Last year I went on a camping trip that has truly changed me. It was for my program and it was truly an experience. I was a Visual Disabilities Education major for my Masters (MS) program. To be honest, I wasn’t too sure if I wanted to work with this type of major (more on that later in this post) and I also didn’t feel like I belonged with my cohort. We were a small group. It was about 12 of us and five of us were MS students. I always got bad vibes from people and I wasn’t sure if it was all in my head or if the group of young ladies really weren’t receptive to me. Here is my disclaimer: this blog post is not a diss to them. This is only my experience with this major and how it affected me on this camping trip. I’m super grateful for this experience because it tested my boundaries and helped me to be a better me at the end of the camping experience.
Anyway, as part of our assignment, we had to go to a sleep away camp (called Camp Abilities, a camp for students with visual impairments) for one week. We were assigned a student and we had assignments that we had to complete with them. I was really nervous, especially as time drew closer for us to leave. My cohort had a GroupMe so that we can communicate with each other regarding anything having to do with class. Well, my car was not going to make it out there and before going to camp, I asked in the chat if anyone could let me ride with them….I got nothing. I offered to chip in for gas…nothing. It wasn’t until the day before we were to leave that one of the girls said that she’ll give me a lift. I was very grateful for her to do that! She was going to be my way there, however, I had to find a way back home because she was going home (it was the summer time of course) after camp. When we got to camp, I asked one of the other girls (who ironically was the only black girl other than me in the program) for a ride home and thankfully she said yes. I immediately thanked God for providing a way there and back for me.
We arrived at camp a day before the campers were to arrive. We got all the games ready, got our campers info and put into our groups, and we also learned the song that we were going to sing with the campers every single day. We went to our rooms which btw had no bedding (I had to go to Family Dollar to get a pillow and a blanket of some sort), and I was quite surprised by our set up: no door, I had one roommate thank goodness but the room was so small we couldn’t move! Anyway, after we got settled, we were to do all the activities (like riding a tandem bike and playing beep kickball) we were to do with the campers while wearing a blindfold so that we can get a feel for what our campers would experience.
I’m not gonna lie, I was so nervous for the water activities mostly. I was weirded out by a lot of the stuff, like beep kickball, mostly because I couldn’t see anything and I felt off balance for some odd reason. To be honest, I was scared of going in the water because I can’t swim and we were gonna be in actual lakes (with actual fishes and snakes in them). I was completely petrified by the thought of it. Anyway, we went out to dinner and came back and got ready for the next day when we met our campers. My camper’s name was “A”. She was 13 and totally blind. She’s a very smart young lady and strong willed. I’m not going to lie; I was nervous we weren’t gonna hit it off. But by the end of the first night, she was hugging me and I knew from that moment that we were good.
We were scheduled to go down for water activities everyday that we were there. Again, I was not looking forward to it but I was willing to put on a brave face. That first day, we went on a paddle board, kayaking, and went in a canoe. I even jumped into the lake because my camper wanted to jump off of the giant float in the middle of the lake. Yes you read that correctly: I jumped in! Everyone was shocked. Everyday I continued to show up for my camper while during their nap time, I was a wreck. One day I called my friend on FaceTime and cried to her about how I felt like a fraud and that I couldn’t do the major anymore. While I was bonding with my student, I was feeling…blah. I just didn’t belong there.
It wasn’t about the fact that there was no real wifi (unless at the clubhouse) or phone signal. It wasn’t the other girls not welcoming me. My heart wasn’t in it and that was hard to admit. When I said those words out loud to my friend, I felt like weight was lifted off of my shoulders. At the time, Sarah Ordo was my life coach and so I was communicating my feelings to her when I could and when I told her that my heart wasn’t in it, she told me she was proud of the fact that I was a able to realize it on the trip. I immediately started applying for teaching jobs while at the camp! By the last day, I had a job interview scheduled for the next week. It was quite bittersweet because I was going to miss my camper and the experience I had but I was ready to face my new life.
This camping trip taught me to push beyond my limit. I jumped in a freakin lake! I can’t even go in 5 ft deep pool without a floaty and I jumped into a lake! People were telling me how proud and shocked they were that I did those things for with my camper. Tbh I was shocked myself! I had to get out my comfort zone and I’m so grateful for that challenge. I also, realized my calling. I can’t live my life for other people. I have to do what makes me happy. The same goes for you! It’s your life. You can’t live other people’s dream for you. You have to do what’s in your heart. So go out there and do something you’re afraid of. I dare you!