I sometimes think about how I have changed from 4 years ago, – all of us have changed in one way or another. The question is how have we changed? Some of us stop eating bread, some of us decide to go travel, others decide to take a break from society, and some try something they never have.
Through my years at Link I learned to challenge myself each year more and more. I was the kind of person that would look upon something and try to run away from it, I was that person that let the days go by without even looking back at them. I was scared of every activity we did here at Link. I was afraid to put myself in a tight place.
Now I am the person that is running into the storm instead of running away from it. Now I am the person that looks at days with open doors to make memories. Now I am the person climbing towers in the middle of the desert, kayaking rapids, biking trails. Now I am the person that’s ready to meet the challenges of all the activities I love. Now I am the person that looks at things in different ways. In some ways I look at things and think, How can I make them better for me and for others? Now I am the person that wants to wake up and make a change in the world.
In conclusion a lot of us change day by day. What I have to changed in 4 years is how I look at things with an open mind, and with an open heart.
BY ROBERT FROST
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Eric Trevor Roberts
I was someone who had the future planned out, but then I realized that the future I had envisioned wasn’t actually my path.
The previous school program that I was a part of wasn’t the right fit for me, but I made new friends here at Link and found a group that I could be a part of.
I was someone who knew about caring for the environment, but now I have a deeper understanding of stewardship.
Before Link I knew how to cook a few things and now I have found that I enjoy cooking and have grown tremendously in my culinary skills.
I used to think that whatever the plan was, was set in stone. Now I see that there are other things in life that alter the course of the plan and that being flexible is a virtue to keep developing.
On the solo trip I had realized that I had overcome a fear of mine – it was the fear of being by myself at night in the wilderness. As I am writing this the thought came to me is that since I have overcome this fear of mine, I have no longer have a reason to fear the unknown and the steps that are ahead of me.
I was not a lost teardrop drifting in the sad winds of reality. I was not a fish swimming against the current… I was just a kid. And I was a mean kid. The type of kid that would make your kid cry for no reason. I’d manipulate my siblings with Rolos and Reese’s cups, and for fun I’d try and make them cry just by using my vicious words. Everyday I would come home from school and torment my family until I got myself grounded for months, and crying for hours. I hated myself and I took that out on my family, and eventually myself.
My parents would throw the hammer down. I’d get punishments three times worse than my three other siblings and it didn’t even work. Anger is something I struggled with for most of my life and it didn’t just disappear. For 17 years I believe that mean was just who I am. A close member of my family once told me that “Avery, your brother Clayton was born kind, and he has to push himself to be hateful. But you Avery, you were born hateful, and have to really try to be kind.” I’ve always thought that mean was my nature, and I could never really be authentically kind. That’s the stupidest trash I have ever heard. No one is born evil, no one is born mean.
Today, all I want to do is be kind. It has become easier for me to notice when someone is struggling because all I do is care for the people around me. I care for everyone in this community deeply. I’ve made some incredible friends here – both staff and students. And there wasn’t a day that went by where I wasn’t making sure they were ok. It has become easier for me to feel what the people around me are feeling, which is great when they get into their college or get a surprise visit from their mom! But it’s also a curse like when they wake up blind in one eye from a spider or start a throw-up chain reaction in Colombia. I care a lot. All I want to do is help people – is to show love and spread art. Kindness has taught me more than ever.
Creativity is a close second in this life. I want to express love in multiple ways. And because of Link, I got to see love demonstrated in so many, many ways. I’ve just had the greatest opportunity to be in a community immersed in love and kindness and I worked hard to be a positive contributor to my community. I will never forget what a difference Link has made to me and the realization I made kindness and creativity are the ways that I uniquely radiate light and that will never change.
I was learning how to navigate the trepid path ahead. Very little seemed to be solidified for my future; there were ideas, but everything had been so unsure, and that is something I struggle with. Not knowing about what lies ahead gives me this unwavering feeling that nothing is going to go right, or that it won’t be how I had originally envisioned it. More often than not, I found myself going into the unknown worried about what would happen and how the outcome would end up; and after going through what I was so uncertain of, I would realize that there was little to nothing to worry about. I can’t recollect the amount of times that I have gone through that process just doing the same thing and making the same mistakes.
My time throughout these past three years has been full of incredible growth, new experiences, new highs, new lows, new relationships with friends that I will remember forever, and most of all, I have been given the ideas and ability to explore who I want to be. No, I am nowhere near figuring that out, but I now know that I have everything that I need, to be able to continue this journey in finding out what exactly it is that I want to be.
When I first came to Link, I quickly learned that there were many more things that I wanted to do, so many that I got a bit overwhelmed. The best way I can put my experience into something comprehensible is through a poem by Jon Nelson
Learn To Crawl
“When it seems that all you do,
Is to stumble and fall,
Remember before you walk, you
Have to learn to crawl.
There are many obstacles to
Climb before you reach the top.
Even though they may hold you
Back, It’s no reason to stop.
Always look forward and keep
Moving toward you goal.
Sometimes you have to search deep
Down into your soul. “
Countless times I fell, slowly getting back up each time
Countless obstacles I seemed to face, conquering too many for me to recall
Countless moments of figuring out the “Why”
I was learning, and still am.
Through quickly finding out that there is so much more that I could do, but learning how to slow down and stick with just a few. Learning to grow as an individual, to be able to open more doors than I could imagine; also realizing what is feasible and not. Learning that the unknown is not completely and utterly aimless, letting us have some choice in where we go. Learning that it is ok to let people help you when you are down, and even more so that it’s ok to fall in front of others.
I was an assortment of Lego pieces scattered across the divine field of thought. I had my understanding of things I was familiar with, which at the beginning of my first year was not a lot. I was also unaware of what I physically could not see or touch. My mind was not always open to change or seeing something from another point of view instead of just my own. My thoughts were lost in that they had no good foundation to function properly in this new more social environment of Link rather than home. I had lots of questions.
Now I am a conglomerate assortment of Legos. Still not a finished masterpiece, but a build coming closer to its final product. Over my four years of being at Link, a lot has changed; I have become stronger and have more endurance with the physical activities we do. I am also smarter and more caring of others. I can see beauty more easily in simple and complex works.
Over this last year, I have made lots of steps, with some being big and others small, towards a better understanding of Spirit. My spiritual sense has strengthened with my connection to the Divine. With the reading I have been doing on Spiritual topics, a lot has spoken to me to help me understand more about myself, what I do and should do, and why it’s all important to me.
Once Natalie Lewis told me a story of a donkey and a farmer. The farmer was tired of the donkey so he put the donkey in his well, grabbed his shovel, and began to bury the donkey. He spent hours trying to bury the donkey and then heard a sound. He looked behind and the donkey was back beside the well. The donkey was smart enough to not just give up. Every piece of dirt shoveled, he would step on top of until he reached the top. He lived.
Now I didn’t know that this story would apply to me when it was told, but when you go on a trip to be alone in the dessert for 2 days, you get a lot of time to think to yourself. To me, I felt like I was the farmer and everyone trying to help me were the donkey. I tried to push people away and then tried to bury my problems. Thinking I could do everything on my own, but truth is, I need those stubborn donkeys in my life. They have helped me grow in ways that I didn’t think was possible for just a high school student. Pushed me in ways that I didn’t think were useful in the moment, but now I have seen how much strength I have gotten out of everything we’ve done here at Link. Every student here I have watched grow into strong independent people, I have even seen that growth in myself. It may take time for a person to grow, but you just have to have patience to see it happen. And the people around me have definitely had patience with me. Most importantly, I had to have patience with myself. Push yourself to see the good you can do. Help others when they are in need. Love the people around you even when it gets tough. Love yourself when you feel like you can’t. Feel the grace of God in the tough times. These are the things that those stubborn donkeys have taught me. For them, I wouldn’t be here standing today with those qualities.
Before coming to Link, I didn’t really feel valued in society and I felt as if I was just a normal person with nothing to offer as an individual. However, when coming to Link my thought changed. I began finding more worth within myself and I began realizing that there was true potential in me. Yes, my grades went up, but at the same time, I was feeling more self-valued than ever. This for me was something really important since it changed my thought completely by that shift in idea to become more than just a “normal” person. I didn’t want to be a person who just lives his life without ever admiring the beauty of it, – I wanted more than that. I want to do great things, and be great. This mindset made me more curious. I knew that my travels made me unique so tried to involve them in my life more. I did this by trying to look at the things around me in a more worldly viewpoint. Link not only brought me a community of friends but it also helped find self-value.
This school year started off in mediocrity. I was at a new school that I loved, I made friends that I enjoyed within the first week or so, but all of this was, not quite eclipsed but definitely overshadowed by my anxiety. The first month or so was great, but soon it became difficult for me to get up in the morning to go to school and participate in simple tasks like lunch. It wasn’t all bad though, I was challenged in my classes and had friends that I felt comfortable around – an experience that was relatively new to me. A couple months in, I switched to an online school so that I didn’t have to tussle with the day to day stress that going to school brought. Online school was similar to my experience at the first school, everything started out well, but pretty soon I had trouble doing my schoolwork, and assignments began to pile up. My failure to get caught up with school began to take its toll, and my anxiety peaked again. Christmas break came and I decided to return to Link.
My return to Link was met with great anticipation on my part. I knew the teachers and most of the students and I knew that I would be able to build my self-confidence while there. I did accomplish this goal, although it did take a while. The beginning of second semester began similarly to how first semester ended. I felt insecure about my relationships with my classmates here and the actuality of my success in classes. As the year progressed, I missed fewer days of school and I felt more and more validated in my relationships and academic success. Slowly, since returning to Link, I’ve grown past most of my anxiety and feel more confident in myself.
When I first came to Link I was scared I wouldn’t be as good at program activities (climbing, biking, boating, etc.) as some of the returning students. I felt intimidated by their skills and therefore intimidated by them. I wasn’t sure I was going to be accepted, and that scared me. As I look back, I realize I no longer feel as intimated by my peers anymore. I’ve learned to accept who I am and where I am. I’ve also, through much practice, gained a lot of confidence in my abilities in program activities–specifically climbing. Now when I see someone climb a super-hard route, I don’t get down on myself or my abilities. Instead, I feel confident that with practice and determination I, too, will be able to climb the same route and, it feels the same with academics and everything else too.
I was afraid, afraid to step out of my comfort zone and attempt new things, afraid of the unknown and what I couldn’t change. I would constantly attempt to change things that even I knew I couldn’t. Now I feel like I’m more accepting of the things life pushes me towards. I feel like I can let go and be free of all anxiousness that used to hold me captive.
I was afraid, – afraid of new things, afraid of being alone, deserted or abandoned, afraid of what people might think about me, afraid of hurting someone, or something, afraid of talking to new people, afraid of myself. I would never try new, and hard things because I was afraid of failure. I always say sorry because I’m afraid of coming across rude, mean or plain annoying to people, even though I’ve come to realize that saying sorry repeatedly ‘is’ annoying. My heart would falter, skip a beat, simply if my mom asked me to buy a bottle of milk alone while she waited in the car for me. I was too helpless, too scared, too afraid of life.
Now I see I threw away countless amazing opportunities in life because I didn’t have the guts to live. I was afraid, but now I am free, free from second guessing my life, free from feeling afraid. I am up for any challenge life throws at me. I try to spend every moment like it’s my last. I’ve overcome most of my fears, and love being alone. I’ve also started to realize my “sorry” problem is actually really infuriating for others. I’m still working on being my best self and not worrying about what others think of me. I’m living my own life, and trusting in God to show me the way, especially when I go buy my mom a bottle of milk.
I’m finally free!