The first day I started working at my job in the wilderness therapy program, I was ready to quit.
That night we slept under makeshift tarps. I stayed up for hours listening for hungry animals. Also, I walked into something prickly while having to go to the bathroom. This cholla, I soon discovered, grew all around me getting stuck in my hand and pack while loading up the next day.
Needless to say, I woke up tired, sore, and depressed.
This was a job I had been wanting to do for years and I wanted to quit right after the first day. And I thought, how pathetic is that?
Something that I’ve dreamed of doing for so long and I’m not strong enough to do it.
Why am I so weak?
Then we started hiking and I was done for. Lagging behind the rest of the group, exhausted, weighed down, I felt myself breaking. I had to sit down while everyone walked past.
What was wrong with me? Everyone looked perfectly fine as if they could go on for hours. I felt like I would shatter the next minute and it took all my strength not to crack.
One of my co-workers sat next to me and I told him I really needed a break which he said was fine. I don’t remember much from that conversation except telling him that I was afraid that I may not be able to do this. That I wasn’t strong enough and I felt foolish for even trying.
Well, he encouraged me to keep going. The first couple of weeks were always the hardest, but it would get easier. I nodded and breathed in deep. I wasn’t going to cry in the middle of a hike.
Then we pressed on, but I was invited to the front of the group. Another blow. This meant that I was the slowest hiker.
Could I really do this? Who was I fooling?
Anyways, the rest of that day was exhausting and I continued to worry if this was the right thing for me to do. But I didn’t want to give up. I couldn’t.
I don’t know if it was just my stubbornness, pride, or heart. But I wasn’t going to give up. Not yet.
The next day, we’re working on busting our first primitive fires. Already, a few of my colleagues had successfully made their own flame.
Once again, I seemed to be failing. Frustrated with myself, I had to put the task aside and work on something else.
My boss sat next to me and started to ask me some things about myself. What I liked to do, what I wanted to do with my life etc. etc. Eventually we got onto busting a coal. I can’t remember how it started, but I remember asking him this.
“Do you think I can do this? I’m just struggling for some reason.”
Implying the fears that had been dancing around in my head. That drew his attention. He explained that busting a coal was hard. That not everyone could do it. Inwardly I thought, “Yeah, tell that to everyone here.”
“I just don’t know if I can do this,” I said.
He looked at me with kind of this knowing smile.
“I think you’re stronger than you think you are.”
Those words jolted deep into my being.
“What makes you say that?”
Hah, his reasons came in the form of an analogy 🙂 A man who was stuck in a wheelchair finds out that he has the potential to walk again. Is it going to be easy for him? No, but is he capable of doing it? Absolutely.
But, he has to put in extra time and effort to make it possible. He’ll have to exercise, stretch, and work. It’s going to take more out of him than anyone else to be able to walk and, at first, he may not have the strength to do it. However, he is capable. He will walk if he chooses to do so.
My boss then smiled at me and said, “I know you can do it.”
The next day I busted my first coal. In moments, after careful blowing, it grew to a flame. I cried out with ecstatic joy and hugged my friends.
I had done it
For the next eight months I embarked on an incredible journey in the wilderness helping youth to find their seeds of greatness. I met so many amazing people who taught me so much. I grew a greater understanding of myself and the world around me.
It wasn’t easy. There were a lot of moments like my first weekend where I wondered. Could I really do this?
But I did.
From that experience, I know that each person who chases after their heart song will face challenges. They will face things that will make them think.
“I can’t do it.”
“I’m not strong enough.”
“It’s too much.”
But let me tell you what my boss and good friend told me.
I think you’re stronger than you think you are.