By Morgan Kinniry

If we have crossed paths in any capacity over the past calendar year, then you probably know that last summer I was an undergraduate research assistant for Dr. Kloepper’s summer field trip to the bat caves in New Mexico—and LOVED every minute of it. When I got back from the field, I got such a rush out of sharing experiences I had in the field, or the current work the bat data was bringing me to at the time whether that was a conference, a Bat Lab outing, or senior comprehensive work. I was a woman charmed by the bats.

As the school year went on, my senior comprehensive work drew to a close, and it seemed as if the field trip to New Mexico and time in the BatLab would begin to become a memory. I had my sights set on grad school and graduation. However, life had other plans. Soon enough, I found myself with a shiny new bachelor’s degree and a year of free time! While I tried to make sense of the whirlwind of transitions beginning in my own life, the opportunity arose from Dr. Kloepper for me to join the Bat Belles to their Summer 2018 field trip. Without any hesitation, I knew that was where I was supposed to be and signed on for a second summer in New Mexico. I was given a gift few can claim—a second chance.

The entire experience of having a second chance to experience a place that holds such meaning and had impact on me a year ago has been so surreal. I am able to witness things that I once thought I would never see again. A year ago, all of the New Mexican experiences I had were a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity. Yet somehow, I found myself getting to experience another cross country road trip, another stay at the ranch, another bat emergence, another buffalo encounter, another green chili cheeseburger, another mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Hope, another desert sunset, and another starry night sky. Life has a funny yet remarkable way of working out this way and sometimes it’s as if the next right move falls right into your lap. To add to this joy, I also get to experience the amazement and wonder in the eyes of Kate and Lily who are experiencing this for the first time.

Amid all of the pressures of young adult life that come with being a new college graduate, time in New Mexico away from the “real world” doing something I truly love and enjoy has given me the clarity of mind to recognize an important perspective: life should be spent pursuing the experiences that bring joy. This has been particularly meaningful to me at a time where the pressure is on to chase the “right” post-grad moves that our culture of comparison seems to direct me towards. So many things seem to get in the way of this simple truth.

Luckily, each night as I look up at the bats taking flight, I am remembered in a spectacular way to embrace the moment, enjoy where I am, and forge fearlessly ahead to wherever life takes me next.