23 November 2020


Written by: Cassidy Quistorff

As the holidays quickly approach, I’ve done a vast amount of self-reflection on the year. While it’s felt like a decade in itself, 2020 has been… chaotic? Life-changing? Transformative? I have never felt more grateful or more privileged with the life I’ve had. And I’ve never felt more of call to do something with what I have. It’s just figuring out where to start.


Living in a global pandemic is scary. The divisiveness, the unknown, the statistics… it’s a lot for any person to grasp and carry. It’s also brought awareness to issues previously swept under the rug. I truly believe we’re witnessing a stark moment of change in America’s culture and identity, and one that’s much overdue. But change is hard. Human beings don’t like change: it’s uncomfortable. However, I also believe that life begins outside of your comfort zone.

This has been a personal lesson for me my whole adult life, especially in the outdoors. From climbing mountains to getting back on my bike after a hard wreck, nothing brings me more joy than class two fun. It’s hard to describe, but basically while you may hate what you’re doing in the moment, nothing feels better at the end of the day than knowing you went past your comfort zone to accomplish something extraordinary.

How can I use this same love of class II fun to achieve my personal dreams and goals? How can I use my passions to help and see positive change in the world? How do I not be afraid?

Well, I really only know the answer to the last one. It’s not that people aren’t afraid, it’s that they embrace fear to achieve their goals. Brene Brown taught me that vulnerability is the only way to truly unlock your full potential, to truly be who you are. We’re not not afraid. Being afraid means we’re doing something that matters. Being afraid means we’re facing hard things that can mold us into better people.

Let’s all say it together: 2020 has heckin’ terrified me! As I write this, I can’t stop thinking about those who lost their lives to the pandemic, who have had loved ones pass, who have lost their jobs, whose jobs have become immeasurably harder in hospitals and healthcare, who have been affected in ways I won’t ever know. It reminds me of E.E. Cummings’s poem: [i carry your heart with me (i carry it in]. While the poem is undoubtedly about romantic love, I think we’ve all learned more about love than ever before this year. If we carry each other, if we embrace empathy, think of all the good that can come from that. 

Overall, I think this year has just made me so grateful. For what I have, for who I want to be, for my job and working towards better communication between conservation management and science. While our jobs may be remote, I feel like we can all become closer during this time. We can share our stories and become better communicators. Our voices are a platform not to be overlooked. As we go into the holidays and 2021, I’d like to resolve to work even harder at my position and really look to sharing others’ stories and the importance they hold. To be truly grateful, it's important to use what you have and make the most out of it. It's the opposite of comfort and complacency. 

I hope we can all go forward with our fears and with more love than ever before and become who we’re meant to be. While it may sound whimsical and fanciful and a romantic notion, it’s part of what’s been missing in society: this acceptance of fear and love and empathy. So to everyone reading this, I carry your heart with me, and all the changes you’re facing. And I hope to make myself proud and you proud in my life and in my work.

Agency: National Park Service

Program: Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Program (COR)

Location: Rivers, Trails Conservation Assistance Program - Boston Support Office - Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers

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