Friday, August 17, 2007
Public Poetry Reading at the Wildling Art Museum in Los Olivos
Wednesday, August 1st, Day 39
Here are a few excerpts of the studen'ts final transformational narratives, which some of them read at the Public Reading.
I’ve discovered many things about myself that I never thought I could do, but now I know that I am capable of doing a lot of things like rock climbing. Because of my fears of heights, I never thought that I would be able to reach the top, the 90 foot rock, and want to do it again. Thinking about how high it is and that I won’t be able to climb it made me want to turn my back and not complete the challenge. If I didn’t even try I knew that I would regret it for the rest of my life and never have the chance to do it again. When the time came I put my harness on, I slipped one leg by one into the harness. I tightened my right one first, then my left one, very tight, just to be safe. The instructors told us to slip the left over string into the opening, so you wont be able to see the danger sign. While I was walking towards the rope, my heart was beating faster and faster. I had this overwhelming feeling, like when you go on a roller coaster, ticking, while its going up very slowly, then it drops. I clipped my harness to the lock on the rope, and I began climbing. When I reached the middle I felt like giving up, but I stopped instead. When I closed my eyes I took a big breath and thought about all the things I’ve gone through, with my parents, friends, and all my experiences. I wanted to prove to everyone, my parents, and especially myself that I am not a failure, that I can start something and finish it. I remembered when they told me that I can do anything if I try my hardest, the best I can be. I imagined the top of that 90 foot rock, to be my family, my goals and dreams, and if I reach it, that I can do anything. When I continued, I knew what I wanted and went for it. I made it to the top and realized that anything is possible if you believe in yourself. It was over and I felt so great because I reached my goal. This experience made me realize that I don’t let my fears get in my way of doing anything. No matter what it is, or how hard it maybe, if I believe that I can do it, I will. Being positive and making goals for myself was very helpful for me, so that I can start something and finish it, and in the end I will feel proud of it.
The old me: A lethargic girl who does not do anything to help others. Always on the couch watching TV, or in the room chatting on the computer. A girl who did not push herself to be better and putting effort into her life. Besides being selfish and carefree, I was a sack full of fears. I was nobody to anybody…
The new me: Angela Lopez- energetic and helpful. A girl who can run 5 miles in less than an hour, a girl who can walk 6 hours with a heavy backpack, a girl who can defeat the nervous feelings and the words “I can’t.” Now I realize that nobody will love me as much as my parents. I leave fears behind and make life fun, interesting, and adventurous. In the last 40 days I learned I can be somebody.
Forty days ago, I was a girl with fears, especially with water and heights. It was hard for me to speak with different people that I didn’t know. And I was a girl that couldn’t say; “ I love you to my mom, dad, and brothers.” But now, with all of what I learned in the Adventure Risk Challenge Summer Program, I found the words to say it. Why? Because being without my family, taking risks, learning how to leave my fears behind and becoming independent makes me realize how hard my life would be without my family.
My parents have showed me how to grow how to take care of others; they give me a home and a big family, but their love is missing. I can’t feel their love because we never truly talk. I have never told my parents about my feelings because they are always too busy working. Being here in ARC with a new family of friends makes me realize that I have never said, “ I love you,” to my family at home that I have known since I was born. I also have to add the words risk and challenge to my life because those words show me the light of life.
I didn’t speak English very often in my school and community, especially in my classroom; students laughed about how I spoke English. I felt lonely, misunderstood, like a teenager that nobody can understand. The teenager that feels pain when seeing others suffer for being the way they are, imagining what their life is like. The little curly haired weird guy who talks about issues that nobody cares about. I was a weak guy that sometimes could find sense in his life, who though for a moment that the life was a simple accident. I was the guy who preferred to be in his room, just thinking about what he should do, trying to conceal his problem as he hears phycodelic music, imaging that he could fly away and demonstrate to everyone who he really is.
Now after forty days, I have had the opportunity to overcome my fears. I learned how to hike with my home on my back for long distances, pushing the team, as if I were the strongest in the team; where I had to push myself every day, and try to be energetic, leaving behind the weak guy that I was; where I sweated drop by drop, helping my team to reach our goals. I had to learn how to live together and respected all my team members. I had to speak English everyday, every night and even in our free time. When I had to speak up when we had group problems, when I had to say to someone I had a problem with them; when I had to make order in the group and direct them to meeting places, to be on time and encouraging them to do their jobs, I learned to use my voice as tool to solve my problems and group issues. All these challenges has been helping me to defeat my fears, defeat the afraid toward those, those that in one moment ignored me or simple didn’t understand me. Now after Forty days I have obtained more skill to deal with different attitudes. Before I met the face of tolerance and compassion, I saw it far-off in the distance, but now I met it and talk to it. But to put on the face of these values is like taking your skin off and leave behind judgments. Convinced that I must speak up with intensity and confident about the problems in our communities; convinced that instead of think what I want to do, I have to act. Now, I know that tolerance is difficult because everyone has different way of seeing life. But I have to respect their points of view, opinions, and feelings. And from here, we can practice living in a community together resolving issues.
In this exceptional summer, I have experienced my changes and transformations. I have approved many challenges, like hiking with a heavy backpack in the heat, like jumping off the platform thirty feet above the ground and like running our final five miles; each challenge told me how to overcome the next one. Also, each goal reached is a trophy for me: the final run, teaching Boys and Girls Club kids, improving my English, my finished poem, my science project, and this final essay. My mind has transformed like when a caterpillar changes into a colorful butterfly. Each of the challenges during this summer began easy. We had energy at the beginning, but after awhile, hiking, rock climbing, writing becomes slow, complicated, and harder. Always, I was tempted to stop and find shade, a good place to rest, but I decided not to give up. After a long effort, when the challenge ends, I feel great, incredible with a happiness spreading throughout my whole body. All of these challenges and responsibilities are making me stronger and are preparing me for the future. My body is stronger and more flexible, but I still think that my mind is stronger than my body.
Between being lazy at home and experiencing a total different idea in life, coming to the program was the right choice; I had challenge of leaving my family when I joined ARC. They’re worth more than anything I possess; they’re like a treasure to me. In ARC I didn’t have them as a resource to talk to or depend on for help. I especially missed my five brothers, who helped me when my dad wasn’t there. They are the ones that feed me, buy me clothes, and most importantly, they are the ones that support me in what I do. I also miss my mom who always worries for our safety. She makes sure we eat well, she prays for us, and she checks in often.
Even though I miss my family, I regret not appreciating all the nice favors they did for me, because after I came to the program, I realized how much I appreciate them and the things they have offered me. I feel terrible for the awful words I said to my mom and brothers before I came to ARC. I noticed that I had said something wrong, because of their facial expressions. That was an error that I made, because they didn’t deserved those words. I hurt to not have the chance to tell my mom and brothers that I was sorry. My heart was a broken mirror: scattered, reflecting on my emotions. Over the course of 40 days, my heart is returning to its place. Now I can see the reflection of the true me: clear, with scars to be healed. I learned to think before I speak to adults. When I return I will tell them, “I love you for every thing you had done for me; sorry for the mistakes I made.”
Although learned that life isn’t always easy without family, I developed new skills with ARC: such as hiking, rock climbing, sea kayaking, ropes course, and surfing. I grew stronger and more confident every time I faced up to a new challenge. Each time I tried hard and risked challenges, I was afraid to fail because the adventures seemed too complicated for me. I said to myself, “Don’t give up…,” and I never did. I always had my family in my mind. The image of them helped me continue all the way. I had my friends by my side cheering me on, congratulating me after I finished my challenges. Each time I ended the tasks I felt relief and pride. I had a sensation like I was on a top of a mountain after I hiking or climbing it. That is the best feeling anyone can get. You feel like you rule the world, and that nothing can stop you from reaching the top.
I think to myself how stupid I’ve been. It’s taken me 40 days to appreciate my friends, my family, and most of all, my mother. The adventures we have had let me see what I am made of. All that I have accomplished; rock climbing, ropes course, Kayaking, hiking, CPR, Surfing, interviews, 24-hour solo, the final run, and teaching kids from the Boys and Girls Club. With the challenges that I accomplished I discovered my good and bad sides. I’m funny, it’s easy for me to make everyone enjoy themselves. I easily can connect and talk with a person. Just chill-back and fun basically. Yin-Yang for good their must always be bad, for me I always thought I was “positive” but in the time I’ve been here I discovered that I am selfish and lazy. My lies and truths have come out. Emotions that I thought I have locked up and would never have to bare again. All of this has changed me, It has challenged me mentally and physically, but not only that emotionally too. The 24-hour solo was the scariest and most eye-opening experience. I found myself alone, because I knew that the truth in myself would come out, I reflected on the 28 days I’ve been with ARC. The things I‘ve done and the responsibilities that I didn’t take seriously. I felt like a failure in the group. The weakest link. I thought to myself about how I am holding them back, I should just leave and let them succeed. They don’t really need me , I slow them down, especially with my foot limping everywhere. I felt worthless and just low, especially when they would yell at me for slowing them down. I wrote my “I Am Sorry” letter to the group I just wanted to say I’m sorry for coming to ARC, for slowing you down, and for letting you down. I thought about it for a moment and thought of all the experiences that I had; Rock Climbing, Kayaking, all of that. It made me stronger. It changed me for the better. I shouldn’t give up, I should push myself to my limit, and even beyond it.
Here at Sedgwick I learned to be persistent to challenge myself. I have seen and experienced the beauty of the wild, to appreciate what it does for humans. To have met people who fight for the survival of it. I have a different view about nature and life. Life is different for everybody; no one shares the same path. Some people have their life laid out for them; others work toward the life they never had. ARC has let me see what I am capable of doing. It has shown me how much we have to work to reach our goals. For the last 40 days we have all pushed ourselves to our limit. Trusting others and ourselves, being Independent. Letting new people into my heart and souls opening our hearts to one another. Shedding tears of joy and sadness. Even after the 40 days are over we will still be there for one another. We have been born again. Seeing the world in a new way, with a new sight. We will live with these experiences, and we will live with the love that we have been surrounded with. From the fears and challenges we all had to face, and conquer. We will all go forward together as a family.
As I reflect on my experience, I feel that I made the best decision of my life. When Jen started introducing us all that cool activities that we were going to do, I was thinking, “Oh my gosh!, what an amazing chance life is giving me. I feel like I don’t deserve this, because all that kids in the world with out food or a place to live.” I grew enormously, not only physically but mentally. To spend 40 days with 9 other teenagers that I didn’t know was a real mental challenge because I had to learn how to work with other people. Working as a team was not easy because real frustrations came to light. I got impatient when things are not being done right and fast. I recognize that I was not a very patient person, but working on it every single day, I improved. This summer I learned that “slow is good and good is fast.” For example, when we were hiking in Sequoia, for our first expedition, I used to get desperate waiting for slow people. Then I realized that going slow you get fast and safe to your destination.
Also, thinking about my family almost everyday was as painful as a bee sting on the back. I learned to appreciate more of my life, because makes me think about those people that don’t have anything to eat or a place to sleep. This makes me realize how much my parents work to have us in the best conditions that they can. Opportunities do not always appear and when they do you should go for it. I never imagined that I would do something extremely complicated, but as awesome as ARC.
Here is me, Luis Guerra, a typical teenager before I decided to take the risk to come to the ARC program. I was involved in gangs; every day was a fight to live, never knowing if I would make it to the next day. Always worried because I knew my rivals could attack me anytime. I knew I had to stop fooling around with gangs, smoking, and drinking. When my friend died in a car accident, I began to change my attitude, my work in school, and the way I see life. When I realized I didn’t want to live my life the same way as my friends, I began to be more responsible. I don’t want to do the same thing to my mom. Choosing to be in the ARC program shows that I’m starting to make better decisions in my life. I’m going to leave my old life behind when I return.
Even though my mom has always worked very hard for me, I didn’t respect her. Every time my mom tried to talk to me, I didn’t listen. I thought she was crazy. But she continued to support me. It didn’t matter how cruel I was to her. Now that I’m away from my mom, I understand how cruel I have been with her. When I was alone for almost 24 hours on my solo day, I reflected about all of my life, like looking in a mirror. I woke up around 5 in the morning and while the fog was on the top of the mountain, I took my journal and started to write my apology letter to the group. Suddenly, I heard my mom’s voice calling, “Luis.” I turned around thinking that she was behind me but there was only the shade of the tree.
Then I turned back to my letter but instead I looked up at the gray peak in front of me, with red and oranges streaks of light coming down. Pictures came to my mind, one after another, like a slide show: My mom and I were in the back yard; she was sitting at the table; “Luis,” she said, “ the reason I’m here is to give you a better life. If you don’t do better in school, we will have to go back to Mexico.” I shook my head and looked at the ground. Remembering this, I started to cry. Picture after picture of the words I had said to my mom came into my mind. I grabbed a rock and threw it at a boulder in front of me. I was very angry with myself. I couldn’t understand why I have been so cruel to mom. When I get angry, a voice inside commands me to be cruel and disrespectful. It is like I have an angry double inside of me. At this moment, I felt like I couldn’t continue to support these feelings. It was holding me back from enjoying life with people that care about and respect me.
Weeks away from home can make a person crazy but strong. Imagine a girl who had never left home for more than three days now in a forty-day adventure program. A girl, who used to walk half the mile in PE, is now running two miles with a sprained ankle. I was someone who would get a $200 bill on text messages alone, and didn’t think much of it. This someone was lost without her cell phone which she has known longer than the people around her. She was a small town girl who would look at an insane roller coaster and say, “Hell no, am I ever going to get on that.” Well “that girl” is now a completely different person. That girl is now rock climbing, backpacking, facing her fear of being in the ocean and jumping off a forty foot pole and doing things she wouldn’t have dared to imagine herself doing. It all made me realize that there is nothing to fear but fear itself. It is amazing what you can accomplish when you’re away from home.
This has been an experience like no other, a lesson in life. I learned to never give up. If I give up on a challenge, I will not only let myself down but I will never find out what I am capable of. In the end it is all worth it; when I overcome my fears of the ocean, of heights, and of sharing personal feelings, it all feels rewarding. I feel proud that I know I tried: rock climbing, surfing, kayaking, backpacking, and interviewing an adult who I didn’t know. The only person that can get through to me is me; no matter how much people support me, I am the one who has to do it.
Coming to ARC was one of the hardest decisions in my life, leaving family and friends behind to join nine other teens that didn’t have my same intuitions. At first, we all had different minds, different voices, and different futures. A challenge was to see how ten worlds can become one family. I always thought that happened in movies. “No way,” I thought, “am I going to consider nine other teens as my family.” But half way through the course, I saw our friendships developing through my own two eyes and it made me believe. Sharing tears, arguments, and passions for our lives brought us all together.
Posted by Jennifer Gurecki at 5:25 PM