Tuesday, July 7, 2015

I had an idea for a title that mentioned all the wallets and lanyards we made, but I'm not sure how the RYLA people would react to it.

Hello, everyone! I officially returned yesterday, but exhausted from the week, neglected to write this. I've finally found the time now. Although, given I have to leave for a fourth of July party, I might very well not get around to it again. Yes, I know, even though I've returned from camp a changed man, I'm still lazy as hell.

Aaaaand here I am, having put this off for another three days, fantastic. Three days of relaxation, food, and Minecraft to put me off from writing this blog post that I wanted to write when I initially got back. Fantastic.

So I've been gone for a week, as you probably noticed, and I went to a leadership camp called RYLA. I don't remember what that stands for, but I remember what the camp stands for, if that makes any sense, which it should if you think about it. The camp was basically to teach me about leadership and it did so in the most amazing ways. The whole time we had to do teamwork exercises. We had to do fire hose jousting, Olympics, move a bowling ball with rope (not touching it with out hands), and we also had to do an egg drop challenge. As for the egg drop challenge, I explained I was in summer school physics the previous week and we had done an egg drop challenge where one of the designs had stood up to a baseball bat, of all things. They didn't listen to my advice, but I took it in stride and we failed miserably.

Of course, failure isn't necessarily bad, failure can teach you what you did wrong and what to do better next time. I won't spare us any mercy, my cabin was shit at communication for the first few days of the week. I think any of the people in my cabin would agree. It was strenuous, having to force ourselves through the events we had to do, but once we had the communication down, we were fantastic.

Speaking of forcing ourselves through events, normally some spirit of writing possesses me and makes me write so much about so little (thank you, JK Rowling), but I'm still lazy as of now. I'm kinda forcing myself to write about this considering I have tons of stuff to do about RYLA as well, (e.g., a survey and an application to be a counselor). My mind, of course, is a bit occupied with having to organize D&D later today, but here I am, still trying.

So, day #1, we went to a nearby firehouse to play games with the firemen involving fire hoses, and then that evening we listened to a speech by a guy called judge Mcdonald (his first name wasn't judge, he was an actual judge). Apparently the people at RYLA ask him to speak to their campers every year, and then after his speech one of the counselors asked, "now, do you see why we ask him to come back and speak to you guys every year?" I did, that's for sure. He talked about leadership, and what that meant. We had all sorts of definitions we shouted out, including the copout answer of "the ability to lead", which I think he rolled his eyes at, at least internally. He went into how he was the captain of some sports team (I think basketball), and they kept losing because he wasn't being a good leader, and he didn't have a good relationship with his team. His coach stressed that he needed to establish a good relationship with his team in order to work together better. He also mentioned how at college, there are always the different tables for the different groups (e.g., jocks, nerds, etc.), and he would just randomly sit down at said tables and say hi. Everyone would look at him like, "who invited this dumbass?", but he would just sit down anyway and start talking. Eventually he had built relationships with a lot of the people he sat down with, and when he ran for class president, he got it, all because of the relationships he had with people.

This was the first of many events at camp that made me challenge my anxiety, which was the main reason for my going there. I liked to help people, and I really did like being a leader, but the problem was I had this crippling social anxiety that prevented me from taking that first step. Now that I've been through RYLA, this anxiety is still there, but insanely lessened. I mainly had to stay within my cabin, but I also had things switched around, swapped into groups of people I didn't even know, where I had to force myself out there. The first thing you go through at camp is called "the welcome attack", and it's basically the campers act really insane as you drive up and attempt to make you insecure and shy in order to force you out there. I was a bit shocked the music came on, but I thought "why the fuck not?" (because I sure as hell couldn't say that), and attempted to dance to it nonetheless. That was a metaphor, before you assume I made myself dance on the first day. Hell no. It was at least Thursday (or Wednesday, I think) before that happened.

Before the Olympics, the one event where I feel my cabin really started moving and thinking together as one, the counselors found it fun to put music on during breakfast. I'm pretty sure if they knew my cabin would start an insane dance-off, they would've thought twice (or not at all). Led by my cabin, the remaining two (cabins two and four had gone river rafting) got down on the floor and jiggy with it. This also applied to me, and in case I wanted to make my sister even more certain I had been kidnapped by aliens, I can simply just dance in front of her and scare her further.

Back to the subject, I've always felt like I've been a capable leader, but I've never really felt comfortable with myself enough for me to put myself out there. When I first saw the people who would be in my cabin, I had no reason to like or dislike them, but that quickly changed when I tried to put myself out there by my most solid interest and ask who had seen Firefly. None had.

"Did he just go crazy and fall asleep?"
Despite that bad start, we got along fairly well. As the week ended, I felt my cabin had grown the closest together. My cabin was "The Rockstars" (the girls were the Divas), and initially I felt more at home with the cabin that was Star Wars themed, especially when I found out that NONE OF THEM knew what the difference between a Jedi with a blue lightsaber and a Jedi with a green lightsaber was. It was a hard life for a scifi nerd who actually knew what everyone was talking about, even if they didn't themselves. They didn't, they really didn't.

I feel like this is an accurate analogy
Nevertheless, I felt like my cabin was the closest out of all of them. We went from a ragtag bunch of people who didn't know anyone else to a close-knit family who nearly cried when we had to part at the end of the week. The one knowledge that had comforted us was the fact that we all had each other's contact info and would stay in touch after we got home.

To sum up? I am not the man I was, even though I'm still lazy, but I'm still better. I have more confidence, I can be me, I can be proud of me. All this time at RYLA has just shown me what a leader I can be. When I got there, I had decided to be known as Dirk, just Dirk, not Captain Yaple as I usually introduce myself as. I wanted to start over, I didn't wanna seem pretentious (at least, not yet), until I felt I actually knew something.

Maybe then, I'd be a little less pretentious. Maybe then, I'd be able to be me.