I can't ultimately change the way I am, nor do I want to. But this trip — it opened my eyes to a side of myself, one I was unaware of. Previously satisfied with living in my room, closed off and confined, I would classify myself as a hermit. Soon enough, opportunity came knocking — literally. My father came presenting an experience, one that at first I was skeptical and reluctant towards, but once revealing itself, I can proudly say I don't regret a moment on my hiking trip in the North Carolina Pisgah Forrest.
Holding back the tears in the airport, I said goodbye to my mother and father. I could have sworn I saw a tear pooling in my dad's eye, but I shrugged it off, knowing he would die before he admitted he was sad to see me go. My father and I shared that quality. The problem was that both our faces spoke what our mouths didn't. The plane ride was routine — one measly drink and then a large book of word searches to keep my hands occupied and my mind sane. I had just signed up for a two week trip to North Carolina with a company called 'Outward Bound,' specializing in teaching leadership and character building. I'd be sleeping under a tarp every night, braving the bugs and bears, and living in the wilderness.
I remember the first thought that crossed my mind when Dad told me he'd been looking into it. "Great, he thinks I need a lifestyle change."
And to be quite frank, I did. I knew I did. I just didn't want to admit it. I wanted to stay a recluse forever, hiding away under the warm covers in my big bed. I was safe there — in my comfort zone.
I arrived in North Carolina, and after being introduced to my fellow crew who I admittedly immediately judged, I suddenly felt much more at ease. It became clear to me that everyone was out of there element. For me, I found the physical aspects of the trip to be most challenging, while others dealt with overcoming other obstacles. I remember the day I thought I'd sealed my fate, becoming the 'pace setter' because I was slowes -t- I constantly told myself I was going to fail. Overwhelmed is a good word to describe the beginning of the course, but over time, I grew to not doubt myself so much, and realized that my crew needed me to realize my potential, and also wanted me to.
Suddenly, hiking eight miles seemed significantly easier — cooking dinner on a portable stove the size of my fist was manageable, along with the other tasks. All my pre-concieved notions and judgements had vanished. There was no better place to realize the true inner beauty of someone than there was in a deserted forest filled with green perfection I once viewed as ominous and terrifying. My teammates helped me realize I was important, and that evoking a sense of leadership was expected of me. I was so used to sitting back and being lazy, this was my biggest obstacle by far. But I completed it all, and by the end I can say I am proud I accomplished this and fought through the pain and blisters, because the outcome was confidence in my abilities, lifelong friends, wonderful experiences, and a new sense of self worth.
Outward Bound changed my life, and as I reflect on it now, I feel like I'm reliving it all over again, all the triumphs and laughs and lessons learned — and I couldn't be more pleased.
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