My mental theme of the day was choosing to work hard.

There is this idea in my head that one’s life’s work is work that comes naturally, work that you are always excited about, work that feels fulfilling in every moment. That “aha!” kind of work, where you apply yourself and you feel accomplished, rewarded, and at peace in every moment.

Of course, writing that all out like that, out of my head and onto the screen…of course work isn’t like that. It’s work. Even the best kind of work has some moments of drudgery, repetitiveness, maybe pain, drowsiness, laziness, etc. Working brings out the human in us, right up to the surface.

Today we worked over 10 hours. Hiking, setting traps, carrying heavy cages. The horse flies were worse today, the mosquitoes about the same. It was cloudy, but then it got hot. Heat and deet and bug suits and consistent insect swarms make for a universally-accepted undesirable working environment. Plus, in spite of all our efforts, we weren’t finding the specific girl squirrels that Victor needed to measure before they went down to hibernate.

We’d set traps for a few hours and then hike back to the truck to “let them marinate”. Dangerously, I would lie down in the front seat of our massive diesel turbo engine truck, bug suit still fully zipped, and fall asleep almost instantly while the horse flies landed on my suit’s face mesh. I would wake up when Victor was ready to share the next plan. We would hike out again, look for the ladies, find them, collect their poop in little vials to test for cortisol (stress indicator), and either release them or carry them back to the truck for all the measurements.

It was raining as I inspected the ear tag of the last squirrel of the day. As I carried her back to the truck for one more processing, I thought about the areas of my life where I have natural aptitude: violin, science, baking and cooking, writing. Apart from food alchemy, which literally always brings me joy, music, biology, and composition are hard. I often do not Love what I’m doing when I’m doing any of them. Yet I still do it: I still practice slowly and methodically, I still exhaust myself for the sake of catching these squeaky, squirmy squirrels for someone else’s thesis, I still write vulnerably, methodically, honestly, and with intention, even when I’d rather sleep after a day in the field. Even if no one cares, no one reads, I write my best. Even if Victor ends up scrapping all this data, I still put forth my best effort and ask all the questions. Even if the only person who hears me practice is me, I still try until it’s perfect to my ear.

We can’t go through life waiting for it to get easy or make sense. It never will. Life will always present difficulty, will never completely make sense. It’s all a challenging mystery. We can choose to ride it out beautifully, to approach the waves confidently and learn to master the turbulence. I know in my heart that what I’m doing in the present moment is the right work for me and that I am blessed.

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