Here I was, barely 15 and stranded in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains. My cheeks were raw with tears and I was exhausted from trying to escape my two kidnappers, who pulled me out of bed at four a.m. and took me to Clayton, Georgia. Or that is what I kept telling myself.
Here I was, barely 15 and stranded in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains. My cheeks were raw with tears and I was exhausted from trying to escape my two kidnappers, who pulled me out of bed at 4 a.m. and took me to Clayton, Georgia. Or that is what I kept telling myself.
Reality was, my parents hired my “kidnappers” and they were paying for my stay in Georgia. Merely accepting the fact that I had been sent to a Wilderness program was overwhelming.
“I’m cold,” I said. “Put on your pullover,” they replied, motioning to the orange sweatshirt. “I don’t look good in orange.” “When you’re cold enough, you’ll wear it.” Needless to say, by the end of the night I was wearing the pullover. The other girls were full of grime and boy, did they smell. To my horror, no deodorant was allowed. I became obsessed with staying clean and was proud that my sweatshirt wasn’t dirty compared to the other girls’, which were now a shade of brown.
The weirdest experience of my life happened in a bathroom. I had been in the woods for a month. Biting into a monster carrot, my permanent retainer snapped and I was given the luxury of riding in a heated car to the dentist. Entering the building, I immediately asked to go to the restroom, excited to use a real toilet and sink. I froze in front of the mirror. I hadn’t seen my image in so long that I had actually forgotten what I looked like. It sounds stupid, but when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t recognize myself. I cannot explain the feeling, but it was between astonishment and downright creepiness.
Making friends with the girls who had been there the longest, I learned the ropes from the best. For example, hiking in the front of the line gives you more resting time, since you have to stop often to wait for the slow hikers to catch up. All the consequences were natural. If you didn’t tend the fire, you’d be cold. If you didn’t ration your food each week, you’d be hungry. I faced my fears and pushed myself to what I never imagined was possible. The external factors broke me down. For the first time, my emotional vulnerability was out in the open. When I look back on it, I miss it, yet I wouldn’t want to do it ever again.
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