Camping Unprepared: A Deeply Spiritual Experience

Camping Unprepared: A Deeply Spiritual Experience

It was something I wouldn't trade for anything.

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Over the weekend, I went on a camping trip with four of my friends to break the daily struggle and grind of working 40 hours a week and studying for the MCAT. Although I did have some time to pack, I did not do so nearly enough. By the time we left to drive from Atlanta to the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina, all I had was a backpack with a sweatshirt, change in clothes, and MCAT books. The decision was made partially out of laziness, but also out of a desire to embrace the uncertainty of camping and hiking completely unprepared: a friend had told me that if I didn't bring a sleeping bag or at least a blanket, I would be in a world of trouble. Nevertheless, I persisted in doing it my own stupid way.

When we got to the campsite, we walked through a stream where the rocks were very slippery. Apparently, I was the least coordinated of us all: I fell twice and got my clothes completely soaked within seconds. But standing there and just walking, I thought a lot about everything. I generally don't love nature that much. I think it's nice, don't get me wrong, but when it comes down to drinking a couple beers with a some friends in a basement or going on a hike, I'd choose the former any day of the week.

Anyways, as I was walking and making loops through this stream, a quote I'd read in Maureen Dowd's 2012 NYTimes article, "Why, God?" kept occurring to me and repeating itself in my mind, time and time again. I just couldn't shake it. It was an article written by Father Kevin O'Neil, where he responded to the question, "Why, God?" as to why God allows tragedy, pain, and suffering to happen in the world. It was written right after the Newtown Sandy Hook shootings in 2012.

"For whatever reason, certainly foreign to most of us, God has chosen to enter the world today through others, through us. We have stories of miraculous interventions, lightning-bolt moments, but far more often the God of unconditional love comes to us in human form, just as God did over 2,000 years ago."

But during the moment, it dawned upon me that especially that last part was especially true in my life. The God of unconditional love has come to me in human form, in the form of the the friends I was with that appreciated me and invited me to camp with them, in the team and close friends that never gave up on me all the times I gave up in myself, in the various mentors in the various spheres of my life that have shown me paths and values to follow, and in the family that I have gone through hell and back with. The God of unconditional love was each and every one of my classmates, teammates, and my brother, all of whom have suffered next to me and given me community in these moments.

Completely tuning out my surroundings, I walked, stumbled, and fell, having these thoughts about how the people who have come into my life, and how despite the various quarrels and disagreements we've had, unconditional love is one of the most valuable thing I've earned in my interactions with others. The people in my life saved me when I couldn't. One of my friends told me a couple months ago about his relationship struggles with a girl he liked since childhood, but how he would endeavor to be friends with her unconditionally. Even though the circumstances between them weren't favorable, and even though that was hard for both of them, true love is when the circumstances don't matter.

I thought about that a good amount in my day to day interactions with others - and I'm not perfect at it, but that's something I've actively tried to get better at as I've proceeded through life. I've wanted to make it so people never, ever had to earn my respect or kindness, more so out of trying to reckon and live with myself and following my moral code than anything.

Then, in the middle of that thought, I found my friends again and we proceeded to do whatever we planned next. Eventually, we decided to go hiking at Andrews Bald in the Smoky Mountains, with plans to see the sunset. Midway through the hike, I looked left and saw what I thought were just two huge squirrels, however, within two seconds, I realized they were actually baby bears. Before my instincts could even kick in, I just said to my friends, "oh hey, there are bears," in the most calm, nonchalant voice in my life. My friends looked over and started freaking out and talking at the top of their lungs as we walked past and pretended like nothing happened.

We got to Andrews Bald and just stayed there watching the sunset, drinking a couple of beers. We took a couple pictures and just ate dinner, largely in silence. We went back to the campsite, and this is when the lack of preparation came back to bite: my roommate, Greg, and I slept in a tent with no blankets or sleeping bags, each of us with just sweatshirts. Initially, it was fine. It was 70 degrees and we were extremely comfortable even though we were essentially sleeping on the ground.

However, an hour and a half later, at 1:30 a.m., we both woke up in the freezing cold in 50 degree weather. I scrambled for any form of warmth or clothing, only to find my friend's pants that she left in the tent and put them on for only a semblance of relief. However, my bones still felt like ice. Physically incapable of going back to sleep, I started rocking back and forth sitting up trying to generate body heat. My roommate eventually started doing the same thing. It was in that moment that I realized how miserable that experience would have been to go through together, but as Greg was next to me after making the same mistakes and going through the same ordeal, I realized that that made everything better. I realized this in that moment:

I came in completely unprepared and even though that's something I wouldn't ever want to do again for the sake of myself and others, it was the absolute vulnerability and the having to rely on the grace of my friends that I loved about the entire experience. I thought it brought me closer to each of them - because the fact that I probably would have wasted away and died without their help made me appreciate them and have conversations with them that I previously didn't think I would have. There was a huge amount of uncertainty going into the weekend - I had said yes to the offer in almost a heartbeat because I wanted to break out of my routine and comfort zone for a cost-effective trip over the weekend. I saw views of mountains that will go unrivaled to this day.

Going into camping in the Smoky Mountains gave me that time and space to be vulnerable and have an out of the world experience with my friends. Yes, I would have done a lot of things differently - I probably should at least bring blankets next time. My friends later joked that I should be fully in charge of planning the next camping trip. But that experience over the weekend, in connection with nature and more importantly, in connection with others, was something I wouldn't trade for anything.

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The Negative Effects Of Working As A CNA

You know you are a CNA if you are undermined, understaffed, and emotionally and physically drained.
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I write this not as a way to deter people from wanting to be a CNA or to demean the job, but in order to outline the negatives, since some only outline the positives. With a job comes responsibility, and it is like that in any area or field. We have the good and we also have the bad. I am in a field where not many people like their job and they don't care who knows it. Others enjoy it and make the best of it. It is like that with any career. There are always both sides.

I write this after coming home from a meeting that we have to attend every week for 13 weeks straight. These meetings are preparing us for a new unit in our building, and they offer education so that we have the knowledge to communicate and take care of our residents. I like these meetings because I enjoy learning more in my field, however, others see it as a burden and a waste of their time. There are people who will bring in workplace drama, those that will do the bare minimum, and those that just don't care and will call in when they know their shift is short.

As a Certified Nurse Assistant, you help your residents, and you try to give them the best care that you can provide. That is the number one rule. If anything, that is the golden rule in nursing. When you step in on that floor, you are expected to give your full effort in giving the residents the care they need. Meanwhile, others step in and couldn't give a damn.

What upset me the most after the meeting was that we had to talk about abuse. We had to discuss what abuse was and why we need to treat our patients with dignity, respect, and kindness. As a CNA that is my work. I was saddened that something like this occurred, and that someone would demean a resident in a way that no one should be treated.

I'm furious, upset, and confused. The people that work in this field are there because they care, and they want to help those that cannot help themselves. So, why would they do such a thing?

It made me think of all the other negatives that I encounter in my field. The lack of appreciation from other staff and the constant undermining is tough. Nurses telling you that you are not doing your job right, or management becoming picky when you cannot chart between your residents is difficult. There is always something that you are doing wrong in someone else's eyes, and there is never a thank you when you leave your shift and everyone is clean and taken care of. There is no one to pat your back other than yourself, and you have to be your own cheerleader for a place that only looks at you as the lowest of the totem pole.

There are never enough of you. I say that because there is always a demand for CNAs, and no matter how many you have in a facility, there will never be enough. You will be short one shift or another, and you will have to scramble to reach everyone to make sure they are taken care of properly.

You come home and you have to go right back to bed because you took extra shifts. You are exhausted, and yet you still come in and put all your energy into work because you think of the residents. You consider what it would be like to not have anyone to care for you. You put them before yourself.

No one tells you any negatives as you are getting trained and go through clinicals. They only tell you that you are going into a profession that will help those that cannot help themselves, and that you should be proud of your job. It is not incorrect, but it is not fully true.

You will get called names, cursed at, abused, and you will get over-worked. No one will tell you thank you, and no one will baby you through your shift. You are a CNA. You take care of those that cannot take care of themselves. You are there to help and give care. Yes, there are negatives and you will want to quit like I've wanted to do multiple times. I will admit it. You will get upset and frustrated. This is not an easy job, and it was not intended to be, but you will get through it if you keep your heart open and honest. Do your work diligently, and do what you can to make others' lives better. That is the only reward you need to overcome the negatives.

Cover Image Credit: TravelNursesSource.com

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5 Reasons I'd Rather Stay In On A Friday Night

It's okay to not want to party over the weekend.

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In college, so many people look forward to the weekend all week long. And by so many people, I mean probably almost everyone. The weekend is a time to catch up on some much-needed rest, relaxation, homework, and you time. The weekend in college also means going out for a lot of people. While yes, going out can be a really good time, I also think that it's important to note that you don't have to go out if you don't want to. There are a ton of good reasons why you should stay home for the weekend instead of partying all night long. I have compiled a list of five solid reasons why staying in is so much better than going out, especially in the middle of winter.

1. My room is so much warmer than it is outside 

Freezing Dan James Gif

Let's face it, in the dead of winter, no one wants to go outside in a mini skirt and crop top. I'll take my pillow and blanket any day over freezing outside.

2. I can go to sleep at a reasonable hour 

Stitch Sleeping Gif

After a long week of class, the last thing I want to do is stay up until 2 am partying. I would so much rather be wrapped up reading a book at 10 pm.

3. I'm always available if a friend needs saving 

Wonder Woman Gif

Staying home, sober, I'm always available to rescue a friend in need if they drink a little too much. This is so important to me to be keeping my friends safe and getting them back home at the end of the night.

4. It's the perfect time to binge watch Netflix 

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Staying home on a Friday night gives me uninterrupted hours of binge-watching my favorite shows. There's no better feeling than finally catching up on a new season of Netflix.

5. Self-care is more important than getting drunk 

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Staying home, relaxing, doing a face mask or even reading a book allows for much needed relaxation. No one wants to stress about their hair and makeup on a Friday after you've finished 5 days of classes.

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