Since mid-September, I have been attending weekly meetings for an outdoor adventure therapy group for Denison students with anxiety. Naturally, I was anxious about joining the group and had a major meltdown the night I finally committed. However, after the first meeting I knew that the group would be beneficial for me and that I would get along with the other members.
As the weeks went on, we got closer and closer as a group and our program culminated in mid-October with a weekend long (Denison-approved and COVID-safe!) backpacking trip at Zaleski State Forest in southern Ohio.
This was my first experience backpacking so I felt incredibly overwhelmed leading up to the trip. On the other hand, I was also thrilled to be getting off-campus (in a safe way, of course) and to have a two day break from my phone (it was AMAZING). But from the first moment we got there, I felt comfortable and supported and relaxed and knew I had nothing to worry about.
The weekend turned out to be one of my favorites spent at Denison. Us group members bonded so deeply, made so many memories, and I felt free to look like and be myself the entire weekend. I know this sounds cheesy, but venturing into the woods and spending time away from the technology of our modern world really did teach me a lot. Many of the lessons are cliche, but here’s some of what I learned:
PHONE FREE TIME IS BLISS - I’m not much of a phone user when I am at home, but at school there are so many GroupMe chats and texts from friends that I feel irresponsible stepping away from my phone for even a couple of hours. However, the backpacking trip forced me to shut off my phone for the weekend. I decided to tell my friends, family, and boss that I would not be reachable during the trip to eliminate any guilt I felt around needing to use my phone. I also had no need to distract myself because being in nature with cool people needs no distraction. The stresses of school were gone and did not require me to escape to Pinterest just to have a break from thinking about my course work. It really was freeing not being accessible to everyone 24/7. I waited as long as I could before turning my phone on again when we arrived back on campus.
TIP: I know this is basically impossible to do (I don’t even know if I can do it myself) but pick a day to power off your phone for 24 hours. Make sure to tell your friends, family, and anyone else important to you that you will be unreachable that day to free yourself from the guilt of not responding to emails or texts.
Everything that needs to get done will get done - Whether it was setting up the campsite, having to turn around after walking almost a mile out of the way, or the impending homework waiting for us upon return to campus, everything got done. We never rushed or worried about time (I didn’t even have a concept of time on thetrip), yet everything turned out just fine.
QUOTE: “Once she stopped rushing through life, she was amazed how much more life she had time for.” - Unknown
Being outdoors is a grounding + connecting experience - I know this is cliche, but it’s true that nature really helped me feel connected to myself and the people around me.
TIP: When you’re feeling stuck or uninspired or just plain bored, try to find some time to be outside and free of distractions. My favorite way to do this is by going on a run or a hike in the Bioreserve, but there are also some quiet outdoor spaces by Lamson Lodge and on South Quad to sit and just be.
People will like me when I am myself - Since my birth some twenty years ago, I have had an obsession with being liked by everyone and have felt that if I showed the most truthful parts of myself, I would be compromising that aspiration. During this backpacking trip, however, I was completely free of all of those worries and every insecurity I had flew out the window. And you know what? People still liked me! We were all being silly and weird and totally authentic and we all formed a really close bond because of that. We all got along and liked one another so much because we were being our true selves, not because we were trying to be likeable. I know many people may have had this self-realization already, but it has helped me to talk- or rather, write- through it in this article.
QUOTE: “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” - Joseph Campbell
It really doesn’t matter what you look like. Beauty has nothing to do with outward appearance. - Again, this may be another realization that many have already had, but I think it is an important point to keep saying over and over and over again until it is internalized by women- and by human beings- everywhere. The entire weekend, no one showered, no one washed their clothes, and no one brushed their hair. Most importantly, there was not a mirror in sight. This situation created the ideal circumstances for me to realize that outward appearance really has nothing to do with how I feel about myself- or how others feel about me. Excessively checking my hair and my body in the mirror was no longer necessary in the forest and appearance no longer mattered. Unfortunately, as I made my way back onto campus, I reinstituted my old habits of compulsively checking myself in the mirror and obsessing over what I look like. However, I do feel more confident now than ever in knowing that if I don’t look perfect, no one will care and I will not be judged because of it. Even that little takeaway has been big for me.
QUOTE - “Feeling beautiful has nothing to do with what you look like. I promise.” - Emma Watson
Pooping is good. - Let’s just say that being constipated for three days in the woods really makes you appreciate the daily #2.
TIP - Eat some Wendy’s.
Friends come from the most unexpected places. - If you would have asked me at the start of this year that I would have made friends in a therapy group, I would have thought you were crazy. I had the stereotypical mindset that therapy groups were just a bunch of weirdos and that, if I joined one, I would get in and get out as fast as possible. But it turns out that people that go to therapy are just normal humans who are dealing with the human experience just like everyone else. This group and I bonded deeply and we are continuing to meet up even now that our program is over. We may not all be friends forever, but they are now a support system that I will have for the rest of my time at Denison and that makes me feel really good.
TIP - I know at times it seems impossible but all I have to say is, TRY NEW THINGS. Period.
I am so grateful to be where I am - Sometimes I second guess myself and wonder if I am in the right place. Is Denison the right school for me? Will I find my forever friends? Am I in the right place in my life? However, this trip made me realize how lucky I am to be right where I am at. I was so fortunate to be a part of this group and to go on this trip and to spend a weekend off-campus in nature. It helped me feel more aligned with Denison and feel more fortunate to be here than I ever have before.
QUOTE: “You may not end up where you thought you were going, but you will always end up where you were meant to be.”