Deep within the Sierra Nevada, there exists a rock whose superior ergonomic form would cause even the most accomplished designers to turn green with envy. Standing just below hip-height, its smooth, indented center gently slopes upwards at an ideal angle on either side, creating a shape that conforms to the contours of the body better than any memory-foam. During the twenty-four hour solo I spent in the mountains while backpacking with Outward Bound, this rock anchored me.
I spent hours absorbing heat from this granite surface, sunbathing in the pure mountain air. That day, I was a lizard.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Because I just returned from above the tree line, I was dizzy with the fresh smell of spring dirt and pine absent from the Sierra’s slate-covered peaks. I breathed in the comparably thick oxygen of the lower altitude, feeling strong and restored after the trip’s strenuous physical demands.
I felt no stress. I was not subject to the tyranny of a schedule or to the effort of navigating group dynamics. I was free from any thoughts of work, drama, and the anxiety of beginning a new year full of unknowns. Sitting on that rock in the sun with no obligations, drinking spring water flavored with iodine and “lemonade” electrolytes, I could not imagine anyone more at peace with the world.
My instructions were to have “no distractions” during the solo: no camera, no talking, no meals. A stubby, four-inch pencil and a dirt-covered journal, two objects deemed innocuous, engaged me for hours. During the day, I perched on my rock writing a letter to myself. I used my time alone to do what I love – record and reflect. This time in solitude gave me enough space to contemplate my life’s direction away from any influence of friends, family, and school. It provided a chance to reflect on my strengths and my imperfections, on things I felt proud of and things I wanted to change. During those twenty-four hours, I realized that I keep myself good company. I grew more comfortable in my independence.
It was not until after I returned to my school-year routine that I realized the trip’s affects on me. I did not feel anxious about classes beginning, even though I knew my close friends would not share my schedule. I no longer went to the bathroom in a “pack,” as teenage girls are ought to do, and I felt more confident overall in academic and social settings. My time in the mountains served as a catalyst for a new sense of independence, and it allowed me to return to the “real world” with a refreshed spirit. I keep this sprit with me always, so that whenever I feel stressed or upset, I can return to where my happiness is anchored 7,000 feet above sea level on the most perfect rock.
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