh air and absorb wide open spaces. I needed to have a way out.
When I work, I work outside. I spend my days leading guided kayaking tours in Seward, Alaska, where I can run my paddle through the water and listen to the slow rhythmic pulse of the ocean. I hear a breath from the distance and I know that something else is sharing this air too. I turn my head to search for the porpoises, moving up and down, up and down.
The kitchen is throwing ticket orders at me. I reach for the short stack of buttermilk pancakes with strawberries on the bottom for W5, but I’m still waiting for the breakfast nachos and now there’s plates stacking on the bottom ones and I can’t get to the plates I need. I’m trying to gather everything but they just keep stacking. I take the oatmeal brulee to W7 instead to get it out of the way. When I return there’s more plates, more tickets. Still no breakfast nachos. Where are the rest of the servers? I need help. It’s not going to stop. My breath quickens. I start running W5, screw the breakfast nachos maybe they will be there when I get back. W5 wants more water. That’s not my job right now, I just need to find these heckin breakfast nachos. They finally come up, I juggle the last 3 plates and run them as fast as I can because I can hear the plates stacking in the background. The window is filling, filling. Tickets. Plates. Did I bring H2 that side of toast? B3 still hasn’t gotten their food. Plates. Tickets. CRASH. I drop the breakfast nachos and oatmeal brulee for W5. Panic. PANIC! While you’re dropping things the window isn’t stopping. Get back to the window. Run the food. PANIC! Breathing breathing breathing. Faster faster. Spinning dizzy breathing panic crying. Escape escape. I am in the walk in cooler in the kitchen. Sit down. Breathe. Breathe.
When my “home” in Alaska shut down for the winter and my people skipped town to look for more work, I came back to Madison, WI to be close to family and college friends for a little while. My plans had changed last minute, leaving me desperately in search for a fall job. Jobs in the outdoor industry were already filled for the season. The previously described scene was me a couple of weeks ago when I was the food runner at the brunch restaurant that I currently work at. I am not in my environment. I am out of my comfort zone. The scariest day of work I’ve had as a kayak guide was my first summer when I had to call a “pan pan” over the radio to get help with a client who was in the freezing water, and because of special circumstances, it was impossible to get her back in her kayak. I launched myself into fight or flight mode and did whatever had to be done to get her life out of danger. Experiencing a panic attack at a breakfast restaurant was a scarier experience for me.
I have been trapped in the city for the last 8 weeks working 60 hours/week and it has taken a tremendous toll on me. I need a breath of fresh air.
And that brings me to today. Thanksgiving! I am so incredibly thankful for everything I have been blessed with. I am thankful that I have been so spoiled to enjoy beautiful outdoor spaces. I am thankful for the people, experiences, and places that have made me who I am today. This morning I had my first day outside in what feels like forever. My first day off in over 2 weeks. My first day hiking with my parents in over 5 years. I can breathe and close my eyes and be thankful.
5 more weeks living outside of my comfort zone and I will be ready to head back to the real world again. The world where I can cook on a camp stove and kayak with friends and climb on rocks. Instead of thinking of those too-fast, too-intense breaths in front of the food window, I think about those breaths I will take high on a cliff. Come April I will breathe my way from Mexico to Canada. My eyes will not be wide with panic but wide with awe. I will look at so many beautiful things while breathing in and out. In and out. Breaths of fresh air. 5 weeks. Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you all get to take a BOFA soon!
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Don’t google “bofa”…I missed the bit about “breath of fresh air”, so I looked it up and got: “bofa deez nuts”…lol. Great post, btw