Over the past several months, I’ve been absent from this blog. I’ve been busy being buried by my latest adventure–perhaps the most challenging adventure to date: grad school. How hard can school be? you might ask. Well, let me tell you.

Try harnessing the attentions and energy of 23 freshman boys and girls. We’re talking 18 year olds that may have once been taught the correct subject-verb predicate, but most likely have not. They’re fresh into college, glossy with naivety at what it means to be in the ‘real world.’ The majority are from Wyoming, a state notorious for having some of the poorest support for grade-school English in the country. Have them read dense collegiate essays on surveillance, prescription drug abuse, advertising in schools and the demise of rural America. Challenge them to write coherent five-paragraph essays that draw from each of these texts and connect them together. Try not to crush dreams as you hand back the first essay‚Äďa stack of D’s. No, it’s not your job to crush, it’s to inspire. Right?

At least that’s what I thought when I arrived and started my Graduate Assistantship, which entails teaching a composition class to freshman, in addition to taking a full course load geared toward a MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing and Environment and Natural Resources.

It’s possible that over a semester of teaching, learning, writing, speaking, grasping, gasping, drowning, thriving, I have perhaps inspired one of those students. They sure have inspired me to think about my own writing, and to not take a creative mind for granted. To look past repetitive and poor sentence construction and see the potential underneath. To think about the multitude of experiences and moments of growth we all encounter on our paths to becoming who we are.

Lately, as I spend hours sitting in front of my beaming computer screen planning lessons, writing short-form nonfiction pieces, reading pages and pages (we’re talking 100s, maybe 1000s of pages) of literature on teaching pedagogies and conservation strategies, and reading pages and pages of freshman essays that sometimes make me want bang my head against a wall ad nauseam, I wonder if I should’ve just stuck with the ski bum life. I glorify days of waking at dawn and skinning to the top of a peak. Of thinking deeply about the contours of a mountainside, not the intricacies of a freshman composition essay.

But one thought dampens the allure of those memories: change is hard and growth hurts. But it’s the growing pains that make progress most rewarding. It’s the growing pains that make the achievements worth striving for, even if those achievements come at the cost of sacrificing the things we love the most.

The mountains can wait; the snow (hopefully) will keep falling. When moments allow, my skis will keep carving. But in the interim, the in between, I’ll teach these kids. I’ll hope to inspire. I’ll be inspired. I’ll write. I’ll read. I’ll dream.

Now, that doesn’t sound so bad.