My story begins in a small town in Western Pennsylvania, I had just graduated from high school and I had the whole world ahead of me. Nevertheless, I had no direction; I was lost with no real sense of self. Then one day, my best friend suggested we celebrate our graduation by going on a camping trip.
I was skeptical at first; I had gone camping as a kid with the Boy Scouts, but it was something I hadn’t done in years. It didn’t take long for him to convince me; we packed up the car and headed off to the wilderness. Luckily for us, we didn’t have to go very far to find a suitable camping site; Pennsylvania is filled with thick forests and great hiking trails.
When it came time to make a fire, I was shocked that I still remembered all my old tricks. Everything was running smoothly and we were having a good time. While my buddy was collecting the firewood, a thought came to me. Within just a few hours of being essentially alone in the quiet wilderness, I realized how rarely we get to experience such peace and quiet. It didn’t take long for this silence to be interrupted by the sounds of nature, yet I couldn’t be happier. As corny as it sounds, I quickly embraced the sounds of running creeks, chirping birds, and rustling leaves as the soundtrack of the world. I felt as if I had taken a vacation from reality –it was so soothing.
In today’s society, we are bombarded with stimuli that keep us engaged and distracted from what’s real. Take just one look at the people around you and you’ll find nearly everybody engrossed by their phone, newspaper, or magazine. We live in a façade of interconnectivity where we’ve become less connected to each other and especially our surroundings. How rare it has become to sit and think, reminisce, and contemplate life. I don’t know if I’m just old fashioned, or if everybody is just too absorbed in the fast-paced reality to actually just sit and meditate. At that moment, I decided to commit myself to living life of awareness and consciousness.
In this modern age of unlimited interconnectivity, a universal struggle of feeling alone has arisen; and I was not exempt from this suffering. Social media has allowed us to connect to people and information at the press of a button; unfortunately, we’ve never been further away from real connection to either. The deteriorating self-awareness in today’s youth has produced a generation where depression and loneliness are rampant, and the search for self-worth is futilely sought through the external. As a result, I believe that people are generally more disconnected from their true feelings and desires. Consequently, our society has engrained in us an utter lack of capacity to assume responsibility for ourselves. To move passed this, it’s imperative that we become aware of our true feelings. Otherwise, we’ll be unable to identify our desires, which, in turn, ensure that we can’t make decisions that are in our best interest.
My time camping, that fateful weekend, helped me recognize these truths, and ultimately changed my life. The serene surroundings of the Pennsylvanian woods were the perfect catalyst for developing a relationship with myself. Spending quality time with nature helped me get back in touch with my primal self; the constant struggles of survival hit me like a ton of bricks. Every task was an uphill battle, but I never let it discourage me. I came to recognize that to overcome our personal struggles, we must develop a love for the
I came to recognize that to overcome our personal struggles, we must develop a love for the self – a love that won’t diminish when faced with internal and external challenges, but approaches those with the proper attention and determination. If done consciously, camping allows us to recalibrate our relationship with Nature and the cycles therein. Becoming more aware of Life, Death, and Change, opened my eyes to what’s real and what’s futile. I quickly realized that self-consciousness isn’t a negative thing; in fact, it’s the single greatest human achievement through which we can accomplish a secure relationship with ourselves, others, and our surroundings.
As I laid down staring at the open sky, the moon and stars shining brightly, I pondered the transience of our lives. This thought normally would have depressed me, however, that night was different. The infinite landscape of the universe allowed me to appreciate how important our time really is. Imagine if we were immortal – nothing would matter –there would no value to any particular moment in time. Our very transience is what gives our lives meaning. We don’t have very long on this Earth, and time is too precious to waste. From then on, I never used the phrase “time to kill”; how could I? Time is the most elusive and valuable commodity in our reality.
Without sounding creepy, I quickly became my own best friend, though I made sure not to seclude myself from the world. I found that taking uninterrupted alone time (even for just a few minutes), to allow meditative and pervasive thoughts to occupy my mind, my life became more meaningful. This consciousness is what it means to not only live but also to exist. I learned to write my thoughts down and revisit them often; this was a huge step in my introspective development.
To conclude, immersing myself in Nature was the greatest and most uplifting experience I ever had. The serenity of the woods allowed me to truly appreciate Life. The immense beauty that exists in Nature is unmatched. It’s unfathomable how I was ever able to ignore these truths for so long. It just goes to show how important it is to slow down, and even pause from the constant unwavering speed of 2017 America. By observing Nature and its cycles, I learned to see things in the bigger picture. Just as a small creature lives in its own mini-universe, so too, we as humans, are just one piece of an infinite puzzle. There is so much more to our very existence that we are unaware of. While it’s important to not get caught up in the fine details, it’s equally crucial to embrace every moment and decision and how they affect the grander scheme of things. My parting words to you are to remember to grow strong; spend time with yourself; and most importantly, know yourself, for these are necessary steps to the road to self-awareness. Once you possess it, you will realize that it is more precious than anything else in the world, because without knowledge of self, we cannot truly know anyone else. Life is too precious to let it pass by; it’s time to stop being a bystander to your own life. Be patient, and enjoy the ride.