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Worldwide Ace » The Magic of Happenstance

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The Magic of Happenstance

21 May, 2014 (19:18) | Work

A funny thing happened on the way to New Zealand. Maybe it wasn’t so funny. I got rejected.

Despite five years of training and hard work, two weeks of maddening attempts to be interviewed, and a ski instruction resume I truly feel is worthy of pride, it took less than 48 hours from the time of my interview to receive an automated form rejection. Consensus from those who had made it overseas in previous years is that I’m too old and too expensive.

SIDE NOTE: New Zealand allows a large number of 18-30 year-olds to get “working holiday visas”; they allow a young person to travel to the country without a job and find whatever work they can during the 6 months they’re traveling. It’s an exchange program between dozens of countries including the US, Canada, and New Zealand. After 30, however, that privilege goes away and each country has its own stringent rules. In the case of New Zealand, a work visa must be sponsored by a company, meaning the person in question would need a job waiting for them and the company would likely have to pay a bunch of money to get the worker over there legally.

Though in other years, I might’ve lounged around and lamented my plight, the ejection only angered me and filled me with an odd sense of relief. I wouldn’t have to worry about the cost of getting overseas, and my months-long journey in summer work limbo was, in one sense, over. Instead, a different sort of limbo, one much more familiar, took over: unemployment.

Through the weeks that followed, I spent more time thinking about what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go, and how I wanted to work than I did applying for jobs.

My needs became clear: I want steady work, a fair and livable wage, somewhere in Colorado, in a field about which I can be passionate. This isn’t exactly a small order.

I began thinking about ways to make better money, specifically serving. I loved working in a restaurant when I did it many years ago. It was good pay, reasonable hours, fun people, and I’ve loved food since before I spent time in the culinary program in high school. But a restaurant job is also high stress, competitive, unchallenging mentally (save for memory), and can be grueling in the worst ways. I quit my previous restaurant job on an especially stressful shift when my section got overloaded (patio on a sunny day) and my manager decided to give me unnecessary crap. It’s the only job I’ve ever walked out on. It would take a special serving gig to bring me back, preferably somewhere I liked and respected, where the nuance of the cuisine interested me. So I began applying at breweries.

A serving job wouldn’t need to be full time, and knowing my propensity to waste my free time, I felt I needed something more consistent time wise. It wouldn’t have to be mutually exclusive, but a day gig with regular hours would be highly desirable, and something outside that would keep me active.

Many of my friends and colleagues from Eldora work at an outdoor education summer program called Avid4Adventure. The camps they run feature mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, and paddle boarding. While I don’t have much interest in climbing, I love to bike and would be ecstatic to spend more time paddle boarding, something I had discovered in recent summers. It seemed an ideal fit.

The application process was long, and my availability caused some ruffles, but when I expressed a willingness to adjust my travel plans to attend more training, I was offered an interview. It went fantastically and I finished excited and raring to go. They offered me a job as a mountain bike instructor in Golden for the summer and I immediately accepted.

Avid has some intense requirements. They ask all employees to have a Wilderness First Aid or better certification and current CPR training. All of it must be paid out of pocket. That’s an investment of nearly $300 before an employee could start getting paid. Still, the great work environment, the awesome coworkers, and the great job make up for the investment.

As I began filling out the paperwork, though, my phone rang. It was my old summer employer, the YMCA. In rapid succession, I was hammered with information.

They had received my recommendation request for Avid, and upon seeing it, they realized I was available for the summer and wanted me to run their biking camp. Not just work at it; run it. In a matter of minutes, I had gone from being a first time mountain bike instructor to having an opportunity to oversee a biking program.

I had myriad questions. Why call me out of the blue? What about internal, more qualified applicants? The Y-Riders program was the baby of my former boss, and I felt I needed his blessing as well. In the phone conversation, I swore he said that staff was already in place. Who were they? Could I rely on them? And lastly, perhaps most important to me, could I feel fine about reneging on my position with Avid less than 24 hours later?

The upside to the Y is that they cover the costs of any training. Gone from the books would be the $300 I would drop on certs for Avid. The Y-Riders program is perhaps the best program the Y runs, one which is well established and self-sufficient. It’s still the bike position I wanted, and assuming a good staff was in place, I could learn the biking portion and mentor the directing portion. The camp is located in Boulder, so no need to commute an hour and half each day to work. To top it off, it paid nearly $3 an hour more.

The downside is that I would miss out on working with friends, in a program for which I have a great deal of respect, and with more oversight and training which I could benefit from.

As you can see, the upsides, especially economically, vastly outweighed the downsides.

The next day, I found out the staff of Y-Riders are an experienced crew, two with whom I’ve worked before. The reason I was called was for my directorial experience, not my biking experience, and with a good Assistant Director in place, we’d be an excellent team. I got the blessing from my old boss, regretfully called Avid to pull out, and just like that, I was back with Y, a place I did’t expect.

Training began on Tuesday, and while things are progressing rapidly in preparation for our first week, I’m starting to get more and more excited for the summer. I still want to get that brewery job part time, and I want to continue to write for the Boulder Weekly, with whom I’m jockeying for a part time beer columnist position. Next week, I move back down to Boulder.

It all feels a bit whirlwind and I’m mildly overwhelmed, but at the same time, I’m incredibly excited about the opportunities laid out before me.

I followed my dreams and they did not lead where I expected. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.




  • Jess Newman

    Two things: First of all, you should absolutely be proud of your snowsports qualifications. You kick ass. Second, don’t you mean “it was my old *nemesis*, the YMCA”?

  • Ben

    Hyperbolic, as always, my friend. Thanks for the vote of confidence.

    No job is all silver linings, and as much as I’ve had my qualms with the way things have been run in the past, it’s not an issue with the Y, but an issue with the way in which the Y was run at the time.

    As far as day camps are concerned, there’s a new head as of last summer, and management isn’t in the process of collapsing under its own weight and reorganizing; things seem to be running smoother; I feel more supported at the moment; I actually have a staff (unlike at Lego Camp where I had one awesome employee regulated into oblivion); and the program is one which comes with people in place to assist in the places where I’ll be deficient.

    The best thing about my previous experience at the Y was that no matter how unpleasant it was, I proved myself capable of running an entire program in a situation that was extremely difficult. Imagine how much better things could be with a functional network of support.

  • Jess

    Yes, I also often wonder what could have been during our time together with the Y, if only t’were not that the entire thing were run as if by monkeys bashing at typewriters and issuing human resources decrees.