First Descents Round 2


So far so good. The awkwardness from the first First Descents camp last summer is gone. I know what to expect. Also, I’m not so scared anymore; maybe because I spread my disclaimer around: I’m not a ‘group hug’ person. I tell this to everyone around the campfire tonight. Our first act of ‘mushy’. Up until this point it’s been exciting and comfortable. We grabbed our gear, sized up our boats, had some grub (spaghetti and meatballs with sorbet for dessert) and sat around getting acquainted. DING DING DING. Sharing time. Gather round the firepit. Must we really make everyone go around and say what they feel will be different this second time around? How about we just introduce ourselves and tell a funny story? Or talk to the person next to us then share with the group something we learned about him? We did that as a listening exercise in acting class once.

Here we go- FD changed one woman’s life, another said she didn’t think she’d make it to her 35th birthday much less be here for her third FD camp. Don’t misunderstand me, I enjoy hearing everyone’s tale. They are testimonies to inner strength and our ability to perservere. It’s just that I’d rather sit quietly and listen.

I don’t ‘share’ to share and I hate crying in front of ANYONE. I’m not about to change that because I’m in an environment where everyone can relate, empathize and encourage each other to surpass their expectations and inhibitions. I give great anecdotes, jokes and insight. Talk of feelings occurs in the one on one conversations…maybe.

We have about 12 campers and almost the same number of staffers. So Konvict says “what you get out of this camp is what you put in” as he glances over to me. Was that on purpose? I’m 100 positive he’s right but that doesn’t make me more apt to sing Kumbaya. I’m more like a guy when it comes to vulnerablity. I just don’t dig it. My psyche tells me it’s not safe and I’ve adapted.

Like a puma going for its prey, my parents would see an opening and take it on a regular basis when I was growing up. Some – many- comments were downrght cruel. My dad would pick on us at dinner. Maybe it was a game to him. Which kid could he crush emotionally tonight? Maybe he had no clue what he was doing. Often my brother would get so upset his lower lip would tremble as he held back tears. Then it was go time for Dad as he dealt the final verbal blow to send my sibling wailing down the hallway and into his room. You learn to be tough when life’s like that. You don’t want to be next.

So do I make my goal for FD2- learn to be vulnerable and discover deeper connections? Or just to become a better kayaker?

I totally understand why more women than men take advantage of the FD program. I wouldn’t say men are ‘afraid’ of the emotions but they are definitely not comfortable putting them out there for strangers. Even ones that will share your space for five days and offer you a T rescue. That’s me too. At least for now I know those around won’t take the lack of mush as a sign of indifference or disdain like they did last year.


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