Something unexpected happened when I applied for Team RWB Storytelling Camp in Seattle. When I got the acceptance email, I panicked – sheer unadulterated panic. How was I going to go to an island in the middle of nowhere with what I perceived complete strangers?! Although we share the same mission I was petrified. To top it off I had to fly, alone and without my security blanket aka husband. As the days approached, I became more and more agitated, stricken with fear. How is an introvert going to survive this trip and share her story? What is my story?! What have I done?!
The morning of the trip arrived and there I was frozen in fear in the passenger seat looking over at the Southwest curbside check-in counter. As I exit the car, I glance over at my husband and the crying commences. Why did I apply for this?! As he speeds away (to know him is to love him) from the curb he shouts, “Babe, this is living!” I will spare you the remaining saga of the two, turned four, hours that followed in the airport. What I will say is I hadn’t flown solo since pre-911 and I was at one point during my sob-fest reminded that I wouldn’t be allowed on the plane if I didn’t pull it together.
Fast forward two days and I find myself with a handful of strangers exploring Pikes Place in Seattle. I am trying my best to be “normal” and easy going when deep down I am trying to analyze every aspect of this journey. Secretly praying that someone would pull out a neatly charted timeline of events, struggling to contain the controlling, methodical side of my personality.
We board the ferry to the island and the rain starts trickling down, rolling off my skin and calming my nerves. The smell of fresh rain, inhale – hold 2 – 3 – 4, exhale.
As we dock on Bainbridge Island the windows, like magic, roll down in this mystical minivan. Who knew minivans were so cool?! The radio volume turns up, Journey is playing, Don’t Stop Believin’, the soon to be anthem of the weekend. We arrive at the resort and decide to take a self-guided tour until registration opens 45 minutes later. Two of our pack decided to hang back while the remaining group decides to carry on. I’m in what appears to be a movie set of sorts, it was the ultimate fantasy for this desert rat. As if on cue mist filled the walking path, deer were all around us and the lake, oh that lake. The beauty was unlike anything my dry, desert-colored glasses had seen.
We came across a fork in the path; cemetery trail or… I didn’t even have to look, the “OR” was the only option. We talked about music and the scenery. There was a mention of Bon Ivor, I pause to take out my phone and queue up Holocene, it seemed all too perfect for this setting. We turned a corner and there it was, in all its glory. The suspension bridge, my body trembling and tears filling my eyes and simultaneously streaming down my face. “I can’t!” Our gracious leader informs me, “Oh no, you can. We got you!” We debate this for a few minutes before Dawn skips out on the bridge as if to say, “look at me, look at me”. There goes 1, which leaves 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 of us left. Counting slowly trying to do basic math, trying to reason with myself over the next 50 or so yards. Amanda grabs my hand and says, “hold on tight, and don’t look down”. Without instruction Roderick and Abbey stand behind me, the walk begins. One foot precisely placed in front of the other. To be fair I had all but given up bridges since the earthquake of 89. (I’m sure by now you are sensing the trend). With each step on that bridge I had to trust in faith, more importantly complete strangers who were willing to risk their lives, yes, I thought I was going to perish, to help me conquer what I deemed more impossible then travel by plane. In the end, knowing I had Eagles in front of me and behind me, that we were in it together, changed everything for me. In that moment when I thought to myself if God wanted to punish me and the bridge collapsed it went down with these strangers too and that just wasn’t going to happen.
Looking back, I didn’t realize how pivotal the bridge experience was for all of us. Maybe, just maybe, there was reason to live, I thought. There was “value” in the vulnerability. That moment was meant for the 5 of us that day.
There were many key moments during Storytelling Camp that changed the course of my life, brought me closer to my path. My progress from a place so deeply rooted in self-hatred to where I am finding myself today, a place of acceptance and forgiveness, most importantly a place where I can look in the mirror and be okay with the person I am becoming. This process is uncomfortable but it is my time to take off what the Japanese would consider my first face; to quit pretending to be strong and happy just to save face in a social media driven society.
Whether you call on people from other Team RWB Chapters or here locally one testament is true, our members and leaders, they will never let you go through this thing called life alone. If you find yourself in need, please reach out. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is not a sign of weakness rather it is the true showing of courage. I have a deeply rooted family today because of it. If you take anything from my experience I hope you learn that Eagles, they never fly alone.