Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Vomit Comet, firsthand

A friend of the camp sent us her student's college admissions essay, highlighting a high ropes experience.  How awesome to see God changing lives in our year-round adventure program, even among groups where his Name is unmentioned.  We thought you might like to see what it's like in the "off-season" from a participant's own point of view:

Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk or dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.

At that moment, it was my most dreaded obstacle.  No longer was it a matter of if, but rather when.  Dangling fifty feet above the ground, suspended by a rope that held me high above my classmates' heads, I was in a position to act.  I had to decide.

My class had come to Ligonier Camp and Conference Center on a field trip that served as a way to introduce us, establish our group roles and promote teamwork and trust.  Our first challenge course possessed a name so unusual everyone was thrown into a state of nervous anticipation before even seeing it.  As unpleasant as "The Vomit Comet" sounds, even more upsetting was the feeling induced in me; fear.

Rarely do I experience this sensation, primarily because I tend to avoid its causes.  I must be forced onto roller coasters, coaxed into tall buildings and reassured when flying.  By bypassing these situations, the temporary feeling of self disappointment is overridden by the happiness of remaining within my comfort zone.  But five stories up, with only one way down, presented little opportunity for reconsideration.

So there I was; heart hammering, stomach spiraling, palms dripping with apprehension.  I looked down at the encouraging faces anticipating my next move.  I looked up to the tree tops sweeping the clear sky.  I looked forward.  The instructor's advice to "Pull the cord down and left" echoed in my head.  Clenching fate in my right hand, I tightly adhered to safety with my left.  My closed eyes searched internally for any sign of confidence.  Then, without a second thought, I quickly yanked the rope and felt the clasp snap sharply, jerking my body downward in a fast, sweeping motion.  Released into the ravine, I soared forward with an air of accomplishment.  I could hear the congratulatory shouts; I could imagine the surprised faces.  But there was no reason to look back; I had achieved everything I wanted.

That sole risk, which most would deem insignificant, taught me an invaluable lesson my fears had always prevented me from learning.  Every instance of stopping myself from experience, limiting my boundaries, and avoiding my fears, was now instantly overshadowed by the realization that I'll never know what I'm missing until I take the chance.  My fears had been triumphed by this one decision to "let go."

At this moment, choosing and applying to colleges is my principal concern.  Here I am again; heart pulsating, stomach flipping, palms cramped from typing.  I look back to my years of preparation; the instructor's voice is now quieted by my own.  I look forward to my aspirations; they are as tall as the trees and as big as the sky.

This is my moment of release.  I am again held by the rope, about to venture into a new ravine.  The only difference is I now possess the confidence that I can overcome my fears, discover my strengths and realize my potential every time I decide to "pull the cord."

Do you have a story of how camp has impacted your life or the life of someone you love?  Is there a funny photo or poignant memory you'd like to share?  We'd love to here from you!  Drop us an email.

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