This letter begins with immense gratitude for my past self. I am so amazed and thankful for her for feeling so eager to experience the world, and then proving it to herself by making it happen. In a way, I still cannot believe that you threw yourself into completely new academic, social, and physical situations and thrived in them. You are already what I aspire to be, and you will continue to inspire the decisions that I make throughout my life.
As for your time in Wyoming . . .
Everything is delightfully foreign. You will wake up excited and go to bed exhausted. You are constantly reminded of the immensity of the universe and geological time, which makes you think about the infinitesimal chance that you exist and have ended up where you are. You will learn about geology and ecology and politics, and you will learn that you are not good at those subjects, but that is ok! There is always room for another hypothesis and often times more than one answer (you will not be in math class anymore). You will learn to prefer being uncomfortable because that always leads to newfound confidence in yourself and appreciation for the world around you.
It’s unfortunate that your first time stargazing will be phenomenal. Asteroids will litter the sky and the Milky Way will shine so plainly in your face, and (of course you will find it beautiful and amazing, but) you will compare every night sky to the skies on this trip. Every swimming hole will remind you of Crater Lake’s cool, glimmering water, and every time you play Hacky sack, you will remember playing Hacky sack at sunset in the Badlands. Your other friends from school and home could never have imagined that they would want to spend a summer in Wyoming, but now they do, and they will be so excited to see your pictures every day and learn what you learned.
I think the biggest thing to take from this is to leave your comfort zone. Hackneyed and plain, but much easier said than done. Next time you feel too comfortable, remember the joy of your time in Wyoming, despite having never met any of your classmates, camped, or taken an earth science class.
P.S. At the close of this letter, I want to practice some general gratitude for the many other things that made this opportunity as wonderful as it was. I am thankful for my health, for making it possible for me to experience the physical world to its fullest. I recognize that I am fortunate enough to have had the time, resources, and money to consider this trip and then participate in it, and I am indebted to the benefactor who is generously donating their money to my classmates and I. I am so glad to have had remarkable and unforgettable chaperones and peers, and last but not least, I want to thank Allen Cook, the previous owner of the ranch, and the University of Pittsburgh.