Thursday, July 14, 2011

Climbing Over That Wall

Waking up in time to be at the ropes course was surprisingly difficult for me. It was even more difficult to get out of the comfortable charter bus after a 45 minute ride. However, as I stepped outside my feelings started to change. I was immediately encountered with the beauty of where we were; the green lush forest bordered by the beach of the Atlantic Ocean. I then saw some tents, and learned that Brown students studying the environment lived there. This definitely caught my attention, because of my love for the outdoors and the great experiences that you have when you live in this kind of setting, away from the “real world”.
We soon got in (yet another) leadership circle, but instead of just the Women and Leadership class it was half of the leadership institute. We did some ice breakers as a warm up, and through one of them I was able to meet a Brown student who was helping out with the ropes course. After talking to him for a bit, I found out that he knew Kiana Ward, a former ILC Women and Leadership student and a current Brown Student, who I went to high school with. After the ice breaker we divided into groups and I, along with half of the Women and Leadership class, prepared to go into the woods with bug spray, water, and tick-repelling neon green bandanas.
The ropes course activities were challenging both physically and mentally. Through the first one, I learned how I am slightly more of a goal-oriented leader than a process leader. I learned the dangers of focusing too much on your goal, including forgetting your values and not considering the other people involved in the process.
It was also great to see how our group overcame their fears. We had many challenging activities, including climbing through a mock “spider web” without touching it and “waking the spider”, climbing over a 12 foot wall, and many more (that I have to admit are difficult to describe). Many girls felt unsure that they would physically be able to perform the task, trust the other girls with being able to lift or carry them, or were afraid of heights. One of the girls, who was born and raised in Brooklyn and never travelled outside of the city, was also very uncomfortable with being in nature. But by the end of the process, every girl seemed to overcome their fears, feel confident with themselves, and trust the other girls. I learned the power of support and encouragement, and how building others’ confidence can increase productivity and help a group reach its goals.
At noon, we were all given bag lunches and then walked to the beach to eat. We played with crabs, took pictures with each other, and ran around like little kids. It was almost impossible to imagine that this group of girls had only known each other for four days. At one point, I sat on a rock by myself looking at the ocean, and realized how beautiful and perfect being in that moment was. I felt so incredibly lucky to be having this experience, to be with such amazing people, and to be learning so much.
Climbing over the 12-foot wall had the biggest impact on me. When I saw how tall it was, how short I was, and how there was nothing to grab, I truly thought it was an impossible task. However, by seeing others approach the challenge and succeed, I quickly became confident that I would be able to do it as well. Getting over the wall was just like achieving any goal. The goal was simple –get over the wall. The obstacle was intimidating –it was a twelve foot wall and I am just over five feet tall. However, I knew that I had girls people standing on the other side that I could look up to, that I could reach for and that would help pull me up. I also had girls underneath to support me and to literally keep pushing me if I felt like quitting. And with this, getting over that wall, just like getting over any obstacle, didn’t seem to be impossible. And when I succeeded at reaching this goal, it was the best thing in the world.
We all came back “home” mentally and physically exhausted. However, this didn’t stop me from attending a presentation on writing the college admissions essay. It was a short presentation, but very informative. I learned more about how competitive getting into college was, and how much more competitive it is for my generation than for my parents. I also learned who college admissions officers are and what their schedule looks like, and how this can cause them to lack enthusiasm when reading applications. I learned what they are looking for, what “deadly” essay topics are, and how they rate you. I have to admit that this was incredibly intimidating to me, and was a definite check to my new-found confidence. Nevertheless, I know that even if I don’t get into my top choice, I know that I can make the best of wherever I end up.

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