Pretty much all year, I’ve heard “When is the retreat? You’re going to love it!!” from every upper-class PLPer I’ve talked with. And I can definitely say that I wasn’t disappointed:) I personally am usually a little bit skeptical about those experiences that are supposed to change your life in less than 48 hours. So I went into this past weekend with an open mind, but hoping for something pretty great. We got to the Nature Place, and from the minute we saw the little number on our nametag, intense rivalries formed. (TEAM ONE WHERE YOU AT?!) From the beginning, we dove in, sharing our past, our future, and what makes us who we are. I got to learn things about my group that I might not have ever guessed. We were able to tell others about the things that are the most important to us, and trust that we were going to be respected and appreciated. The following hours consisted of putting leadership skills into practice, and learning as we went. While the ropes courses definitely had significant personal impacts, I think we grew the most in the team building exercises. Let me preface this by saying that the activities weren’t new or revolutionary, and everyone had probably done something like them before. But that aside, the experiences were completely different. Maybe it was our team members, and maybe it was the mountains, but I think that the significance came from people being willing to realize that not one certain leadership style was right, and that we all had something to contribute.
The leadership/team building part of the weekend was incredible, but then it got even better. Saturday night, our RAs led us in activities that were the super sappy parts that everyone talks about. I know it meant something different for each person, but the index card activity hit me the hardest: it was such a great representation of opening yourself up to people and ripping off the masks that we wear. My hands shook as I slowly turned over the card and set myself completely at the mercy of the person in front of me. For those like me who sometimes need a little time to get to know someone, immediately making myself that vulnerable was difficult. But the most amazing thing was when I looked up, with a few tears in my eyes, to see the person in front of me pointing out the fact that we both had “lonely” written on our card. I was not alone. If the purpose of that activity was building community, holy crap, there you go. Then we dove in a little deeper with the “touch someone who…” activity. Each time someone tapped (or mercilessly kicked) my foot, I fell a little bit more into a wonderful sense of community. To know a group for only a few weeks, and have people already make huge impacts on one another is really incredible. When it all boils down, people are what matter, and sometimes you just need someone to tell you that you’re important. So after the activities, with all the feels, we went outside and jammed around a bonfire. There’s something about a campfire that just brings everyone together, and that hour or so was a moment that I’m not going to forget anytime soon.
Last Wednesday, when we received our Insights, Paul asked us to say our name and what makes us feel alive. Sitting around that fire with people that I know are going to be in my life for a long time made feel so freaking ALIVE. Jumping off a pole 20 feet off the ground made me feel ALIVE. Leaning completely on one person to help me get across a wire in the air made me feel ALIVE. Waking up way too early to see the sunrise made me feel ALIVE. So I think that’s what we all experienced during the retreat: we were ALIVE.
– Erin Beasley, 1st year PLPer