By Alumna Kate Mosher, Instructor Development Course
I was lost. I was no longer a child but I felt awkward in my new found adult-self. I felt uncertain of what my next steps in life should be and wanted some clarity. With some kind words of encouragement from a good friend, I reflected on the times in my life when I felt safe, happy, and flexible even when things were unclear. Those times all involved being in the woods alone with my thoughts, and days stretched out ahead of me without a true sense of time. That’s when I started to think about participating in an Outward Bound course; and not just any Outward Bound course, a 50-day expedition!
I was determined. I knew I needed time, and a lot of it. A long course scared me more than writing a thesis, not finding a job, or any other twenty-something problem. I wanted to be taken far away from my comfort zone and be challenged in ways that I never had been before. An extended course offered me this opportunity and I took it.
On the first night of my course, it was pouring rain. My pack felt like it weighed 500 pounds and my body was screaming at me to STOP hiking, drop the pack, and give up. As I hiked through the dark with a group of perfect strangers, I could not help but think, what have I done? However, there was something oh too familiar to that little voice inside of me, shouting to give up and go home. I realized it was the same voice that started me on this journey in the first place – whispering that there was something more, something meaningful for me to discover – and although I was scared, in pain, and most of all confused, I needed to stay the course.
This course was not all roses and sunshine, but, drawing upon that first night in the woods, feeling so alone and scared, gave me strength to continue on. There were many days that brought fear, joy, pain, and tears of both frustration and happiness. Those fragments of true emotion throughout the course, all made sense to me on the day of the “big run.”
I was not a runner. Running was limited to the confines of a terrible junior-high physical education class, worrying that I could never complete the dreaded 7-minute mile. The night before the personal challenge event my instructor pulled me aside to give me my final feedback for the course. He could see that I was nervous. Instead of going through his notes, he gave me a hug and said “You’re going to be great. You will do so much better than you think. You are in better shape mentally and physically than you were at the beginning and you know that you can do this.” That was what I needed – a reminder of what I had always known to be true – to silence that hesitant voice inside my head. As I came up that last hill of the run, I smiled to myself, it was at that moment that I knew I could do anything I dedicated myself to. In the woods of Western North Carolina, at that finish line, I recognized a missing piece of myself breaking through my comfort zone, and I was found.