The Experience That Changed Your Life

Do you have an experience that, in retrospect, seems to have set you on your life’s journey? A formative moment? An epiphany?

Mine came when I was 16, more than 35 years ago. The summer after my sophomore year of high school, I attended (and completed) a 24-day Colorado Outward Bound course in the Rocky Mountains, somewhere in the wilderness outside the city of Grand Junction. I’d seen a PBS documentary about a group of city kids healing their troubled lives by going to the country; and I liked mountains, having been taught to ski at age 4 or 5. Outward Bound seemed like an adventure, a raw antidote to overcooked suburban teenaged malaise. Never mind that I’d only camped outdoors a few times – and always with family around.

What we Outward Bounders accomplished, what we did was impressive.  Mountaineering, surviving extreme weather, running a marathon at altitude. Never had my body been used so thoroughly.

What we learned was utterly transforming.

The lessons I gleaned sound like the encouraging nostrums found on greeting cards. But they’re true to me. They were true then, when I first learned them as a young man, and they’re even truer to me now as an older man. From Colorado Outward Bound, I learned:

+ The only limits we have are those we impose on ourselves.

+ We can accomplish almost anything we decide we want to accomplish.

+ We are much stronger and resilient than we know.

+ Navigating life optimally requires the ability to harmonize with others and the ability to be completely by yourself.

+ Human beings are one tiny thread in an unfathomable fabric of living things.

+ God is everywhere. Especially nature.

I don’t presently wish to be left in the wilderness for four days and three nights without any food. Nor do I wish to hike 10-20 miles a day with a 60-lb. pack on my back. Or eat almost nothing but “oatbarf” and “penis butter” for three weeks. But I’m glad I did.

And even gladder to know that I could do it again today.

And so could you.

Completing a Colorado Outward Bound course gave me the courage to be my authentic self. I learned there’s very little I can directly control (like the weather), yet, somewhat paradoxically, I’m the supreme author of my life’s journey.

It’s a story I’m still writing, still working on.

What experience “made” you?

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1 Response

  1. Chris says:

    Meeting Kim transformed my life and reading about Rodin in 1959 in a magazine called Wisdom. I still have it.