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Always Learning and Living: Katie Sherman ’19 – Building Outdoor Community at Antioch College

This Fall, I am co-oping at Antioch College. My intention when I set out on this co-op was to organize and strengthen the outdoor-focused community here at Antioch College. So far, I have restarted a student-run outdoor club, made connections with other colleges in the area, strengthened connections already existing within Antioch College, begun work on organizing an outdoor experience orientation for the incoming students next year, begun applying for grants, and also begun to examine my own connection to the outdoors and how this connection affects my day-to-day life.

Something I always strive for in my co-ops is self-growth. How can I better myself through doing this? What will I learn? Should I be looking at this differently?

I think there are a few big things I have learned so far this co-op. One of my biggest struggles is finding a balance between what I expected my co-op to be and what it has been. While I feel like I have followed my intention on this co-op in working on the outdoors stuff, I find that my time is primarily spent working at part-time jobs. I work as a lifeguard, an assistant swim lesson teacher, a kitchen assistant in our school dining hall, a tutor, an RA, and on the Antioch farm. Six jobs sounds like a lot, but what I work adds up to around 35 hours a week, 30 hours being the requirement for co-op.

For this co-op I imagined myself outside with a goofy smile and lots of contentment. I imagined devoting myself to the project of outdoors club. I could see how I would shift the campus culture and get people not just outside more, but more excited to learn about nature more and be ready to incorporate the outdoors into their day to day lives. I think what I imagined for my co-op was a big feeling of fulfillment.

So in the first few weeks I thought the answer was to work more. So, I picked up more shifts and I scheduled everything and I felt like I was on track with out having a real goal in mind. I kept thinking I would get to where I wanted to be so I kept trying.

And I just felt drained.

Week five of working is when I realized it needed to change. I gave myself some rest that week. I used my free time as free time and rested or hiked. I talked to friends. I hatched a new plan. I thought to myself “The issue isn’t in that I am working too much, its that I’m not working the right jobs.” I was partly right. Lifeguarding is the most boring and draining part of my day. I understand that it could be meditative to sit in a hot room and stare at others for two and a half hours for some people but for me it just feels prosaic. That is when I applied to the Antioch Farm and for a position at the Glen Helen, a nature preserve associated with the college.

I got the job at the farm, and it has been nice to be outside. I also stopped requesting more hours at the Wellness Center, where I lifeguard.

I think a bigger shift in my daily life came from how I  think about working than taking the new job.

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Katie Sherman is an undergraduate student at Antioch College. She intends to pursue a degree in environmental science.

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