Connecting with Courage

November 7, 2012
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“Kat, Kat. It’s your watch.” I felt someone poking me. Already, I thought. Wasn’t it five minutes ago I lay my head down?

I slid my legs out from my warm sleeping bag; the only thing on the thirty foot boat that I truly loved. I grabbed my survival kit: my water bottle, fleece pants, bandanna, hat, and sweatshirt and tried not to step on any sleeping girls’ heads as I crawled my way to the bow of the boat.

I sat down on the head, a bucket which was our toilet, and instantly my teeth started to chatter. Goosebumps covered every part of my body. Great, I thought, it’s one of those nights. I threw on my sweater, tucked my salt-encrusted hair up into my bandanna, slipped on the wool cap, and started my watch. There was nothing but me, the stars, the ocean, and my thoughts. This experience wasn’t exactly what I was expecting.

I had been looking for an adventure, anything other than washing dishes and being bored all summer. So I decided to sign up for an Outward Bound trip called “Connecting with Courage.” I would learn to sail and be with girls my own age. It would be fun and easy; I had plenty of experience with adventure. I had hiked the Grand Canyon, lived in the mountains of Costa Rica, and survived the winter without any running water. When I read about it, it had sounded interesting, but as I sat on the head shivering and alone at 3:30 in the morning, I was beginning to doubt my decision. I looked down at the watch to see how much time I had left. BIG mistake…fifty minutes...fantastic.

It had been a long, grueling day. My shoulders ached from lifting and pulling booms and sails. My hands had blisters from tugging on ropes and rowing. And I was exhausted. They definitely weren’t kidding about the courage it would take to survive this course. And as for the “connecting” part, I was a little doubtful I’d be able to connect with some of these girls. It was just today some started to reveal their true personalities: some whined and tried to get out of work, while others complained about doing their night watch alone and begged the counselors to let them do it with a partner.

Thank goodness I wasn’t afraid of the dark; I actually enjoyed being alone in the night. I never knew that Boston Harbor could be so pretty. I looked up at the night sky. It was beautiful. The stars were vibrant, and they almost seemed to smile as they shone down on me, whispering to me that they would protect me and never let anything bad happen to me. The next time I looked down at the watch, my shift was finally over. Two hours to rest before the hard work would begin again.

Our days were filled with sun, salt, sweat, and hard work. We all had to learn new sailing vocabulary and how to perform each task on the boat. And if the equipment wasn’t handled properly it could result in a serious situation. I personally experienced this danger when we were preparing the oars to row. One of the girls wasn’t paying attention. I got whacked in the head.

Every day we had a new destination and that meant working as a team to get there. Sooner than I expected we had all learned to get into our positions, ropes held tightly in hand, waiting for the orders from the captain of the day.

“READY ABOUT?!” the shrill voice would slice through the air.

“READY!” we would answer in unison.

“PASS THE MAIN!” the captain would shout. Then one group would pull on one rope while another group would let another rope loose. The monkey in the middle helped the other group pull the rope in to cleat it off. After cleating off the sails we would get a brief ten to fifteen minute respite. During these moments I loved to swing my legs over the side of the boat and feel the cold water splashing small sprays up to give me salty kisses. They almost made me forget about my aching back and the painful heat rash.

I have always loved the ocean, so I was surprised by how much I found I looked forward to going on land. We could see land all around us as we sailed, but we only went on every few days. I’ll never forget the first time we finally anchored. I felt as if I were two again. All I wanted to do was run around and be free. My destination clear to my eyes, I hopped out of the boat intent on jumping from rock to rock to the shore. That was a mistake, my big girl legs had somehow transformed into little girl legs, ones that were a little too confident and stumbled a lot.

At the end of the two weeks we had a final ceremony. The night before we girls had all been excited, and at the same time quiet as we reflected upon ourselves¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬. As we were saying our goodbye’s at the ceremony I looked around and watched the girls, I realized that we had somehow managed to achieve the goal of working together in a community. It wasn’t easy, but we had done it. We each had sacrificed something: for some it was putting herself out there, for others it was taking a step back in order to let others shine.

I felt…amazing…like an adult. I had accomplished something that I had thought was impossible at the beginning, but was now just a bump in the road instead of a mountain. I had learned so much on this trip: how to be a good leader, a friend, and a shoulder to cry on. Most importantly though I had learned that strength can come from both a sense of community and independence. I knew that what I had done was challenging, but also knew it was not impossible. I had managed to earn a gold star, and I would have the courage to do it again and again later in life.

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Izzytag said...
Nov. 18, 2012 at 7:51 pm
Omg! this is so good! Makes me miss being on the boat! :)
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