Walking the path from Costa Rica to corporate- Sarah Beatrice
A memory came to me last night, that I didn’t realize how formative it had been in the way that I think, make decisions, and navigate in social environments. It was when I was just 21 years old, and I was on a field study with my college in Costa Rica with a group of students studying primate behavior and rainforest conservation.
To set the stage I had spent the past three years truly ‘enjoying’ my college experience and not taking care of my physical body. I had landed myself in the ICU during spring finals week with chronic bronchitis turned lung infection and was barely able to make this trip after getting clearance by my doctors and family. I also had to get my emergency 24 hour passport in New York City, the week before, which was in an of itself an experience of a lifetime. So being in this state of health and physical fitness, I get to Costa Rica and its 99° and 90% humidity. I am three weeks out of the hospital and in the worst shape of life.
To start we are given an orientation where we get to experience snippets of all the different aspects of research that we can explore. After that time period was over we were given our options to chose which to focus our individual studies on for the next few weeks. The first species was studying capuchin monkeys, they lived in large troops that came very close to our field base, and they had also assembled several feeding platforms in which to study food preference and other behaviors. Making them extremely accessible. The second species was howler monkeys, they also lived and fed nearby in large and fairly easy to observe groups. Last, there was the spider monkeys. Fast-moving, in smaller groups, camouflaged, and very cautious of humans, making them the most difficult to see and get good results.
The grad student who was currently studying spider monkeys shared about her research and when we were given our opportunity to select, I boldly chose the spider monkeys. Nobody else did. So she and I set off into the forest, alone for hours at a time, trekking through thigh deep mud, fighting through neck high underbrush that we had to cut back with a machete, finding our small groups of monkeys and quietly settling in. Prepared to grab everything and leap to a full sprint should our nimble subjects decide to gracefully leap and swing 100 feet deeper into the rainforest off our trail. Over those four weeks I pushed my body to the limits, but I overcame my exhaustion, navigated my asthma and combatted my negative self talk. I managed to come up with a decent thesis and gather as much data as I could on these fast moving species to write a paper that scored me above a B(not typical for me.)
How this ties in to present day is interesting because as an anthropologist I had learned to see patterns and the bigger picture, but that wasn’t so easy when it comes to observing myself. So in looking at the leap that I took in 2006, I now can see how this was part of a new pattern of behavior that has been repeating itself since then, and into my new career.
Reflecting on the last two years, and more specifically in the last two months, I see that I am pushing myself to do something truly transformative and different because that is what feels right to me. In Costa Rica I could have just as easily chosen to study something close to the field station, that would allow me to rest and recover and still write an amazing paper. The alternative was too good of an experience to pass up, the challenge and the achievement of completing or even attempting the more difficult made it so much more rewarding in the end. When I look at myself with the kinder eyes of the present, I realize how hyper critical I have always been to myself. Loudly thinking I haven’t achieved enough with my life. When at every turn, I have taken leaps and pushed myself to go above and beyond what was put in front of me. I was finally able to look back and see all the times since that day in Costa Rica that I have taken a chance on myself. So when presented with an option between the safe job that would give me a guaranteed result that I had zero connection with; or a brand new company comprised of brilliant minds and creative energies building an environment of inclusivity and sustainability, who wanted to take a chance on me. I leapt. Every week I look for holes or reasons that I am failing, only to be reminded every time that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Humbled and proud. I am grateful for not giving up on myself, I am grateful for not taking the easy route, but most of all I am grateful I am exactly where I am today.