As many of you know, my world has been quite the adventure this summer, filled with spontaneity and lots of random road trips. Last weekend was no exception. It was a little bit different this time around because I had more of a plan than usual; I knew where I was sleeping. Also, someone else was taking the reigns and was responsible for planning a memorable and exciting 24 hours.
As part of this trip, I was instructed by my local companion to “write an essay” reporting on what I learned about community, and what I learned about myself during my weekend adventure.
Since I haven’t been in school for quite some time, and my hamburger-style essay writing skills are a little rusty, I’m just going to go with what I know: blogging.
With that, here’s my assignment, reflecting on what I learned while I was exploring the roads, ruins, trails, and rock walls of Grey County and South Bruce Peninsula.
“And who exactly is this mysterious local companion?” you ask. Well, that’s a story for another day.
What I Learned About Community
The instructions may have been a little more specific. They could’ve been, “What did you learn about the community?” but I decided to go a little more broad than that.
That being said, I did learn plenty about the community. My trusty tour guide provided me with a wealth of factual commentary at many of our stops and during the miles spent on dirt roads in between. Luckily, the limits of his knowledge were perfectly aligned with my attention span. I was spared information overload, and was told just enough to keep my interest. I learned the high level facts without all the other fluff that isn’t that important (I wouldn’t be able to retain it anyway, so really, what’s the point?).
I heard about how the escarpment was formed, what the Corran Estate was all about, childhood stories of pond hockey and VHS rentals, the history of why Owen Sound was initially settled and why industry left, the socio-economic struggles of at-risk populations (this one received much more attention. Rightly so, since it’s something I’ve become much more passionate about over the past few years).
I think I learned the most about community through conversation rather than actual exploration. Community may be based geographically (loosely define; obviously there are communities that cross borders – online, religious groups, multi-level marketing ploys, etc.), but at the core, communities are developed through relationships. Hearing the stories of these small towns and the bonds that hold them together made me wish to be a part of something like that. Something bigger…or smaller?… Maybe the word I’m looking for is “closer.”
I heard stories of the community rallying around those facing struggles, and coming together to welcome new families with open arms and at-capacity community centre dinners. The whole town celebrates weekend after weekend for wedding after wedding all summer long. Sure, every community has its struggles, challenges, and downfalls, but its true beauty is revealed in these stories of benevolence.
Also, my trip conveniently fell on a weekend of an annual two week long Fishing Derby, complete with a Sunday morning Elvis impersonator, so really, you just can’t beat that! This had me like, “THIS IS THE GREATEST PLACE EVER!” 🙂
What I Learned About Myself
After this trip and a whole lot of reflection, I have found myself pining for a true sense of community. And I think that instead of this having a whole lot to do with the community I live in, it has everything to do with me. I am a different social creature when I am immersing myself in an unfamiliar place.
At home, I still feel like the kid that nobody knows. The one that is awkward, and introverted, and scared to meet new people, and is self-conscious. When I am out of my comfort zone, I take on an incredible transformation.
I am slowly learning that all of these traits that I have come to identify as being “me” are actually not me at all. I have spent my life conforming to be the person that I thought others were looking for. Whether that meant subduing my childlike enthusiasm and love of adventure; or not wanting to appear too silly, too immature, too opinionated, I really lost my sense of self.
Although I wanted to be liked, acceptance wasn’t the goal for this trip. My goal for the weekend was to be 100% authentic to who I am, without fear of judgement or expectation and to just see what would happen. Would I like what I found? Would others? In the end, the weekend really opened my eyes to who I truly am. And I must say, I am in love with her!
So, what exactly did I find when I was myself?
I am adventurous. With that, I am a risk-taker. Sometimes that scares others, and sometimes it scares me. I am hilarious. I am silly. Maybe even a little bit dorky. I get super excited about things that other’s might think are lame. I am passionate. I am smart. I am full of energy. I am capable. I really am an incredible person. And sometimes, I surprise even myself with how hot I can be.
I had such a great time. It was a whirlwind of a trip: over 10 hours on the road, lots of sweaty hiking, a handful of beautiful lookout points, rock scaling, hot dog and carrot stick eating, laughing, story-telling, and to top it all off, one near-miss bear attack. This, my darlings, is what life is all about.
“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” Anna Quindlen