Dear future students,
The reality we’re living is one that not many of us could have imagined for 2020. Whether it was looking forward to traveling or graduating with friends, we’ve been challenged to cope with extreme stress in varying aspects of our lives. And that stress comes about differently for everyone. Instead of shutting down, lashing out or hiding away, we’ve looked forward and sat in the uncomfortable spaces with one another.
This year it feels like we all went ‘Outward Bound’ in a sense—whether we were ready or not—because this has been far from what we expected. It’s teaching us a lot—lessons we may not even have been hoping for or seeking. While it’s not as fun as an Outward Bound course, we recognize that this experience can bring us closer together and bring about change that’s long overdue. We’ve had to physically pause our lives when stay-at-home ordinances came out. It has challenged us to think about our time differently. We’ve questioned our work, our systems, our communities, our hobbies. Some of us have turned into embroiderers, bakers, musicians, bikers, builders. This time has given us the reflection that we need but often do not prioritize. And after the dust has settled, I hope that we can start to prioritize the things we took for granted or neglected for ourselves.
This is the time to reflect. We’ve experienced plenty of hardship this year, but we can remember what the rewards have been for us, too. Maybe you’ve graduated college (not like we had hoped), but still—what a milestone. Right now, the little things are all we have to celebrate, and this past year has been a hard, but necessary reminder that it’s the little things that make the biggest difference.
Being away from family and close friends can often be the most difficult thing to get used to when you go on an expedition, but the distance away makes you appreciate them more. You can’t wait for a home-cooked meal when you’re home, a hug from your family or to laugh with your friends. Being away makes you more grateful for them, but if you’re at home with loved ones right now because of COVID, be grateful that you have that time with them. We’re grateful that you’re at home, safe and with people you love.
Love and respect for your family are met with frustration and annoyance too. We all need a break and some time away. The close proximity of quarantine probably had someone’s blood boiling at one point or another. That’s family, right? That experience is similar to being on a course, except your family are replaced by strangers and your house is the wilderness. You’ll get frustrated with people, but that’s what it’s all about. It’s learning how to deal appropriately and positively with those frustrations. And no matter what, at the end of the day, you still love them. I promise that will happen for you on your course, too, and you’ll leave calling those strangers your second family, and you’ll feel something close to, if not love for them.
Outward Bound is nothing without community. And the lack of face-to-face, genuine interaction isn’t an easy void to fill. We may be feeling on edge or unsettled because we’re lacking love, community, purpose. It’s still there though, we just have to be accepting of it in small doses. Our roommates, family and neighbors are our community. Where we put energy is our community. What makes Outward Bound special is the community—which is fostered by its students—and know we’re waiting for you. We hope you’re recognizing the importance of community and spending time in whatever ways feel worthwhile to you investing in yours. It’s meaningful, even if it’s small. Because remember, it’s those things that count. Outward Bound courses can last from five to 80 days, but in the grand scheme of life, that’s such a small amount of time. So then why do students feel that was a pinnacle of their life? It’s because that time away created lasting change.
There’s nothing more beautiful than our immediate surroundings. That’s why we choose to be outside for a living. But trust me when I say, we do it for the people, the community, our students. It doesn’t matter where you are, where you started, where you’ll end. It’s the people that make the journey worthwhile. It’s the experience you have with yourself and others in those rigorous wilderness environments that make you remember your course—every little detail. It’s the simplicity that nature instills within us, even during a storm. We learn to control what we can, to let go of what we can’t, to find beauty around every corner, to appreciate things for what they are. You’re the reason we do our job, and this summer we had to put that on pause. But that doesn’t mean we’re not thinking about you. We’re confident, even if we haven’t met you, that you have the potential to create something meaningful, the power to positively influence others.
“Enjoy the little things in life because one day you`ll look back and realize they were the big things.” –Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
The stress from COVID has led me to be more patient and compassionate towards my peers. The exposure of political disharmony and protests regarding racial injustices are challenging me to think about how my actions/inactions play into the bigger picture. I’m setting aside time to educate myself about things I didn’t know, dedicate time to causes I care about and recognize that not going on courses this summer was an opportunity to change perspective and direction, if only for a little while.
While imagining next summer may seem far away, we hope to see you. We could all benefit from the intimacy and authenticity that nature demands of us. It’ll be worthwhile.
I hope you can take care of yourself during this time. Pause for a minute, research and educate yourself on movements and causes that matter to you. Stand up for yourself and what you believe. Take care of your loved ones, appreciate the day for what it is and try new things.
Whatever you’ve been experiencing these past few months, you’ll learn something from it, and we hope that within the year you are kind to yourself, embrace the unknown, change for the better, challenge others to do the same, and celebrate the little things. Reflect on the big things, and do things that make yourself and your community better. We hope to see you soon.
About the Author
Blaine Weiss is an outdoor Instructor who works primarily with the Intercept program of the North Carolina Outward Bound School. With a background in film and writing, she seizes the opportunity to fuse her interests in the creative arts with her love of the outdoors.
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