Don't Want To Make You Grow Numb, If It's Not What You Thought It Was, Legs Are For Discovering, This Is What It's Like
I was at Camp Cherry Valley located miles away from the mainland on the small island of Catalina contemplating my future. I was probably eleven or twelve at the time, the summer before Eighth Grade, and I was away on a week-long camping trip with my Boy Scout troop. That right there was the problem that had me troubled. At that point in time, laying on that wooden floor, above a dirty and sweat-filled sleeping bag, I was contemplating whether all of this "fun" was really worth the effort. I was contemplating whether or not I had the correct intentions for persisting in this very foolish endeavor known as scouting.
The trouble started a few years earlier when a former alumni of my elementary school/junior high, St. Rita's, came by to recruit for a new scout troop he was putting together. He had, apparently, risen high in the ranks and thought his talents could be best served by reviving the old troop number of St. Rita's. Admittedly, I was excited. I had been in a Cub Scout troop that had been fun for awhile but had splintered apart under bad leadership. I was looking forward to experiencing what a troop done right would be like. However, I think the real reason I wanted in was because all my friends were truly gung-ho about it. Some kids experience peer pressure to trying out drugs, alcohol, and smoking. My first and most memorable exposure to it was the Boy Scouts. After all, if the only group of people I spent time with outside of my family had up and decided to join a cult, I would have probably joined a cult too. Nobody wants to be the odd man out and I certainly didn't want that distinction either.
However, that's exactly what ended up happening.
For the first years, it was actually fun. We did all the things I had imagined went along with the camping, hiking, and crafting mythology that went along with Boy Scouts. For the first few years I actually couldn't wait to show up to the troop meetings. For the first few years I couldn't spend enough time hiking and camping. That's actually where my love of the outdoors came to fruition.
I think the trouble began when my friends tasted the few sweet sips of success in scouting. Suddenly, it became less about having fun and become more of advancing in rank. I didn't have this huge push to become an Eagle Scout. To me this was just a fun way to spend time with my friends and have permission to be big, huge goofballs miles away from my parents. To me it was just an extension of the hijinx we usually engaged in and away from school. I couldn't make the distinction when and where scouting suddenly became this serious pursuit full of serious plans and serious commitment.
Cut to Camp Cherry Valley. I had spent the first few days hanging out with my friends, but on that day I found myself alone in my tent because my tentmate and my other three friends had signed up for yet another merit badge class. Sure, I could have signed up for the same class, but it involved copious amounts of sleeping directly on the ground and foraging for your own food. Neither of which interested me at all. The only depressing part was they had all signed up for the class and they all had departed for the overnight part of the class, leaving mojo alone and without a person in the world to talk to. I suppose I could have hung out with the younger members of the troop, by my four friends were the only people the same age as me and I was still at that age where soon-to-be Eighth graders did not hang out with soon-to-be Seventh graders. It just wasn't done.
So there I laid, after dinner but before bedtime, trying to come up with reasons why I should continue doing something I didn't really enjoy. I mean--it was one thing to be involved when my friends were all involved at the same level as me. But somewhere along the way they had taken this secret vote to change gears and shoot for the big prize at the end of the rainbow. Somewhere along the way it started becoming a life plan to them instead of the postponement of real life that it still was to me. That night I realized things would never be the same. I had seen the writing on the wall and it said that night would only be the first night of many where I could only be seen as lagging behind all of them. I was never going to be as dedicated to their goals. I was going to be the dumbass who couldn't get serious enough to start earning his badges left and right. I was going to be the one left behind.
I don't know if you've ever been in that situation, but it isn't pleasant. I don't much care for being thought as being lazy or for being thought of as a malcontent. I wanted to keep pace with them. Honestly, I did. But as I trolled through my thoughts, I came to the conclusion that my sin did not lay in being unmotivated. My sin originated from my ever joining in the first place. It's one thing to commit yourself to something and then abandon it for the next pretty pursuit that tickles your loins. But it's another thing to know something holds no interest for you and still doing it because somebody else you like is doing it. Yes, you never know what you'll like until you give it a try, but sometimes the best thing you can do when it comes to something that gives you a bad first impression is to just say no. What you should never do under any circumstances is continue to pretend to like something for the sake of others. It does you no favors and only makes the feeling of being let down all the more acute for them. I say once you dislike something, once it fails to make you happy, then you should stop.
I was too young at that point to put it into so many words. But even then I had a gut feeling that there are just some activities, hobbies, or callings that are not suited to a person, just as there are some people not suited for one another.
Yet with a few years time, I came to realize that that too may have been part of the problem. My friends were okay for that period in my life, but even they were not suited to me. They possessed a drive and thirst for betterment that I simply did not share. I was perfectly content to assist and co-operatively better a group, but I don't have that competitive edge so many others were born with. I have never relished matching up with my peers. I'd much rather be part of a collective that are opposing another collective. That's the extent of my competitive drive.
Before I went to bed that night, I came to the decision that after that summer Boy Scouting and I would part ways. I had no thought of continuing my scouting well into eighth grade or beyond.
Yes, my friends saw me as a coward and a quitter, but I always thought what I did was more courageous than they ever saw. I think it takes real focus and a real understanding to know what you want and you don't want. It takes real courage to walk away from people you have grown close to because staying would mean being someone you just aren't.
I was never a real Boy Scout.
I was just a guy who tagged along when his best friends had all decided to become scouts and who ended up staying three years.