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My Epochal Event

Epochal Event: an event that has far-reaching implications in one's life, a happening or a circumstance with the capacity to alter the course of one's life.

If you would have told me by the age of 20 I would have a portfolio beefed up with images of tigers, lions, cougars, bobcats, lynx, servals, etc. I would have never believed you.

Although this feat is one to be proud of, it is seemingly the smallest victory I felt of the summer. The experiences, moments, connections, relationships and memories I formed and developed over the course of two short months would be enough to sustain any man for a lifetime.

The moments I can not even form into words and are engrained more so onto my heart than in my head are powerful ones. Feeling the warm breath of a geriatric white tiger with limited time left. Feeling the pure adrenaline that comes from a roar of a lion directed directly at your chest. Returning chuffs to a tiger. Seeing mischief in the eyes of a bobcat. Nothing can prepare you for these moments, and nothing can take those moments away from you. The moments both captured through the lens of my camera, but the moments where I allowed my self to truly sit in the moment for all that it was.

The small moments of reminiscing with my roommates, reflecting on what had transpired in the small, two story house on the corner, in itty-bitty Sandstone, Minnesota. Jessica, Jackie, Maggie, Jessika, Tera, Mandi, Kelsea (and no girls if you are reading this, in no particular order, haha) would each take a piece of my heart over those months. My wish for them was since they took a piece of my heart, that they carry it with them wherever they go. Carry my sense of adventure, excitement for life, and ambition of forming connections with those around you is all I ask. From the first few weeks where I once took an involuntary shower while sitting below an open window, to swimming in the Kettle River, watching scary movies together, sharing a cry over a resident that had joined the TWS pride on the other side, and so much more.

As I write this from my college dorm in Kansas and reflect on my roommates more, I realize in the quiet moments of the morning where the second shift would leave before I did, I recognize what I was feeling as I watched them each head off to work. Proud. There is no other way to describe that feeling, knowing my friends were off to do selfless work for each creature at the sanctuary, all while I was finishing off a cup of coffee or bowl of yogurt.

My roommates were not the only ones to make an impact on me. My coworkers were some of the most amazing individuals I have ever met. Hardworking, talented, caring, ambitious; the list goes on and on. I can't forget to add patient, putting up with any and all questions I may ask.

I had the honor to have Judson as a mentor. Judson is easily one of the most genuine, caring and humble human beings I have ever met in my life. Never once did he make me feel less than, always treated me as an equal. The plethora of knowledge he imparted on me are things that I will carry with me for the rest of my career and life. One of the best examples of Judson being selfless would be the last Friday before my final week. He had promised me a sunrise shoot at some point during the summer. For those of you who don't know, sunrise is one of the most magical times to be a photographer or videographer; the wet dew catching golden rays that look like pure honey, cascading slowly over the earth always makes for breath taking moments. I realized we were running out of time to do this, but knew we were extremely busy and didn't want to step on any toes. Without even asking, he told me the day before, "get here at 5:30, have your gear ready to go" and we did exactly that. The act of giving someone an experience of a lifetime (with the help of caretaker AJ who got up and did rounds at 5:00 a.m.) is one of the most pure acts someone can perform. Our bond is one that I am forever grateful for. We will always be the "media bros" as we were so dubbed one morning at huddle. TWS is lucky to have him, just as equally any media intern that comes through under his direction.

I will miss the TWS fans and virtual community! The love, support and well wishes from people all over the world, most of whom I will never meet face to face left such a big impact on me. They care and love so deeply for animals they will never meet themselves. They are truly amazing in their own way.

I think the biggest indicator that makes me realize why I am calling this an epochal event is because of the pain I felt as I left. Walking away and closing this chapter of my life would prove to be extremely hard and trying. It boiled down to the fact I felt so loved while at The Wildcat Sanctuary, something that every person deserves to feel. During the 9 hour drive back to my hometown, that sense of ache for what I was giving up, turned into a sense of accomplishment. The cheesy "don't cry because its over, smile because it happened" proved to be true in the moment. I allowed myself to mourn over the life I was leaving in the Minnesotan woods but feel proud of the things I did while I had the time there. No time is ever promised to anyone for anything. I decided to set the new challenge to carry everything I felt, learned and experience with me everyday, no matter how far from the Land of 10,000 lakes my adventures may take me.

As the new Taylor Swift song goes "All along there was some invisible string tying you to me" and I walk away knowing those strings have been tied with every person I met over this summer, and one day, those strings will bring us all back together. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

To each member of TWS, be well, thank you, give Benny extra cuddles, and I WILL see you some day soon. To the readers who have kept up with my blog this summer, thank you as well! It has been an incredible experience to let others get a glimpse into my life. Maybe I will continue this journey as long as you all continue to keep reading!

"All good things are wild, and free" -Henry David Thoreau. Stay wild and free friends.

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