Wild Thing

Wild Thing

From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul

Wild Thing

Face the thing you fear, and you do away with that fear.

Source Unknown

With the wind biting my face and the rain soaking though my clothes, it didn’t seem like July. I watched a puddle form at the foot of my sleeping bag as the 10-foot plastic sheet jerry-rigged above me gave way to the wind. I hadn’t eaten for almost a day, and a rumble in my stomach demanded why I was in the Northern Cascades of Oregon—alone, soaked—in the first place. With two more days alone in the wilds ahead of me, I had plenty of time to think about that question.

I’d always been impressed by people who had been in Outward Bound, basically because I’d always lumped myself in the I-could-never-do-that category. For one thing, I just assumed I was too small and urban; I’m no granola. I also wasn’t a big risk-taker. I’d always relied a lot on my family, friends and boyfriend, and I evaluated myself on how well I met their expectations of me.

Signing up for an Outward Bound course the summer after my junior year in high school was a chance to break away from that. After all, the courses are described as “adventure-based education programs that promote self-discovery through tough, outdoor activities.” Exactly what I needed; I’d be facing challenges away from my usual supporters. As the starting date approached, though, I became increasingly terrified. I’d never attempted mountain climbing, white-water rafting, backpacking, rappelling or rock climbing, and I was plagued by fears that I’d fail at one or all of them. I begged my mother to cancel for me. No such luck.

I shouldn’t haveworried somuch. Formost of the people on the course, it was their first time with Outward Bound, too. Then again, the course was pretty hard because I had to adjust to a different way of day-to-day living.

For starters, I’ve always been a big fan of showers. I usually take one a day, and it was tough to forgo this ritual for three weeks. I also never realized how handy toilets were until they disappeared from my life, toilet paper and all. (We used leaves and snow.) On the whole, though, these inconveniences seemed less important as the course progressed. Besides, I was far too busy to sit around and watch my leg hair grow.

The first week, my group rafted 100 miles down the Deschutes River. I was soaked, shocked and exhilarated. Then we climbed Mount Jefferson, the second highest peak in Oregon. Every time I gazed at that snowy, 10,000-foot peak, I felt a combination of panic and delight. The delight faded, however, the first time I strapped on my backpack. It was so heavy that I needed someone to help me put it on. And then I could barely walk in a straight line. Eventually, I got the hang of it and could actually feel myself getting stronger. Somehow we made it up Mount Jefferson in five days. At the peak, I decided I could do anything I set my mind to, which was good since the solo component of my course—that three-day bonding session with myself—was next.

For solo, my instructors dropped me off in a clearing in the woods with very little equipment and minimal food. I was alone with a pencil, some paper and my thoughts. Sure, I was bored at first and a little scared, but honestly, it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. I realized how little time I actually spent alone, and I kind of enjoyed my own company.

Overall, during the three weeks of my course, I became a new woman. I discovered parts of myself that I had no idea existed. I can’t even count the times that I thought I couldn’t give anymore, and somehowI’d find the strength to carry out the task at hand, and carry it out well. I loved that feeling, and I didn’t lose it. Back home, my grades soared with this realization that personal limits didn’t have to exist unless I let them.

My experiences with Outward Bound are invaluable, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up my dreams of a career (and modern plumbing) and live in the woods. I will, however, forever be grateful for what I got out of the course: Before I went I always thought, I can’t do this. Now I think, I’m not afraid to try.

Jennifer Philbin

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