It’s All Fun and Games, Right?

Our job was to remove dangerous toxic waste from a busy New York City block and safely dispose of it in a hazardous waste container.

Stefan immediately got to work and everyone on our team followed suit…except for me. I found myself saying, “Wait! Wait a minute! What’s our plan?”

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At 21 years old, Stefan could lead an army without speaking a word and, even though I would have rather taken a moment to make a plan, I also followed his lead.

We survived that exercise and, with Stefan leading the charge, no one even uttered a word for its entirety. Wags thought we may have set a new course record for eliminating the toxic tennis ball the fastest.

I learned something about myself that day. It was not the first time this semester.

On Thursday, we play games at school. It’s called Experiential Learning: learning by doing combined with reflection. Twelve weeks ago, I had never heard of such a thing.

In practical terms, experiential learning occurs when a person achieves learning, behavior change or growth by being supported through challenging activities in a manner that works best for them. Does this sound like running a marathon?

Maybe runners learn a little something about themselves with every race. The length of the race does not necessarily exacerbate the learning. One of my greatest discoveries came during a 5k.

Less than 10 minutes in, I was saying to myself, “Shit! This hurts. I hate this!” A few minutes later I had decided nothing was worth hurting that bad for. I would quit. I stepped off the course and stopped running.

For the next few seconds, I tried to picture how I would unwind myself from this race. Walk back to the start? Walk to the finish? Good lord, how would that look. How long would that take? My husband was standing at the finish line waiting for me. Did it really hurt so bad that I couldn’t finish?

No, it didn’t. I put my feet back on the course, stopped at the aid station for water and, cussed all the way to the finish line….in 3rd place.

What you learn during these experiences is neither good nor bad – there’s simply something to learn about yourself. If you want that something to be different, then there’s an opportunity to change/grow. Sometimes getting over the “hump” is painful, aggravating or, down right irritating – but, it may be the difference between winning and loosing, moving forward or stagnating, changing/growing.

There are 38 days left in this semester; what I would call the grueling back half of the race. The point where you’ve had to recommit yourself to the effort….where the learning occurs.

Our last group hike for Wednesday’s class is tomorrow. A seven-mile trek, 1000 feet of elevation gain and the full load in our expedition backpacks totalling 25% of our body weight. This morning it snowed.

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