The summer after my freshman year in high school, I remember feeling antsy. Maybe it was a combination of teenage angst and boyfriend problems, but in any case I just had this urge to do something life changing. I grabbed a credit card (yes, I was spoiled) and signed myself up for an Outward Bound Course in Maine that was 3 weeks of sailing, hiking and rock climbing. If you have not heard of Outward Bound it is an outdoor educational and adventure experience focused on character development, leaderships skills and service.
So, as I boarded a plane alone as a young 15 year old, I can’t say I was not nervous and had no clue what the next 3 weeks would be like. I had not camped much before, but I knew I would be roughing it based on the required packing list which was very minimal.
Ten other students and myself were first greeted by our instructors, and we were asked to give ourself new names. Mine was “Spaz” because we had a cat named Spaz and for some reason my Mom always called me the cat’s name. Go figure? We also were introduced to our 30 foot sailing boat which was more like an old viking boat. Sure it had two sails, but it also had eight 10 foot oars that we used when there was no wind, or we needed to go faster. We also spread the oars out at night and slept on them lengthwise which usually meant 1) you never slept well because someone was always crawling over you to use the bathroom(aka the ocean) or do their required night watch and 2) you usually woke up with your butt falling through because they kept moving.
The next three weeks were filled with amazing experiences and one of a kind adventures. I was able to do things that I will probably never in my life do again. Like the required “SOLO” where everyone was put on an island alone for 4 days with only an apple, a small bag of peanuts, water, a sleeping bag, and small plastic tarp. It was exhilarating, frightening and freeing all at the same time to alone.
A few times we stopped at islands and ran on the fire roads. I remember the first time we did this I ran with the guys the whole way and heard Bug exclaim, “Oh my God, Spaz can run!” My new friends had no idea that I had just had my first successful cross country and track season. And when our last challenge came, four 4 mile loops around the island base camp, I was ready and excited. I remember running feeling like my feet weren’t touching the ground. Sometimes I was on the rocky Maine coastline, other times the trail was through the woods, but that day I felt like I could fly.
Our motto for these 3 weeks was “Carpe diem.” The full saying goes, “Carpe diem, quam minimum credula poster” from Odes a poem by Horace. Translated it means, “Seize the day, and put very little trust in tomorrow.” Horace meant make the most of today, to invest in your future. Don’t assume things will work out, make sure they work out by giving today your all. I know this adventure helped shape my life and helped me find what I was looking for, though sometimes I need to be reminded. I had not seen Dead Poet’s Society at the time, but I get chills as the late Robin William’s character says, we are not long for this world, so “make your lives extraordinary.” I don’t want to waste a moment.