I was fortunate enough to be able to go on a recent Outward Bound backpacking course in the beautiful Joshua Tree National Park with three fellow Team Rubicon employees. I grew up camping and hiking but never went backpacking, so I jumped at the offer. I ended up being the only girl among five guys. I naturally felt determined to keep up and not complain even when it got tough.
I was challenged mentally, physically, and emotionally; pushed beyond every limit imaginable. Day one and two, my primary goal was simply putting my backpack on all by myself. It was at least 60-70lbs. My legs nearly buckled the first time the guys helped me put it on. I started to think, “Crap, can I really do this?” We often learn through challenges who we really are.
By day three, my feet were completely numb, and my body was achy and sore. I literally felt like someone had beaten me up. Day one, I lost my bowl so I ate out of a pot lid before upgrading to a handcrafted bowl cut from a gallon water bottle. The weather was unpredictable each day – we constantly put layers on in the freezing wind then quickly stripped our layers off as the sun began to beat down on us. This was a continual game each day.
After traversing and “scrambling” huge boulders (rock climbing in my book) for about four hours, we still hadn’t reached the highest peak on Queen Mountain. The guys checked on me throughout the day. I had mentally checked out and was beyond exhausted but kept pushing on. We finally stopped, had lunch, and decided to head back to camp. On the way back we took a quick break and my coworker Evan asked how I was doing. I sat on a rock and started to cry. I felt like I couldn’t go on anymore. In that moment he empathized, grabbed my water for me and encouraged me to be proud of the challenges I had already overcome. I caught my breath and we started walking again. He told me, “You know what you just did back there was pretty cool. You allowed yourself to have a moment, reconcile, and move on.”
We earned lapel pins upon completion of the course and had to choose someone that helped us along the way to pin it on us. To my surprise, the guys all chose me. I nearly cried again! They thanked me for being so transparent and actually respected me for pushing through in spite of it all. I felt super special and valued; they were so supportive. When we left, I felt strong and empowered.
This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the amazing relationships in my life and all the lessons I have learned this year. TR is an amazing organization with extraordinary people who are down to earth, compassionate, and we take care of each other. I’m proud to be part of the TRibe.