Slogging through the Shutdown

I have unfortunately hit the point of mentally shutting down trying to grapple with the current political climate.

I can’t process the reasons why I am separated from my job, new career, calling (not a lot of people take up this line of work for the money, there is something deeper. Intrinsic to personality, or ethos, life-long calling…). I just became comfortable with my new duties, trying to balance the work of two vacant positions. I feel as if, while told to be apolitical while on duty or in uniform, working for the government has become equivalent to being a living political bargaining chip.

Frustration is the underlying current in my household. We both are impacted. While I am not carrying out my work, my husband is going to work unpaid and hindered in his duties. A mountain of meetings, conference calls, and trainings are going unattended, since they are not legal activities under the shutdown. Adding to the madness is watching many of the shutdown agencies traverse the slippery slope of bringing back staff to better hobble along. I’m willing to guess if this shutdown extends into the next month, there will be legal implications being sorted through for years to come.

This shutdown is different for many reasons (for comparison, read a dear colleague’s musings, rest her soul). On a personal level, I usually didn’t work during the winter as a seasonal. I could watch from a dispassionate distance, merely fascinated by the confusion. Neglected work duties weren’t mounding up and my earnings were so meager that I wasn’t financially contributing much at all. Another glaring difference: the national parks are mostly open during this shutdown. Flying in the face of the mission of the National Park Service to preserve parks unimpaired for future generations, this round of furloughing has kept parks open without support staff  This, for many reasons, has brought a slew of issues that have resulted in parks having to close in part or full to mitigate the damage (Example #1, #2, #3, #4, #5). It is surmisable that this damage will take months, if not years, to repair, if at all reparable. Not only the smellier side of things, but the impact on wildlife. Imagine, with all the overflowing trash, the new and exciting buffet available to wildlife during this time of year in which food sources are normally scarce. Conditioning happens quickly in bears, and isn’t something easily undone. Bears with a trash problem often become marks on the conscience of wildlife managers.

On the sunnier and more personal side of things, a lot has changed since I last posted (two years ago?!?). I had a baby and changed jobs twice, all of which happened in the last year (I am having trouble accounting for what happened the year previous to that). I left the seasonal ranger scene for a state transportation PIO job. I was a little naive in assuming all public service jobs are the same. I came back to the park, in a permanent position, but behind the scenes. While I am cherishing the bright points of extra time* I get to spend with my little guy and reveling in this new life path of motherhood (I’ll admit, surprisingly more than I could have imagined!), it comes with the inky dark backdrop of resource damage, unpaid workers, and uncertainty.

(*full disclosure: the little guy is at daycare today. He likes it [more toys! more faces! somehow more activity than this house of 5 pets and mom!]. I never thought I’d have mixed feelings about my child liking daycare, lol, but here we are. And housework, errands, and grad school work, here I come.)