I winced in agony at my frozen, battered hands as I gripped my sledge hammer for another swing. Exhaustion was all I knew, all I had in that moment. Every muscle in my body screamed at me to stop, but I couldn’t… it was time to work, no room for weakness.

After deciding to go to Africa for a conservation internship, my heart leapt with joy! My trip didn’t leave for a year however and I needed to make some money. Lots of money. I had no idea where to start but felt a change of scenery would be the catalyst for new opportunities. Moving to Denver on a whim proved to be the spark I needed.

Once I arrived at my mom’s house in south Denver, Colorado, I set to work immediately on the job hunt (my favorite thing ever… NOT!). I wasn’t looking for anything specific, just any job I could get my hands on that could fund my dream of travel.

An ad online caught my attention that read, “$1000 or more per week!” Without a second of hesitation or even a notion to research what the job was, I applied and a few days later I was driving to the interview.

During the interview, I watched as my mouth agreed to every question posed, while my attention was completely on Africa, safari’s and dollar signs. Shortly after, I was signing paperwork and shaking hands with the man across the desk. I walked out, onto the parking lot, smiling and thinking, “Ahhhhh yeah… guess who’s got two thumbs, owns an IPod classic and just got himself a job? This Guy!!” I was feeling on top of the world, then I reached my car. “Wait, what is this job again?”

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So blinded by my goal of Africa and making money, it hadn’t dawned on me in the least to think about what I was getting myself into. I shrugged off this feeling of insecurity and starting packing again. Apparently, I had just signed up to work in the oil fields in North Dakota! Doing what exactly? F*ck if I knew! I just wanted that $1000 a week!

The first two weeks was all safety training in the classroom. This was when I started to feel IN over my head. I had no business being there. The men I was getting ready to work with were all old and hardened-by-life types; the kind with grizzled countenances, a mouth full of chew and enough racist, foulmouthed jokes to write a Goddamn book. This was hard to get used to.

The reality of the danger, commitment and overwhelming sense of responsibility became apparent over these first weeks as man after man dropped out of the class or just never showed up again. In fact, I remember my class of 22 dwindled down to just 6 of us! F*uck what am I doing? I couldn’t give up, I had no choice. Going to Africa was my end game and this was the sacrifice I had to make in order to enjoy that freedom. It was all I thought about.

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Training ended. What followed was a 5 month grueling, bottom feeding, shit covered, ego driven, storm riding, chest beating, diesel soaked, bone bruising, stress filled fight for my life. This wasn’t a life worth living… it was survival. Did I mention it was hard? Haha!

Check back for the next post to see what it was like to live and breathe the oil fields of North Dakota.

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