Eagle Village – the land of obstacles and opportunities

Her name is Emily Baier. *
She is my quirky comrade.
Who also doubles as my merry mentee.
We had the opportunity of a lifetime to spend a weekend together (9/12/15-9/13/15) with the rest of the Leader Advancement Scholars from the sophomore and freshman class from Central Michigan University. We packed our bags and headed north, to the land of obstacles and opportunities, known as Eagle Village. Memories to be made awaited us without our slightest knowledge of when, what, and even with whom…

* – pronounced “buyer,” not “bear” as I had wrongly been doing months prior to actually meeting her in person (sorry)

Soon after our arrival, everyone split-up into groups ranging from 12-15 students (mentorship pairs remaining together) and we branched into our first activity. Our groups first activity was the indoor high ropes course. I had done this the year prior alongside my mentor, Claire; however, it hadn’t yet set in that this year would be different.

You see I am an avid fan of heights, adventure and anything involving climbing. Whether that’s in trees or obstacle courses being strapped in, yards above the ground hovering in mid air, it just gives me this rush of adrenalin. Our instructor encouraged us to challenge ourselves while on the course. Usually for me that involves going backwards, doing it blindfolded, making it more physically demanding. This years challenge though was different. I had to learn how to channel my excitement in order to best aid my mentee in her hesitation and fear of heights. This was a different kind of challenge, one for the mind. I was overflowing with encouragement to her like a boiling pot of water to a stove. It was the best thing that I could do at the time, and I was overjoyed and proud at how much my mentee stepped out of her comfort zone, challenged herself and conquered those challenges of her own that had the possibility to hold her back.

There was another activity that taught us how to juggle. I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried juggling before, but I think it’s quite entertaining. This however was team juggling, where each ball to be “juggled” represented a different aspect of our lives (i.e. school, family, friends, work/extra curricular activities). We first stood in a circle and determined a pattern from person to person, each receiving and tossing the ball once, until it reached the beginning person without hitting the ground. We then added the different ‘balls of life’, continuing to juggle as a team running the risk of starting all over if a ball were to touch the ground.

I had done this demonstration before, so I’m not going to directly talk about the importance of teamwork and communication, but I would like to point out two new and interesting aha moments I had during this activity:

  1. Not often is it that two balls collide mid-air. It’s a rare occurrence, but relating it back to real life, our involvements do sometimes clash with one another, forcing us to choose between the two, the opportunity cost and trying to balance it all. In our activity work and family clashed mid-air. What is interesting that this currently reins true in my life. As a professional traveling shoe sales representative for Toe To Toe Dance Wear, I often travel during the holidays to various dance shows/competitions/conventions. This Thanksgiving in fact will be cut short for travel, impeeding on the time spent with my family. Life is a juggling act.
  2. In a room full of leaders it’s almost unavoidable to have some sort of talk on different strategies to conquer said task. This usually comes once luck has run short, there are multiple balls to juggle and tension levels are on the rise from the countless times having started over. We persevered with inspiration and bounced some ideas off each other (pun completely intended). To break some tension I joked, “What if we tried tossing them all at once?” Continuing with the silly statement the beginning person tossed all the balls to, ironically, his mentee. The mentee caught maybe two. It generated laughs amongst the group, was quite funny, but it also got me thinking. So often in life we think that we can do it alone, eat all of the duties on our plate all by ourselves, juggle with just our two hands, but in reality we end up only catching maybe two.

There was a trust activity between the mentor/mentee pair, where one was blindfolded and the other gave direction while walking around outside. My mentee decided to walk me into the woods, saying she wanted me to feel the tree. She kept guiding me along, all the while me simply imagining what beauty surrounded me. I finally reached out and touched the tree and I had this odd feeling overcome me. I took off my blindfold and the beauty that I actually saw in that tree almost brought me to tears.

Being the nature nut that I am, in that trust activity, I not only built a foundation of trust with my mentee, but I also grew so much more thankful for the abilities and senses that I am blessed with.

In a weekend packed full of scheduled bonding time, it’s the moments that aren’t scheduled that I find are some of the most impactful. As a group of leaders were conversing around the bonfire late into the night, my mentee and I decided we would go reflect under the stars. We walked over into a dark open field, where a picnic table was patiently awaiting our arrival. We laid there, talked, reflected, bonded and shared yet another moment. A moment where we weren’t thinking about what we were going to wear the next day, not thinking about what we looked like, not even thinking about social media or telling others what was going on. We disconnected to connect and connected to each other and the beautiful (non-light polluted) sky absorbing us. I was able to witness her seeing her first shooting star, and what was incredible is that she noticed that she was happy enough where she was in that point in time to not think twice about maybe having to make a wish on that star. She simply lived in the moment and embraced it for what it was.

The weekend was a short weekend full of learning that long outlived the days. Learnings that did not stay secluded to that weekend or even to that destination, but came with me. I learned from my mentee, learned how to authentically be present and live in the moment.

She also helped teach me through experience the understanding that challenges come in all sorts of ways, shapes and sizes. The challenge of truly understanding comes from knowing how to best aid those who are dealing with different challenges than our own and encourage them through it.

I know that I cannot juggle my life on my own, and that is okay. I am learning how to be authentic in acknowledging that I need assistance from others, be bold enough to actually ask for help, and to know when it’s time to prune my priorities.

signing off ☀️


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