Cabin in the Woods

The 20s are all about challenging yourself. Experience can go a long way. There are some things you don't need to try to know that you won't like them while there are others you could do to dabble with before writing them off. College is all about experimentation. All those alleged "phases" and "benders" people go on come with good reason, simply that it's time to decide for yourself what you want to include in your life. It's good to push yourself outside your comfort zone every once in while to remind yourself you're alive. Play it self and you might just end up stranded in a cabin in the woods (figuratively and literally).

Serving as a peer advisor for the bridge program I'm taking part in has definitely been a formative experience for me. The students are may share some similar identities but how they exemplify them speaks volumes about how we are intersections of not only the identities we hold but our experiences. They are such individuals (as they should be). This past weekend we had planned on going camping but what actually happened was something truly memorable. I rolled out of bed Saturday morning groggy from a long night of Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video (finishing up season 3 of Melissa & Joey and Are You the One aka Perfect Match from MTV). I hit the shower and met up with one of the students, Warrick, to catch a bus downtown to be basic as hell and acquire Starbucks drinks and food from Dunkin' Donuts. We ventured back up to campus and soon all 19 of us were packing up into the two sketchy vans (like To Catch a Predator level) and hitting the road. I was swamped with the sleeping pads and had 5SOS's debut album on repeat. Soon we arrived and it was time to determine how the stay there would be. Honestly, camping (or anything outdoor oriented to be real) takes me so far out of my comfort zone it'd be like Ryan Lochte and Joe Biden trading places for a day. My childhood consisted of frequent trips to the library, painting landscapes, TV/movies, video games, and a whole helluva lot of writing so the outdoor life wasn't for me. It was catching up to me but I made up my mind that I was going to have to a good time and embrace my surroundings (I wouldn't be Al Gore status tree-hugging but I'd not only but thrive nonetheless). All of us mobilized to prep the cabin for our inhabitance and then split up into the board gamers and the hikers; guess which one I was part of? I spent a portion of my afternoon drifting in and out of sleep lying in a sleeping bag in a wooden cabin straight out of the antebellum era of American history. Somehow I ended up in a heated game of Egyptian ratscrew (does that game even have a proper name?) with some of the students, Williams, Valeria, and Jordan that was complete with Blue Mountain State-esque taunting, juggernaut hand-slapping, and the Flash speed. The more adventurous bunch returned from their mountain climbing and headed down to the swimming hole but soon returned to the shelter of the cabin as the heavens opened up and rained thick splotchy drops upon us. I would have guessed the rain would put a damper (wow, I'm on my game with these double-entendres) on the whole experience but no one complained. We embraced our situation and prepared to hunker down at the cabin in the woods.

Being able to witness other people push themselves further than they had even been, face some of their biggest fears, and show maturity is such an impactful experience. I feel like working with other people and seeing their growth gives you so much energy and empowers you to do the same. You can never forget being woken up by blood-curdling screams and heavy footsteps in the middle of nowhere without cell service. It sounds like the premise to like every horror movie/thriller ever. A mouse was on the loose in the cabin and people were flipping the hell out. I missed the majority of the commotion but seeing people's reactions was very telling. Dinner time came around and I picked up a broom to sweep other crunchy amber-brown leaves, finely powdered dirt, and mouse droppings outdoors while others prepped and cooked a hearty meal. It was great to see the students like Darrick and Bayla, contributing positively to our collective space and taking ownership of their tasks. Dinner was served and we all sat together on benches and surrounding chairs (I was on the stairs #rebelforlife). The rain subsided so with the leadership of Monika, Daniel, and Cam, a campfire was started. That right there impressed the hell out of me, like who casually just knows how to do that. It was so cool to hear about the three of them demonstrating acquired skills for the benefit of our group. Most people came out to roast golden brown perfected marshmallows, melt gooey milk chocolate, and create delectably campy s'mores. The chaos of everyone yelling over one another, demanding items instead of asking, and messing around the fire turned me off a bit I have to admit. I'm a person who like's organization, justice, and equitable opportunities so I mandated a designed s'more creation station before departing for the woods to take my first ever outdoor piss. Tensions were high and the atmosphere had definitely changed for the less than benign when I returned to the kitchen. I witnessed some mincing of words and did my best to quickly diffuse the situation (Jeremy Renner where are you when I need you). We moved on to games facilitated by Warrick, and Williams for a few hours. It was gut-wrenchingly hilarious to watch people struggle to try and catch on to subtle tricks. Midnight rolled around and it was time to turn down.

Hell yeah, that cabin in the woods was scary as all hell. I've seen those slasher movies, and I'm likely to get axed. Some of the students thought it would be funny to mess with us and you know I was terrified the entire time. I'm not a fan at all of scary movies and all those scenes of people being dragged, mangled, or yelling into the void pitch blackness of the forest were getting to me. You know my ass prayed to God like never before. I was the last one up so I turned off the gas mantle lights and made my way gingerly to my sleeping bag. I knew it was going to be an eventful night. After tuning out some giggling and heavy snoring (like Bill Cosby as "Heathcliff Huxtable" on the Cosby Show) I was able to get some shut eye. I vividly remember waking up and by the light of my still playing iPod touch realizing I'd moved off my sleeping pad and was encroaching upon Cam's personal space. Morning came to soon and if I tell you my back was not having it, I mean it. I was second to last to make it down to breakfast but seeing the group come together to provide for one another was awesome. We started the cleanup process and every helped out which made it unbelievably speedy (aka they wanted to peace the heck out). We had a little bit of trouble resecuring the place but all of the staff members kept their cool and we figured it out. It was back to campus where we unloaded all the borrow equipment and supplies before going about our Sundays.

All in all it was a great trip. The positive attitude and willingness from others to try new things made it easy for me to do things I wouldn't normally do. The staff I work with truly is some of the most selfless people I've ever had the privilege of encountering and they showcased their unrelenting willingness to serve others through the entirety of the trip. Cat, Enmy, Ying, and Jackie all gave more of themselves than ever before and I know our students were reflecting the major energy we gave them.  I think I did more than hide my fears but questioned why I even had them and whether or not they were valid. I was able to experience something wholeheartedly and be fully present, engaged, and dynamic as necessary. It was good to know that I was more capable than I ever thought. Going camping and actually enjoying it made me realize that there is more for me to explore and understand about myself before I settle in my ways. It's cool to know that there is more to me that I don't even know and to figure out that I am still capable of learning new things, changing, and surprising myself. The cabin in the woods is only as scary as you imagine it to be. Challenge your fears and conquer them instead of the other way around. You may just very well end up becoming enamored with what you discover about yourself.

My blog post question for the day is ... what's something you've never done but want to in your lifetime? I think I want to go up in a hot air balloon. I'm deathly afraid of heights but I think I would really enjoy it once I got over being afraid.

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