Out West student blog

I’ll Be Back

Rachel Lam in front of the exhibit she helped design.
Rachel Lam in front of three descriptions she wrote for the 2016 exhibit "Why Yosemite Collects."

By Rachel Lam
B.A., Undeclared, 2019
Museum Intern at Yosemite National Park

I closed the door to my house in El Portal for the last time on the 20th of August. There was no sadness. Well, that might be misleading. What I mean to say is that I felt nothing walking away from my nominal residence of two and a half months. For my actual home of two and a half months, Yosemite National Park, I feel many emotions. I feel gratefulness, nostalgia, and awe. The day before I had driven out of Yosemite for the last time and I was all awe. As my little white Hyundai Sonata tumbled along Highway 140, I gawked at the scenery like I had on my first drive in. The Valley is impressive. It plays tricks on your eyes. The Merced River races the asphalt through giant cliffs beside giant trees - trees so towering that the cliffs, one hundred times larger, seem unrealistic and impossible.

The beauty of Yosemite will most likely dot my dreams for a long time. I’m grateful for the break I found this summer in its waterfalls and boulders, but I’m mostly grateful that I didn’t just appreciate the area. My job at the Yosemite Museum gave me a base of history and culture with which I thought about the area. A place is much more than what it looks like. A place is its past, its people, and at least a little different for each individual.

For me, Yosemite is many things. It’s where many wonderful, hilarious, and kind people work. It has a complicated history between the park service and its local tribes and groups. It knows my sweat, laughter, and annoyance with tourist traffic. It’s helped me understand myself in a work environment. I now know that I don’t like to do the same task for a long period of time unless it’s reading or writing. I can confidently say that I love analyzing things - objects, ideas, or people. I think I better understand the connection between liking what you do and liking why you do - in other words, working for a purpose is empowering and the park service has an inspiring mission of preservation and protection.

I feel blessed to have had this experience and I am already nostalgic for this summer. However, I did not and I will not say goodbye to Yosemite. I know that I'll be back.

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