I could barely think straight. “Ok, I just crashed an 18 wheeler.” Lost in the fog of North Dakota, I skidded off the road and into a ditch. Panic and hyperventilation took over and I started to get dizzy. But I had to fight it and get a hold of myself. I shifted forward and in reverse, revving the engine to pull the truck out of the snow, but I kept sliding further and further into the ditch. I didn’t know what to do. The trailer was blocking the road while the tractor was cockeyed and almost tipping over.

“I am so fired…” I finally calmed down and realized I had no choice but to call for help. I radioed my boss and the crew arrived half an hour later to find me, standing out in the cold in shock and staring at a wrecked truck.

It wasn’t that bad. As with most things, my mind made it worse than it really was. We pulled it out of the ditch, and I idled back to the shop. Four hours of repair later, it was good as new! As punishment I got two weeks of shop duty for that, (sweeping and mopping floors) but not fired. I was just grateful I wasn’t hurt.

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I worked in the oil field for 5 months. Every night after work, I would race back to my trailer, eat a handful of microwavable taquitos, take a 5 minute shower and jump into bed. This was my favorite part of the day because the last image in my mind as I fell asleep wasn’t of machinery and exhaust or of grease and hammers, it was of Africa. I dreamed of being on safari and of lions and gazelles constantly and couldn’t believe that’s where I was going. That’s how I got through those days up north.

When Christmas came around, I decided to take the train back to St. Louis for the holidays. I love riding the train! It was then that I got up the courage to tell my family I was going to Africa. The secret I kept for nearly a year was finally out. I had been planning this trip independently for so long, I still didn’t want to say anything. But I guess if you’re going to Kenya for 6 months… you should probably tell your family!

Everyone was very excited for me. I remember my grandfather however, seemingly unimpressed, said only this, “You’d better not spend all you money so you can’t come home.” Grandpa, I’m rich now, what a ridiculous thing to say! Hahahaha!!!

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After Christmas, I returned to the oil fields to start another hitch. I love this part of the story!!

My alarm went off at 3am and I started to get dressed but out of curiosity, I checked the weather forecast for the day. Wind chill of 40 below 0 and high gusts of wind. I stood still in the middle of the room and let out a depressing sigh. I looked about me studying the array of boots and piles of filthy clothes scattered around the floor. I listened to the wind outside threaten to break the windows and unleash the ferocious power of winter inside my cozy trailer.

For a split second I foresaw the day to come; backbreaking, never-ending and biting, stinging wind… …I abruptly blurted out, “F*CK THIS!” I laughed so hard to myself. In that moment I decided to quit my job.

I spent the morning turning in gear, equipment and paperwork. At noon that day, I had my car packed and ready to go. I said goodbye to few coworkers and got into the driver’s seat.

I put on my sunglasses, rolled down my windows (nope too cold), popped in A Perfect Circle’s Mer de Noms album and drove away. I had never had a bigger smile on my face!

I’M FREE! I’M FREE!!! I’M FREE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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