I lived a pretty sheltered life. I never really went outside or played with other kids when I was little. I was always satisfied by just sitting in the house, alone, and playing video games all day. But ever since I moved to college I have been more open and exposed to socializing and having fun with others and I have been looking for opportunities to do so.
I heard that retreats are a lot of fun so a few weeks ago I decided to go on a retreat with this group I joined called level. Level is basically a group that strives to level the playing field between people of different abilities. I joined level in the first place because I recently found out that I am on the Autism spectrum and I wanted to join a group that understands and accepts disability.
As with every new experience, I came into it apprehensively. I wasn't very happy that I had to wake up at 6:30AM and lug a laundry bag filled with clothes through the rain for 15 minutes. When the alarm woke me up that morning I asked myself the same questions I do whenever I am about to do something fun that's out of my comfort zone. "Is going to this even worth it?", "Am I really going to have fun?".
These questions prevented me from having so much fun in the past but luckily this time I ignored my pessimism and I decided that I was going to have a great time despite the difficult first morning and poor weather.
The retreat took place at camp Ockinickion in Medford Lakes, New Jersey from Saturday morning to Sunday night. This retreat was supposed to be mostly outdoors based but it was raining to start off Saturday so we started the retreat playing ice breaker games.
I always found games like these awkward and embarrassing but after a few minutes I became more involved and I started to enjoy them. I stopped caring if I looked stupid because initially I was the stupid one for not letting myself enjoy the experience like everyone else was.
The icebreaker games were cute and a good alternative to our planned outdoor activities. I most enjoyed the one where we all take our shoes off and someone stands in the middle and says "I share common ground with..." and everyone who shares this in common with the person in the middle has to run into the circle, shake 3 peoples hands, and find a different pair of shoes to stand by.
Later on the weather started to clear up and we were going to do our outdoor activities. We did archery and we went canoeing. Archery was interesting because I never did it before and it was taught to us well. I always wanted to shoot an arrow. Canoeing was very relaxing except when I almost fell in the water getting on. But overall it was a lot of fun I enjoyed learning something new and spending time on the water.
The next day we spent most of the time outside. There was a large swing, a rock wall, and a log about 20 feet up where we were fighting with pool noodles. I don't really enjoy heights too much so I did the swing which was a lot of fun and I tried the other things but I got scared. However, everyone was very supportive of me and they pushed me out of my comfort zone and if it wasn't for that I wouldn't have tried anything.
However, what made the retreat so fun wasn't the activities we did, it was socializing and connecting with other people. This was largely due to the meals spent together. For each meal we had assigned seats with different people which I really liked because we all had the opportunity to talk to different people each time and if the seats weren't assigned I probably would've sat by myself. I had a lot of fun and interesting conversations with new people and I laughed a lot.
After going on this retreat I truly felt like a part of the level community. I am so happy that I was able to make new friends and try new things. This retreat was definitely worth it and I will go again next year.