When I reflect on the past few years, I think that people probably could have pushed me to become healthier, more active and a little braver. Nothing would have been meaningful or long-lasting unless I chose to make the change. On my own. By myself. Without reservation. Even though support and love from those around me have been fundamental to my success, I have to want this for myself. Really, really badly.
As a young girl, I attended Camp Blue Bay in East Hampton and probably took the opportunity for granted. I was a good camper. I listened to my counselors and willingly participated in all activities. I did not mind cleaning duty on the job rotation and ate peanut butter sandwiches for every meal the entire week without a single complaint. Although I enjoyed the sports and activities at camp, I do not think much of the more important lessons of the experience stayed with me as I went through adolescence and became an adult. Luckily, I had the opportunity to go to camp again.
At the end of October, I accompanied my fifth grade students to The Outdoor School in the Hill Country just outside of Austin in Marble Falls, TX. The overnight camp uniquely blended the opportunity for personal growth with an educational curriculum for our students. In addition, the scenery was beautiful and it provided me with a unique bonding experience with my students.
Everyone should stop reading this right now. Put down your coffee, get off the internet and go to camp. Seriously. It is a magical place. There were so many life lessons that the camp educators tried to communicate with and instill upon the students. I know the fifth graders enjoyed themselves, but I do not know if they realized the value of the hidden curriculum of the camp. In many ways, they were just like me when I went to camp almost two decades ago. Scary.
I am so grateful I was afforded the opportunity to go to camp again. I tried new things and pushed myself in ways I never had before. I was an active participant in all camp activities, not just a teacher chaperone. I left my inhibitions at the camp gate and dove right in, just like one of the kids. It was a truly liberating experience. I was brave. I had no fear. I swam with my students in the lake - in a bathing suit. I stood tall, and took risks. Water slides? No problem. Rope swing? Bring it! I even impressed the cute, young counselor.
The proudest and most amazing experience of the week for me was climbing the rock wall. I had never done this type of activity before. I rocked that harness (not a good look), set a goal (to the top, of course), punched fear in the face and said, belay on! It was so great to hear everyone on the ground cheering for me. No one knew how significant this moment was for me other than myself and Deb. When I came down from the wall, I was very emotional. I was shaking and felt so proud of myself. I was so fortunate to be able to share this moment with her and hug it out. She has been cheering me on this journey since day one.
A year ago, I never would have done any of these things. In fact, I probably would not have even agreed to go to camp. I was too scared. Too weak. I was hiding behind the person I was not ready to be yet. I am not sure exactly what the defining moment was that pushed me to make a change. I will not give anyone else the satisfaction or credit for pushing me. It was all me and I am owning it. Yes, I have help and support, but ultimately this is up to me. I took the first step, and continue to take steps every day toward my goals. I urge everyone, whether on a journey or not, to start living. Right now. Don't hold back. There is not better time than right now.