Just above my home, about a 9-iron away, is access to a trailhead for a smooth 10-mile stretch that runs along the base of the beautiful Wasatch mountains overlooking the valley. This relatively flat bike path is a perfect round trip distance for my level of expertise. I take this ride about two days a week on average, both for the exercise and to soak up the majestic views. I feel free, unencumbered, and for about an hour I have an opportunity for quiet and peaceful reflection.
Near the end of this trail I am overlooking one of my favorite golf courses and always stop for the unique bird’s eye view, and to simply give my body a rest for a minute. Before turning around to head for home, the last mile of this path descends steeply, winding through a shaded and wooded cluster of trees. No pedaling required as I cruise at a high speed down the hill, loving this all too brief thrill. In the back of my mind however, I know that enjoying this euphoric part of the ride also means that as I make the u-turn to head for home, what goes down must also come back up.
Recently, I was sitting at the bottom of that hill, and having just experienced the best part of the ride, my mind shifted to how hard it was going to be to climb back up. Just moments before, I thought life couldn’t get any better.
I began my ascent, slowly but surely, my head down with determination to keep going. I was winded and felt like stopping several times but I knew I was getting close to the top. As I rounded that last turn I looked up and there was a person resting on her bike with her arms straight in the air and the biggest smile on her face as she said, “You did it!” It didn’t feel patronizing; it was a genuine expression of support and kindness. She probably thought I looked as though I needed it. I did. I felt a rush of gratitude, a sense of accomplishment, a validation, and a belief in myself that I can do hard things--as simple as this example is.
In that moment, my thoughts turned to our Evoke students out in the wilderness. They are making that climb, sometimes literally and sometimes metaphorically, nearly every day. They are doing hard things that may not come naturally to them: primitive living, backpacking, cooking, and making fire from sticks and stones. They are digging deep to explore the meaning of their thoughts, feelings, emotions, their relationships with others, their own selves, and how they fit into this crazy world. The wilderness provides the backdrop and space to explore all of this in the most supportive and emotionally safe ways. Yet it is still not easy work.
Many of these students arrive with little to no belief in themselves, feeling that they can’t do hard things. But in the end, they leave with the wherewithal to accomplish almost anything. Sometimes it just takes an experience, a moment in time of reaching that summit, with the helpful guidance of a caring support team exclaiming: You can do this. We believe in you. We value you. We see you. Who you are is enough.
That validation, that recognition by others, can help spark belief in themselves so at that end of the day each Evoke student can say, “I did it!”