Another Letter from my Daughter

My daughter moved to Tennessee a month ago to work on a livestock ranch. I asked her if she could write about what she’s been doing, and this is what she sent back. She’s worried it’s a bit all over the place, but what she’s feeling is something that might have been or might be true for many of you too!

Hello all,

In case you didn’t know (which you likely didn’t since I’ve only met a handful of you), I moved away from home and out east to Tennessee about four weeks ago to a new job/internship on a cattle ranch. Long story short, I want to become a livestock veterinarian, and starting work on the farm was not just a step in that path but also a kind of checkpoint, a way to experience and reflect upon whether working with animals, living in a rural area, and interacting with other ranchers and farmers was the kind of life I want to ultimately lead. The answer to that is still complicated and unclear, and perhaps being here has actually raised more questions than it’s answered - likely because the dream has gone from being an simple abstraction in my head to a reality that is still continuing to unfold out to all its trailing ends.

Long work days are generally followed by online class and school work and then a phone call home before I go to bed. I struggle to encompass what I’ve been up to, the kind of people I’ve met, and the way my life is unfolding in these twenty minute FaceTime conversations with my family. … which is why my mom asked me to write this blog for her, because she thought I could say more than she could about my experience. Well, therein lies the problem. How do I write in a blog post what I can’t even express in the accumulation of hours of phone conversation?

And so here I am, kind of stuck. And the only thing I can think is this: that the stories of my time here - the lessons learned, things realized, encounters with others - can only be told candidly and confidently after I’ve spent a great deal more time here. I need to feel that I belong here, and that I understand (and am understood) instead of just observing the people who have so generously taken me under their wing in order to reach a place where I can speak either of them or of myself. And that feeling is the feeling that is guiding me most right now. The longing to actually invest myself before I talk about that investment (instead of the other way around) tells me that, in reference to what I said in the beginning, I’m interested in the reality and all its trailing ends far more than I am interested in the abstract of that reality. I think that the moment reality becomes worth something far more than the dream is not just an indicator that you’re on the right path, but I hope an indicator of some internal growth as well. I think it’s a process that any person who actually finds a passion for something, whether it's baking or caring for animals or becoming a teacher, undergoes: a process where you have to disappear for a while because you have to find what creates you inside yourself before you ever dare to write about it or speak about it or teach about it.

And I think about my mom and the kind of work she does now. She loves it, and it’s hard work, but it gives her life. The only reason she writes so openly and readily to you all each month about her work and her life is because she’s spent a long time living what’s true to her without telling others about it. The people she writes about too - her parents, her friends, the people she works with - are represented not just as good people, or as role models, but as those she loves and cherishes. And that’s just it. You have to just live before you can talk about living.

And so I’m sorry, mom, that I am not yet able to talk about everything I’ve been learning and feeling. If I do this right, I’ll get there, and perhaps then I will be able to write a letter she wanted me to write and that I will also want to and be able to write. But for now, I am for the most part silent. What I will say are little things I’ve learned in the past couple weeks. I hope you enjoy.

  1. The label “free-range” doesn’t actually mean all that much. Free range animals can be labeled as such if they are kept in an asphalt parking lot. The label