What matters most to you and why?
I can’t stand carpet. The diverse and rugged terrain of the outdoors is undoubtedly superior. I find air conditioning annoyingly artificial compared with summer’s pure, refreshing breeze. And though it may be abnormal, I love to feel sweat dripping down my back during a fifty-mile bike ride. So last April when my parents suggested I start planning for a summer job, the beckoning of the great outdoors led me to an easy decision: I was going to work on a ropes course.I found a six-day program to get my certification as a Level 1 Challenge Course Facilitator and enrolled immediately. The classes began simply enough as a small group sitting in a circle in the woods. The instructor gave talks on examining equipment for strength and comforting a nervous climber. We learned the difference between steel and aluminum carabiners, how to tie a bowline-on-a-bite in our ropes, and practiced performing a rescue fifty feet in the air. That was all to be expected, but I was surprised to find that I gained much more from the class than technical skills alone.More than simply attaching pulleys to cables and fitting participants with harnesses, at their core, a good facilitator does what their name implies: they facilitate teambuilding and personal growth. For each group that comes to the ropes course, a facilitator’s mind is constantly planning specific activities with those goals in mind. Because of this, the entire training program centered around a single page in our handbooks that simply said: “The Big Kahuna, Rule Number 1, The Big Boy, The Law, A Climbing Imperative, A Must Do: KNOW WHY YOU DO WHAT YOU DO!”In the intervening months that I’ve pondered that quote, my priorities have adjusted. Formerly, I would have arbitrarily placed any number of values, like “love” or “Jesus” or “relationships” among the things that matter most to me. Today, though, I am on a journey—one that’s led me not outdoors, but inward. Purpose matters most and I am dedicated to discover Why I Do What I Do. Rather than blindly following what my friends or parents or the media feel is right, I now constantly analyze life. I study history and philosophy to define my own political beliefs, independent of my parents’. I’ve begun to examine my religion and ask why I believe what I do. Is my involvement in church only habitual? What can sustain my faith if the essence of faith is that which is beyond proof? Living in Oklahoma—truly, the “buckle” of the Bible Belt—questioning faith is difficult. And since I know nothing but this world, I find rationalizing it nearly impossible. Even so, I feel compelled to keep in pursuit. I cannot ignore a curious impulse telling me to trust in religion and accept that my own spirituality is continually changing, therefore I may never find a definitive answer.The road to my future is also quite mysterious, though my newfound sense of purpose tells me this: I must find a career I love—a true vocation. At this point in my life, money carries little weight in relation to following my bliss. Plenty of my friends have chosen to take the path to a well-paying, but unlikable, career. I admire them greatly, even if their values do not align with mine, because they know why they do what they do. I, however, am searching my soul to find some direction for my life. But I cannot do that on my own; I know my college education will expose me to a realm of new people and experiences wherein I will surely find my passion.As for my summer job, age restrictions forced me to wait until next summer before taking any jobs as a ropes facilitator. Fortunately, I found a solution by reflecting on why I wanted to work on the ropes course: I wanted to be outdoors, work with kids, and make new friends with common interests, so I took a job teaching kids to swim. The experience was thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding, plus it gave me some much needed work experience. In addition, I found myself fortunate to find a workplace with no carpet or air conditioning in sight.