The Only Constant

South Pole airfield cargo crew, watching a flight take off

South Pole airfield cargo crew, watching a flight take off

Looks different around here, doesn't it? I was all set to publish this new design in March when I lost my laptop, like a total moron, and consequently lost my preferred medium for updating the site... but I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's go back to November.

It's been almost 7 months since I last checked in, after returning from two weeks at the South Pole. I spent three more months at McMurdo after that and honestly, it was a bit up and down. I didn't realize why until February when my good friend Charlotte arrived on station and told me point blank: each season at McMurdo is different. Especially the second one.

Reason would dictate that, right? There are different science projects, different people (the nature of seasonal contract work), different rooms to live in, different events to attend, and a different me in some respects. But if there's one thing Americans should've learned since November: even obvious hubris can take you by surprise.

On one hand, I thought I knew the score having been to McMurdo before. Not that I knew everything, but I knew how to do my job, I knew a lot of returning people, I knew my way around town. And most importantly, I knew the minimum amount of enjoyment I'd get from my second deployment, because there was so much in the first.

But here's that other hand: all of those expectations proved only partially true. Some of my closest friends from the first year weren't there, newness is really only true once, and it turned out to be a rather lazy plan to waltz in and expect everything to be like the first year (but more!).

When things don't meet your expectations, disappointment is the obvious tendency. So as the season went on, I felt more and more like I needed a break from the place to recalibrate our relationship. But that talk with Charlotte made me feel less like the problem was me, and more my perspective.

At about the same time I had been asked to consider applying for a different job for next year. I reflexively gave it a 5% chance. But after another conversation with the person who'd done the job the last few years and some more realization that my relationship with and perspective on McMurdo were the issue, not me and not McMurdo, I decided to apply.

So, I'm headed back in September for round 3. My new job is still in the Supply department, but I'll be the lead supply person in the science lab (the last two years were in the carpentry shop). I'm excited to be closer to the mission of the station, helping NSF grantees get the tools they need to do the research all us contractors are there to support. And I'm certainly more confident in my understanding of the place after my first year as a returner.

Despite all the transitioning I've done over the last three years it's gotten only marginally easier. And when the places that become familiar feel foreign, nothing feels comfortable. But all of that stuff is mental and emotional; states of mind that, while very real, can be adapted to more easily some of the climates I've felt them in. I'll manage.

That gets us to February... only 4 more months to catch up on. Back soon.