When I signed up for a leadership retreat at my college orientation this summer, I honestly had no idea what I was getting myself into. All I knew was that I wanted to try something new and meet people with similar goals and aspirations. I did both of those things and much more. The first day we could not do many outdoor activities because it was raining, but we worked on other things that involved teamwork and cooperation. They were fun, but because of my hydrocephalus I was having a difficult time understanding directions because they were being said so quickly. My brain just doesn’t process things that fast! However, that didn’t matter, I had just met these people and they were so kind and helpful, even though they knew so little about me.
All of those team building activities were easy compared to what was to come the next day: zip lining and a ropes course. Even though I am not the most athletic or coordinated person, I didn’t think they would be that hard. I was wrong. I was feeling pretty fearless until it was actually my turn to tackle the ropes course. Getting up the ladder to it was the easy part. As for actually doing it, I think most people would find it pretty challenging, but when you throw hydrocephalus into the mix, it just adds to the challenge. That was definitely okay with me. I know how to fight…and win like everyone else with hydrocephalus. The object of the course was to walk across this very long pole that seemed to be suspended in the sky. Of course, I was helmeted and harnessed, but it was still frightening. As I mentioned, I have zero coordination, so I did lose my footing at times. Eventually though, I made it across, just with my own spin on things. I ended up sliding across part of the way because it was just too difficult. I usually never worry about hitting my head when I do things, but because this was such a new and potentially dangerous experience, I was a little scared. I know some people with hydrocephalus probably would not try this, which is understandable. It depends on your comfort level and history. I knew that I was okay to do it, so I was going to, no matter what; just because I knew I was capable of it. The thought of falling when I had to lean back against the air to get down was scary, but I was still confident because I knew my team had my back despite the fact that we had just met the day before. Shunts may fail me, but my team would not, I was sure of that.
Zip lining was easier; however, actually getting up to it was not. The rungs of the ladder were spread a little too far apart for me, so I had to put in extra effort to grab them or swing my legs onto them because I’m small. After much difficulty I finally got up to the top of the zip line. The view was so amazing. I am grateful that I didn’t give up midway, like I wanted to, because it was very hard. In the end it was worth all the struggle and bruises.
From this retreat I emerged a better, stronger, more confident person. Never, in a million years would I have thought I could achieve the things I did. However, I am certain I would not have done half as well without the strong support and encouragement from my newfound friends. My message to you is do not let anything stop you, especially not hydrocephalus. You deserve to live out all your aspirations. Never let anything hold you back from your dreams and goals; have the courage to do what scares you. For me, it was not the height that was daunting, but the fact that this was so out of my comfort zone and not what I would normally do. Do not fear new experiences as they may end up being some of the best in your life. Be daring, hydrocephalus does not define you, so if possible, don’t ever let it keep you on the sidelines.