31 October 2020

Being Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

Written by: Sydnee Martin

As I complete a month of being a Resource Assistant for the U.S. Forest Service, and three weeks of living in Tucson, Arizona as a Public Affairs fellow for the Coronado National Forest, my time here supports the notion that even if you don’t know much about an organization or a specific area of focus, as long as you are willing to learn and challenge yourself, you can succeed at something new.


Conservation and topics relating to environmental themes is a completely new world for me. Growing up, I didn’t see many Black hikers or people interested in learning about land management and conservation. My family was never the type to go into nature just for fun. Coming from a small town in the middle of Virginia, anything in relation to the above was mainly centered around a predominantly white space.

So, when provided the opportunity to be an RA Public Affairs Fellow for the U.S. Forest Service, I was a bit apprehensive. Questions began to pop up in my mind, especially in relation to today’s social and political climate on whether I would “fit in” or be safe, would I be able to apply the little knowledge of conservation to my time in the forest, how could I manage to move across the country to a city I knew little about by myself for six months, or more importantly, how could someone like me who can count the number of times she has been in nature on her hands, actually participate in a fellowship with the USDA Forest Service?

Up until my day of travel to Tucson, AZ, these are the thoughts that plagued me day in and day out, and not even family or friends could reassure me, but fast forward to three weeks, and I’ve somewhat settled into my temporary home.

Every day, I am learning new terms and topics in relation to the Forest Service. Not to mention with having limited knowledge of the Public Affairs world, I’m learning more about the intricacies of communications and media in the government sector.

For a while, I focused on creating video and photo work for fun with friends and family, not really having much of a direction with this hobby, but knowing that I’d like to apply it somehow to my career. While I’ve only been on one field day, going into the forest and the various districts that are within the Coronado National Forest, I was able to apply my own love and skillset for visual content in hopes that one day we can share this with the rest of the employees and forest visitors.

On our field day, we were able to interview those who worked at the Sierra Vista Ranger District, one of five districts within the Coronado National Forest. I had the opportunity to interview the main District Ranger--who oversaw the employee, the front desk staff, as well as fire personnel. My supervisor and I then went throughout the forest to take video footage and photos for future content. As I was working out in the field, I noticed a sense of joy and realization that this is something I love doing: telling stories to share with everyone else.

Even though I am learning everyday about the different functions of what a Public Affairs Officers does in their day-to-day work life, and learning new keywords and Forest Service vocabulary, I’m grateful for a unique experience where I can network within the Forest Service, build relationships, communication skills, and visual skills.

If someone had told me years ago though that I’d be trekking through nature and Arizona nature at that, especially a state known to some of the strangest of animals and insects, I’d probably laugh and turn away from them. Even now, I still wonder what I’m doing. Yet, before I made this grand adventure across the country a friend once told me that “we are at our best when we are uncomfortable”, and I can certainly say that I’ve put myself in an uncomfortable situation, but I know that the only way I’ll fully grow more is if I learn more.

Agency: U.S Forest Service

Program: Resource Assistant Program (RAP)

Location: Coronado National Forest

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