Recently, I had the opportunity to go to youth conference with my church youth group. This year, we went to Camp Williams, a kind of military camp in Bluffdale.
Before even arriving, I knew this trip would be both physically and emotionally testing, and boy, was I right!
We drove down to the church and dropped off all our stuff on a Thursday morning in June. For the next two hours, we ran through the rules of the camp, got our squads, and did a few exercises with our groups.
My squad was the Bravo squad, so we had blue bandannas. We had to figure out a pattern to get around each other without talking, and we actually managed to do this before any of the other groups.
Soon, it was time to take the hour-and-a-half drive to the camp. One of the other cars broke down, so we got there a lot earlier than everyone else.
After settling into the barracks, we went to a leadership reaction course, which was basically just like a military obstacle course. We were in our individual squads, and we all had to take turns being a leader and figuring out how to solve each puzzle. Some were really hard, and we only had 15 minutes to do each one.
There were water traps on some of the exercises, and every time we heard a distant splash, our hearts sank.
The obstacle course was physically demanding as well as mentally demanding. On one event, we had to run up a steep ramp and grab the top, then pull ourselves over and onto the ledge. I got up just fine, but then I glanced over the other edge and my stomach plummeted. I have a huge fear of heights; I always have.
I realized that while I did get up just fine, I would now have to get back down. Thankfully, we ran out of time, and one of my leaders got a ladder for me to get down.
On another exercise, we were up on the top of this very high wall, and we only had half of a ladder to get down. I was the last to go down, and by then, the ladder was nearly at the bottom of the wall. I was the shortest in my group! I couldn’t make it!
Then, one of my teammates climbed back up the ladder and helped me down, and we solved the puzzle together.
I’m a very independent person, so during this whole first day, it seemed I had to learn to trust my teammates and know that no matter what happened, I’d be OK.
Well, then the second day rolled around.
On that Friday, we were scheduled to go down a rappelling wall. I was fairly confident when I woke up; I thought it’d be no big deal. We drove up to the wall, the instructor gave us a few rules and told us that it was only 35 feet high.
I thought, “OK, no big deal. It won’t be as bad when I get to the top, right?”
After getting strapped into a harness, dragged up five flights of stairs and waiting in line for 30 minutes, I began to panic. One kid in front of me had to leave the line because he was convinced he would pass out. Would that happen to me?
Kyle, the instructor, looked right into my soul and said, “Next victim!”
I tried to back out, but no one let me. Right when I got to the edge of the wall, the other instructor, CJ, told me to admire the view of the country instead of looking down. I did my best to listen to him. He made me spread my arms out and lean back, and then I was sent walking down the wall.
I slipped once and hit the wall, but it wasn’t hard enough to bruise. Everyone was telling me to jump a little, and I was so petrified I merely let my feet drag against the wall.
Once I hit the wood chips at the bottom, I lay there for a solid 30 seconds before standing up. It was a very scary experience, but I’m glad I did it. Now I can say that I walked on a wall just like Spider-Man can!
Overall, it was a great trip, and I had a lot of fun. I bonded a lot with the youth in my church ward, and we all learned a thing or two about fear. It may just be a four-letter word, but boy, does it control our lives.
Throughout this trip, I’ve been learning to not let fear control me so easily. I mean, I went down a rappelling wall despite my crippling fear of heights. If I can do that, then I can do anything!
Taylor Jenkins will be a senior this fall at Weber High School and loves to write. If you have questions or want to chat, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.