Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Survival Camp, Day 7 (1994)

At age 15, my parents woke me up one morning and told me they were sending me to survival camp. It was one of the best experiences of my life. At the time, I was terrified, but 21 days in the Idaho desert straightened me out and influenced me deeply. It cemented my love of the outdoors, my need for discipline and my desire for a simple, low-impact lifestyle:

Day 7
I made it through the week. The handbook said “The first phase of this course is strenuous.” Maybe it gets better. I miss my parents. “Mother” and “Winter” by Tori Amos are stuck in my head. We stayed in a cool place last night and Stan was mean. Then he was cool and I think he hates me again now. I’m getting used to rice and lentils. This whole trip is like rice and lentils - one bite at a time. I get too overwhelmed when I see the full can.
Yesterday I gashed my hand with my sheath knife so Stan took it away from me. Sometimes I’m in desperate need of going home. Others, I’m cool about being here and two more weeks sounds fine. Is this program brainwashing me? I’m scared that I’m changing into a different person here and it won’t fit when I get back home.
We’re on a mini-solo right now. I just saw the tiniest squirrel. I’m getting better at some of the skills but I don’t know what to do since Stan took away my sheath knife. My lungs are cleaning themselves out and I need lots of water. Right now’s a good opportunity to quit smoking but I don’t want to. Maybe I’ll feel different later on. I’m sad to be missing Elizabeth, Emma, and Mom’s birthdays; also Tori Amos’s show. But I’m here now and that’s what counts.
My hair is getting nappy and my leg hair is growing out. I think I’ll shave my pits but not my legs when I get home. I’d love to be on Broadway right now. But I know that once I get home and go to school, I’ll wish I was back here. Am I going nuts? I’m lonely here. I feel like God isn’t with me.
(later on) I had a sudden breakdown and I went to talk to Emily. She said it was the first time she’s seen me show emotion and she knows I have what it takes to get through this. She’s right. I’m tired of the bullshit. I’m facing this. No more escapes and excuses. I can get through this. It’ll be good for me. I can’t fight the sadness, though. I have to let myself feel but I can’t let my grief or anger or self-doubt overtake me. No more weakness. If everyone else has been believing in me and depending on me, then why can’t I? Each of us in this group is going through it alone. We’re all alone together.
I have a new feeling about myself right now and it’s different than I’ve ever felt. Nothing’s going to stand in my way of finding peace, love, happiness, security, and ability in myself. This is the only place for me right now even though that is hard to accept. It’s easy to let myself be weak but I refuse to be from now on. I’ve always wanted the chance to get myself in shape and now I’ve got it. This is an opportunity, not a punishment. I can learn to do anything. I always thought of myself as a strong person but I was never put to the test. Now I’m being put to the test and I have to prove I can win. It gets lonely out here sometimes but that makes me stronger, too. I trust is that this is a great experience. Stan and Emily wouldn’t give up their time to something they didn’t believe in. I’m thinking less about home. I’m thinking more about survival. I need God’s help but this time it’s up to me. I’ll get home when I get there, but for now I’m here and I’m dealing with what I’ve got. Waking up to a new day here doesn’t seem so depressing anymore.


Excerpt from Minor: Volume One The Journals of Meghan McDonnell
Novice: Volume Two The Journals of Meghan McDonnell
Limbo: Volume Three The Journals of Meghan McDonnell

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