I am on my way to Tarkio, Montana for a week of whitewater kayaking. This is not a regular hobby of mine I’ve barely been kayaking before. So why am I doing this?
I am participating in a program hosted by First Descents. The idea of this is for young adults dealing with Multiple Sclerosis to reclaim their lives through adventure, rather than letting the disease define their lives. This is the first year they are offering it to MS patients. I’m the past they’ve only worked with cancer patients. Here is the link to their website if you’d like to learn more. First Descents
As I’m waiting for my initial flight to Denver I’m considering how I’m feeling and why. I’m excited, of course, but maybe not as much as I should be. I really had a smile I couldn’t hold back as I walked into the airport. Maybe I didn’t want to get too excited before the other shoe dropped and this trip didn’t happen. But what other factors are at play here? Deep down I’m terrified. Nothing so big it’s physically holding me back, more like doubts that require a lot of effort to keep down.
Leaving the kids – oh man, they are going to be so sad. They won’t understand. That’s such a long time to be gone. It’s a lot of extra work for other people.
But it’s good for them to see me leave and come back. It’s a blip in time for their whole lives. Some day they’ll understand what it means to take on a challenge like this and be encouraged to take own their own.
Missing the first week of school – those kids will be so sad and not understand. They’ll start the year off on the wrong foot and have a hard time turning it around. Their parents will very upset and think less of me and my commitment. But,,
it’s only three school days. I have a wonderful substitute that can get them off to a good start and I work with an amazing team that will make sure everything is taken care of. The kids might be sad temporarily but I’ll hit the ground running when I get back and they’ll forget all about it. I’ll be able to share my story with them to help them understand some of the important things in life beyond academics. There will always be someone judging me. I can’t make everyone happy. But all of the people who matter have approved of this trip.
I will literally know NO ONE – for pretty much anyone that knows me, this fear will not come as a surprise. I’m an introvert. I process internally and over think everything. I worry about how I will be perceived and struggle to make small talk. But in the last year I’ve grown so much. I’m wonderfully more confident and open. I can appreciate learning about the others without focusing on my own anxiety. This program is designed to bring people together; they will facilitate relationship building. And, most importantly, we all have a shared experience and a shared illness to build a relationship upon.
Learning a new skill in a short period of time – simply, can I do it? The consequences are very real if I can’t. Losing control in a kayak going through rapids is a very real possibility. But so many other people have done this, successfully, before me. They’ve assured me they’ll teach us as if we’ve never sat in a kayak before. They won’t throw us to the wolves. There will be many hands to help when needed.
This is going to be an incredible physical challenge. Am I up to it? The medical questionnaire consisted mainly of questions about my abilities and limitations. Can you do this? Do you have these symptoms? Will you be able to this, this, and this? While I don’t feel limited by MS in my daily life I started to question if I could keep up. I was afraid my answers would in some way disqualify me from participating in this adventure. But – my disease IS the reason I get to go on this adventure. Everyone else is in the same boat, or worse. These highly trained and experienced professionals understand our trials and have worked to make everything accessible to us and will be more than accommodating.
I have a counter for every doubt. I know that it will all work out. Now I just have to figure out how to believe myself and feel confident. I believe the best way to do that is just to get out there and do it. The only way to grow is to get out of your comfort zone, so here I go!
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you truly are.” – e.e. Cummings
#firstdescents #msawareness #tarkiomontana