Here I was, barely 15 and stranded in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains. My cheeks were raw with tears and I was exhausted from trying to escape from my two kidnappers, who pulled me out of bed at 4 in the morning and took me to Clayton, Georgia. That is what I kept telling myself. Reality was, my parents hired my “Kidnappers” and they were paying for my stay in Georgia. Merely accepting the fact that I had been sent to a Wilderness program was overwhelming. “I’m cold.” I shivered. “Put on your pullover.” My DAPS said, motioning to the orange sweatshirt. “I don’t look good in Orange.” “Get over it. When you’re cold enough, you’ll wear it.” Needless to say, by the end of the night I was wearing the pullover. The other girls were full of grime and god, did they smell. To my horror, no deodorant was allowed.
I became obsessed with staying clean and prided that my orange sweatshirt wasn’t dirty compared to the other girl’s, whose sweatshirts were once as bright of orange as mine were now a shade of brown. The weirdest experience of my life happened in a bathroom. I had been in the forests for over a month. Biting into one of the monster carrots, my permanent retainer snapped and I was given the luxury of riding in an actual HEATED car to the dentists. Upon entering the building, I immediately asked to go to the restroom, excited to use a real toilet and sink. I literally was frozen in front of the mirror.
I hadn’t seen my own reflection that I had actually forgotten what I looked like. It sounds stupid, but when I looked into the mirror, I didn’t recognize the girl in the mirror. I cannot explain the feeling of not recognizing yourself but it was in between astonishing and downright creepy. Making friends with the girls who had stayed the longest, I learned the ropes from the best. Such as, hiking in the front of the line gives you more resting time, as you have to continuously stop and wait for the slow hikers in the back to catch up. All the consequences were natural. If you didn’t stoke and tend the fire, you’d be cold. If you didn’t ration your personal food for the week, you’d be hungry. I faced my fears and pushed myself to what I never imagined was possible. The external factors broke me down. For the first time, my emotional vulnerability was out in the open. When I look back on It, I miss it, yet I wouldn’t want to do it again.
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