Over 50 miles from the nearest gas station and a five-day paddle from any sort of infrastructure, I stepped out of the canoe, waved good-bye to my fellow "leaders in training" and entered the unknown. Armed with my pocket knife, a tarp, 20 feet of rope, a fishing rod, a Bible, a journal, my sleeping bag, clothes, water, an apple and two granola bars, I suddenly realized that for the next 48 hours, these would be my only companions. As I stood on the shoreline, staring into the decomposing forest of Northern Quebec, with the sun setting on my back, I was frozen and irritated. Swatting at swarms of no-see-ums and mosquitoes, I wondered, Whose idea was this anyway? What benefit is there to spending two days alone with nothing but trees and bugs?
Awakening the next morning to a soaked sleeping bag and pummeling rain only heightened my discontent, yet it was under these conditions that I was able to clearly examine my life in a way I never had before. As my solo experience took its course, the saying "The quieter you become, the more you can hear" took on a whole new meaning.
I had been in the wilderness before; most of my summer had been spent outdoors climbing mountains and growing in a group dynamic. But being here alone, removed from every distraction in such a remote place, had a completely different effect. What started as a seemingly pointless and agitating proposition transformed into a beneficial one that I knew I would take full advantage of. So, instead of sitting under the tarp brooding about my misfortune and cursing the rain, I made the most of it. Every difficulty that came my way, I took on with impassioned vigor. When it started to rain and I got wet because I hadn't set up my tarp correctly, it was my fault. There was no one else to blame. The realization that I was responsible for controlling all time and action and overcoming all conflict had an immediate effect. Consequently, as I went about my day reading, fishing and writing, I underwent some serious introspection. As a result I began to see myself as an individual adept at overcoming challenges of any environment.
As I came to see my own power and potential, I also found myself examining the many relationships and people who have graced my life. From family to friends, away from the everyday hustle and bustle of life, appraisal and investigation of how my actions affected both their lives and mine became increasingly natural.
As the hours wore on, my stomach started to growl, and discomfort reached an all-time high. Oddly, though, things became clearer. The adversity had in fact spawned a growth process, one that would stick with me and equip me with a new sense of individuality and awareness of my role as a human being. And although I was miserable, hungry and irritated at the time, looking back, I cherish those moments to myself huddled in a soaked sleeping bag in the middle of nowhere.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.