I Had to Quit My Job as a Wilderness Ranger and Here’s What I Learned

Leaving my dream job has taught me a thing or two about life.

By: Miranda Leconte

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Being a Wilderness Ranger for the U.S. Forest Service isn’t easy work, but it’s by far the most rewarding. There are miles upon miles of wild land to be cared for and it’s been my job for the past three years to know it like the back of my hand. Up until recently, I’ve been spending my summers either at my ranger station or up in the mountains doing all that I can to keep our wilderness as pristine as possible. During a casual work hike back in May, my heart rate unexpectedly rose to 192 beats per minute… that’s more than 3 beats per second, and that’s not good! Long story short, I had to quit for the season to take care of my heart issue so that I can go back to rangering next season. Here’s what I’ve learned since quitting my dream job: 

1. My job shouldn’t define me, but it does.

Last year a retired wilderness ranger told me, “Once a wilderness ranger, always a wilderness ranger. It’s in our bones.” This is something I believe 100%. Wilderness is always on my mind. Since wilderness rangers are such an elite crew (there’s no more than 100 in California, one of the states with the most wilderness areas), we understand the work we do is priceless.

Protecting the last truly wild lands in America from the rest of the world is something we’ve been professionally trained to do, and we do it well. It’s weird to not be rangering anymore but it’s all just part of my journey. I’m proud of the work I’ve done and I’m not ashamed to say that I’m totally okay with my job defining me. 

2. I’ve had to find a serious balance in my life.

I wonder every day what important work I would be accomplishing if I were out in the mountains doing patrols rather than taking care of my health at home. I don’t usually feel like what I’m doing is important if it doesn’t involve the environment, but I’ve recently realized that’s not true. Because of this, I’ve learned to slow down and appreciate the smaller things.

A quiet sunset through the pines from my backyard, outdoor family dinners complete with me showing the kiddos all the neat things trees can do, and practicing yoga from the comfort of my own home rather than from my campsite. The balance I’ve found and the appreciation I’ve fostered for home would have taken a lot longer to discover had I spent all summer alone in the mountains.

10 Steps I Took to Land My Dream Job as a National Park Ranger | Photo: Jacob W. Frank

3. Friendships became stronger.

Since I haven’t spent all summer patrolling, I’ve had a lot more time on my hands. My friends have loved it- I’m actually available to spend time with them now! I’ve loved being able to show them how much I appreciate them and vice versa.

4. I’ve had to figure out my limits.

I’ve had to learn to appreciate my physical limitations and also how to push them so I can still do the things I love without suffering afterward. I’m much more in tune with what my body can handle, which is great because I’ve never been good at figuring that out.

5. My passion is stronger than it’s ever been.

Having a passion for protecting the wild places around me is pretty overwhelming because there’s just so many of these places. While being on medical leave, I’ve realized that there’s no way I would be able to care for these wild lands if it weren’t my number one passion. It’s just too much to handle for someone that doesn’t care enough. Learning how to speak for the trees is hard, and because of that it’s almost a lost language. That’s why I absolutely have to keep doing it and teaching others how to do the same.

These are just a few of the things I’ve learned after having to quit the best job in the world. Follow along on my Instagram @mirandaleconte for more stories from the wild!

Cover photo: Miranda Leconte

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