October 10, 2011
By , Madison, NJ
“As I dodge the rocks on the travel-beaten path, I let my steps fall heavy and my pack settle back. I am moving forward but moving blindly all the same. Mind blank, my attention wanders as my feet fall into a rhythm: step, step, followed by another step”
Excerpt from journal

The summer of my sophomore year, I applied to attend a leadership course called Outward Bound. Isolated in the wilderness with ten other kids from around New Jersey, we hiked the Appalachian Mountains and canoed the Delaware River.

By the end of the first day, I had already sunk deep inside of myself-- after all, I had applied for the course for my own benefit, not to make friends. With only four miles behind us, two of the others had already broken down in tears. I was frustrated, tired, and hungry: a combination that killed any bit of the open mind I had left.

In the following days, I experienced a change of heart. Out there, away from all distractions, our only form of entertainment was conversation. We talked simply. “What’s your favorite T.V. show? What’s your hometown like?” Gradually, I realized that they were just normal kids: kids who carried the same load on their shoulders, whose attempts to sing like Chris Brown were just as pathetic as mine, and who shared in my undying passion for That ‘70s Show. They were funny, spontaneous, and genuinely kind.

I found myself sharing my secrets, fears, strengths with complete strangers; yet, strangely, I felt comfortable confiding in them. I could talk and they would listen, just as I had for them. I took down the buffer that I had built up over the years -- my reputation, my ego. I was completely vulnerable, but then again so were they. We all smelled, we all looked awful, we all endured. I was part of a family.

We covered 105 miles in twelve days --an amazing feat-- yet the hardest part was still to come. They sent us individually out into the woods, alone -- completely isolated for 48 hours. Immersed in nature, stripped of all comforts, left only with thoughts of family and friends; it was a time for recollection, a time to confront myself:
“Caught in the midst of a thunderous storm ,
The dead branches are ripped down, a new creature is born.
Born from the ashes of renewal and fire, the demon is deemed a devious liar.
One face of innocence, the other of sin; the latter is held but a secret from within.
And in this storm this secret is only provoked, the fire of his creation repeatedly stoked.
Rising up in emotions of fury and rage, the two faced demon rattles his cage.
But the storm of solitude tears him apart; and in the end restores him to have one face and heart.”
Excerpt from journal

Outward Bound forced me to realize that life is made up of steps both big and small. I learned to appreciate the beauty around me, the ground beneath my feet, and the people that can forever change me. Sometimes there is a set path, a necessary journey you must take. However, one must ultimately diverge from the beaten path and learn for himself, all the while following his own feet.

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