Lake Champlain is my happy place. Located in upstate New York, it is, by all standards, a huge lake: 120 miles long and 12 miles wide in some areas. My family has lived by the lake for generations, and I have spent nearly every summer there since I was an infant. So, it has rightfully earned a spot in my heart forever.
When I visit the lake, I stay at my aunt’s house, which is pretty far north in a small town on the lake that boasts no more than one restaurant, two churches, and a shop that is half gas station, half grocery store, which the locals endearingly call “Phil’s.”
But one of the more exciting facets of the town is actually my aunt’s neighbor, who I will call Jim for the purpose of this article.
Jim is the quintessential rugged outdoors man. He’s retired and about 75 years old, but he’s in peak physical condition. Jim assembles and disassembles his dock by himself every year—a job which I have seen take more than five adults to successfully complete. Once, I watched Jim clear his lakefront property of massive rocks with nothing but a white bucket hat and gloves, a job many people would hire contractors for. Jim practices his golf swing by hitting balls way out into the lake and then retrieving them by scuba diving. And Jim dives into the lake everyday, no matter the weather or the temperature—and trust me, the water gets cold.
Occasionally, Jim will float in a tube on the lake. But even this is no small task. Lake Champlain boasts winds, currents, and waves that can reach four feet high. But Jim’s tube doesn’t move unless Jim wants it to.
Jim is the most interesting man in the world.
Fitting with his mysterious stereotype, Jim doesn’t talk too much. But you can tell he enjoys all of the little day-to-day activities he does. He takes pride in his dock and cleared beach. He no longer has any job obligations, so he spends his time doing what he wants. Swimming. Golfing. Floating.
I aspire to be like Jim. (I mean really who wouldn’t?) I already have my own matching white bucket hat, although my outdoors expertise is still lacking in many departments.
But I don’t want to wait until I am 75 to live like Jim. Why should I? That is why I am looking to have a career where I can work outdoors. I want to do something I love, and I want to do it outside—just like Jim.
I personally love the outdoors, if you couldn’t tell by my previous columns that all focus on nature and seek to convince people to spend more time outside.
Working outdoors allows you to reap all of the normal benefits of being outside, including stress relief, lower blood pressure, and heightened immune function. But, an outdoor career also has particular benefits for work—it increases your productivity, focus, and creativity.
In a survey done by L.L.Bean in 2018, 65 percent of people reported the largest barrier to spending time outdoors was their job. This barrier, however, is not an issue if your job requires you to be outside!
I have already held positions in outdoor fields for about four years at this point. This past summer, for instance, I sampled water and soil in Boston marshes—a job that required me to be outside for most of the day. I didn’t wake up everyday and groan as I pulled on a blazer to spend hours on my computer. Instead, I strapped on my waders and prepped coolers with ice for my samples. As I did so, I felt like Jim. Jim doesn’t wake up to an alarm to spend his day toiling at a task he doesn’t care about. Jim wakes up early to happily make sure that his beach is clean and his dock is structurally sound.
As Boston College students, most of us are hoping to find a secure job post-graduation. As we go through the long job search ahead of us, I think it is imperative that we find careers that don’t feel like jobs. For me, that means an outdoor job. I would of course hope that my bias for working outside would implore you to consider an outdoor career, but I know that everyone is different.
So the best I can do is encourage you to be like Jim, becoming your own version of the most interesting person in the world. And remember, sometimes Jim just wants to float on the lake, and those quiet breaks are quite alright too.