An Independent Challenge By: Sandra Campbell
As far back as I can remember, I have always tried to practice being independent. I
would try to mentally prepare myself to be able to form good habits, make good decisions
and to become more responsible. The first time my independence has truly been tested,
was my first extended time away from all my friends and family. I will never forget this
At my school, there was a full paying scholarship to a wilderness course available.
The first time I was introduced to this scholarship, was at a school assembly. Soon after, I
knew that this was the perfect opportunity to practice my independence away from my
family and friends. All I needed to do was to write a wining essay. I spent all weekend
and even went to Saturday school writing it. Eventually, with all that hard work paid
off, I won the scholarship. The day I found out was the happiest day of the year for me,
besides Christmas. The funny thing was that I didn’t have a clue as to what suffering I
was going to go through.
A few months later, with lots of physical and mental conditioning, I felt
confident that I was ready to leave. Even the night before I had to leave, I didn’t have any
fear or nervousness. It wasn’t until I hugged my mom and sister good-bye at the airport
gate, that I felt a bit of uneasiness. By the I time took a seat on the small airplane, my
hands were shaking. I also realized then that I had never flown in a airplane alone. Good
thing the ride was going to be short.
When I arrived at the Bend airport, I met up with a small group of about 10 other
people around my age. We all gathered on a white bus that read “Outward Bound” on the
sides in blue letters. The bus ride seemed to be the shortest two hour drive that I have ever
been on. When we arrived at the river, we put on PFDs and started to do the whole rafting
thing. Afterwards, we carried our river clothes to our camp area for that night. The
instructors taught us all the campsite responsibilities and tasks in order for us to get our
basic needs met every day in the wilderness.
The first lesson was about responsibility. When I was setting up a stove for my
cook group alone, I had to use this weird lighter. I had never had to use a lighter besides
matchboxes and the ones were you just pressed the button and it lights. In order for me to
properly light the stove without causing a ball of flame to go everywhere, I had to light it
quickly. I eventually figured it out and lit it up. If I had left the gas by itself to let
someone else deal with it, it could of caused a big fire for that person later. I learned that
it is really important that I finished each daily task thoroughly, or there could be problems
for myself or others later.
The scariest thing that happened on the river, happened when I was the
captain for my raft group on a Class four rapid. Everything was going great, and we were
heading toward the rapid perfectly, until my group started to play around and splash
water at each other, making us turn to the rapid. We were going sideways and couldn’t
change until we were already entered. Every body went into a great panic. The raft bent
completely in half (Within this large “Hole” which is a natural swoop that comes after a
large rock). Two people in front were tossed up by the leading end because of the bend,
and landed on top of the other two behind them. If I had a better habit of telling the group
to pay attention and keep paddling, we wouldn’t had gone through such trouble. Me and
the two who were still seated paddled really fast and in confusion because we didn’t
know what just hit us. We eventually straightened out and went through the rest of the
way, all together because of the wake up call. I learned quickly that I have to get in the
habit of controlling a group of people with my voice and not just with body language. I
had learned that good habits are vital even if they may not seem that important.
Toward the end of the river part of the course, we were required to go down a
rapid on our backs. Of course I was afraid to do this, but I eventually got over the fear and
Just pushed my self anyways. They told us to swim out to the middle of the river at one
spot, and let our selves float down to a smaller constriction between two boulders. By the
time I could see over the humongous rocks, I was trembling, mostly because the water
was freezing, but also because the drop was like five feet and I could see the rapids up
ahead. Before I knew it, I was in the mess of it, getting tossed around and dunked in and
out of the rapids, hardly catching any breath when my head was above water. At the end,
they told us to flip over and swim to the side, but I swallowed water and was too
distracted to remember. So I went down river for a few minutes, trying to fight the current
to the side they told us to go towards. But while I was swimming, I noticed a strainer
close by me (A strainer is an obstacle from the side of the river, sticking out into the-
water), so I thought that if I could just grab hold of it, I could wait for the instructors to
pick me up. I let myself down toward it a bit. When I got closer, I realized there was an
undercut rock right in front of it and quickly turned and tried to swim away. If I had not
noticed it or not have recognized it, I would have gotten pinned under it and drowned. I
swam enough time for the instructor to ring the raft towards me so I could hop on.
Because of the decision I made, I could have accidentally killed myself, but because of
the counter reaction that I have made, I saved myself. I learned then to make important
decisions based on my own wisdom and knowledge.
After I came home, and from all the experiences in the river part alone, I have
became cultivated in this whole new part of independence that I haven’t even known
about. I have became so much better at responsibility, decision making, and
being able to form good habits.