9 years. 5 legislative sessions. 100s of grant proposals. 28,000 miles of streams and rivers to speak up for. Dozens of floats, monitoring days, and presentations. Thousands of meetings, laughs, successes, snafus, late nights, and learning moments.
That’s just a sliver of what working for clean water means to me.
Today is my last day of work at the Clark Fork Coalition, a kick-ass high-powered conservation group that does good things for great rivers in Montana. I’ve worked for almost a decade in a variety of roles at the Coalition, and never once did I dread going to work. In fact, walking in the front doors almost always made me smile in anticipation of what the day might bring. This is due in large part to the remarkable people I was lucky enough to work with and for.
If you’ve ever worked for a small non-profit organization, you know that every employee is a jack-of-all-trades. We are writers, lobbyists, fundraisers, counselors, janitors, technicians, scientists, lawyers, explorers, tour guides, comedians and engineers — all in the same day. We are passionate and dedicated and motivated to make the world a better place. And we’re really fun, too.
The Coalition taught me a lot about how to make change happen — not just for the spectacular rivers and landscapes in Montana, but in my community, my country, my daily life. It taught me that water connects everything: big and small, urban and rural, personal and global, eating and drinking, forests and valleys, mountains and ocean.
Why, you might ask, would I quit such a fabulous job or pivot away from such an important cause? Because it’s the right time, and I can feel that deep inside. I don’t ever want to walk in the front door dreading the day, so I’m planning to leave while the smile is still on my face and the passion is still beneath my skin.
Plus, as I see it, we’re just moving downstream to explore. Granted, the Pacific is a lot bigger pond than the Clark Fork River, but I’m comforted by the fact that all of the clean water I worked to protect will be a part of the ocean that floats my boat.
I think my husband said it best in his farewell email to his co-workers at Trout Unlimited yesterday, so I’m going to let his words close out my farewell-for-now to the world of freshwater conservation:
I’m calling it quits. Not because I think there’s a better place to work or because I could make more money somewhere else, but because its just time. Its time for someone with a new perspective to take over my program, to infuse it with new ideas and enthusiasm. This track is starting to get awful familiar, and it’s time for me to find a new one.
I’ll be basically wandering for the foreseeable future, seeing some new places and people and trying to figure out what I’ll do next in my life. My wife and I have a once in a lifetime opportunity to cut ties and vanish for a couple years. We will be leaving March 26 with a couple of backpacks, some snorkeling gear and a desire to travel, sail and explore. Hitchhiking the ocean, some people have called it.
I don’t think that being unemployed will always be easy, but I’m sure it will be interesting. I want to say thank you for taking a chance on a bright-eyed idealist and giving me the opportunity, the skills and the flexibility to succeed. For that, I will be forever indebted. I feel truly blessed to have been your co-worker and part of an organization that has an excellent mission, hires good people and is just fun to work for. Keep up the good fight and remember that we’re all in that fight together. I’ll miss you.