Golden Year by Ryan Potter

Though now set for my Golden Year, 27 as of the 27th, looking back on 26 has me curious how it is supposed to get better. From a chance to help my undergraduate college as a temp employee to a season on a seabird project in beautiful Northern California to this wonderment here at Kure, this past year will be something great to remember. If you were to ask me I would say it was rather golden already so I guess 27 has a lot to live up to.

As not one to assure the road ahead, with what I know now I’ll at least make a little prediction. With news of a new departure date for our return home, if plans stay the same I’ll be back near San Francisco for the same seabird project I will then be three summers apart of. Instead of dodging burrows and skirting past albatross I’ll be stuck on a cliff watching birds from far off. With a basis in restoration itself, I won’t be doing the work to restore what once was, but documenting the work’s success on another group of birds I love. If you must know which, it is the Common Murre – for if the albatross is a king of the wind, they are much a king of the realm undersea.

It is from here that things could get interesting. Do I pursue a chance in the Galapagos to work with albatross and boobies? Do I try and finally get to Australia? Do I find my way onto another remote island, or heck, maybe even end up back at Kure? That always seems to be the question I ponder these days, a plethora of options and a never-ending list of what if’s and what could be’s because since after college my life has been a perpetual state of change and constant big decisions. I’ve grown so used to it, it’s normal to me. But in recent correspondence with a high school Advanced Placement Environmental Science class from Kauai, one student’s comment to a blog of mine that I, we, have their dream job got me thinking, thinking of what it took to get here and what it takes to do this. That is, what it takes to be a field biologist and how at the dawn of a new year what I’ve been through to be here.

My first reaction is nothing but praise and encouragement, the resounding statement, “Yes, do this!” For the things you see and the experiences you’ll have, the weight of fulfillment is worth every penny you won’t be paid. To be given this job is to be given something special. A chance to pour forth your blood, sweat, and heart for an opportunity so rare less than 20 people might get there each year. The work is dynamic and there’s always something more, you become a part of something with a higher goal and higher purpose though you might not realize just how much at the time. You do this type of work because you love it. It won’t find riches or fame but some say experiences are worth more than anything.

But to be honest and truthful, I’d have to also share the battles you’ll face or the bumps you’ll hit on the road you might come to follow. I learned not the hard way but my own way. I learned through risk and unguided decisions because previously all my resources and mentors had me slated for a life in student affairs in higher education. When I changed to land the position on Tern (Island), it was then I was let into this world previously unknown. By no means could it have happened better. If I had to look back and script a story for how I reached and where I turned 27, I don’t think I could come up with anything finer.

The reality I learned was that this road requires diligence and strong will to stay with and follow. My biggest lesson is to accept living with uncertainty and that you can ironically find stability in the instability you can’t escape in this career. It takes an open mind and positive outlook, but it is in the trials and tribulations that there is the most to be learned from. With limited positions in even more limited durations, getting that full-time job or enough to be in the field more than 3-6 months at a time might not come for a while. You’ll likely have to hop from one place to the next because if you want to stay active, you have to be proactive to avoid inter-seasonal gaps but it’s worth it, know that.

So for me, what’s next is an opportunity to follow this passion. To again work with seabirds and push forth in this path I’ve chosen to walk down. That for even with all the sacrifices I’ve made, every minute has been worth it, every moment I’ll never forget. I wouldn’t have known I’d been spending my birthday here of all places but what could be better than to awake to yawning albatrosses and a strong sense of belonging. Five months in and Kure has been more than anything I expected. With a departure date close on the horizon, feelings for this place only seem to grow more elating. As for just what the first month of 27 holds, I feel Green Island is going to likely feel like gold.

So yes, if I had to tell you again, go, go do this. Believe in even the craziest of possibilities for if you want it it’s out there, pursue happiness and you will find what you love.

DLNR Kure crew member, Ryan Potter

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