Eve’s College Essay

Eve Phillips, Contributer

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Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.

The methodic and rhythmic footfalls of boots fill the air as the summer sun beats down and sweat drips off our bodies. It is a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky, almost 85 degrees, and we are surrounded by feet of snowpack as far as the eye can see. The combined weight of our personal struggles and our 60-pound packs makes this trek over the mountain highlands challenging, but the love and laughter we share for one another makes it all worth every second. As we set our packs down and our party of nine takes a five-minute rest, I glance around at my new family and grin from ear to ear.

I love adventure. Dreams of traveling the world fill my thoughts, and if someone handed me a plane ticket right now, my response would be “Great, what should I pack?” Through this insatiable hunger for life, I’m cynical whenever I hear stories of people’s “Life Changing Trips.” Because of course, anything can be life changing if you want it to be. However, after living in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and returning back to civilization after a month away, not only did I look completely different, but my outlook and philosophy on who I am/what I am meant to be was forever changed.

My junior year of high school wasn’t kind to me, and to be perfectly honest, it was partially my own fault. I chose too many difficult classes and personal inner demons prevented me from performing to the best of my ability. So as a result, my mother signed me up for a summer program that would remove me from my home life and give both my parents and myself some space. Next thing I knew, I was packing my bags and on a plane to California to spend 23 days away from the friends, technology, and the comforts of home on which I had become so reliant. Little did I know that I would return home with newfound purpose and perspective.

There were six of us on this trip, nine including our three instructors. We came from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Austin, Mobile, San Francisco, and Singapore, our only connection being this Outward Bound expedition. However, I think it’s because we were strangers that we became so close. Almost immediately, I knew the most intimate details of Charlie’s and Naish’s and Varun’s and Eliza’s and Birdie’s lives that they didn’t even tell their families. And they knew mine.

We backpacked almost 100 miles through two National Parks and a National Wilderness, we laughed until our stomachs hurt, we cried until there were no more tears, we ate all of the food we carried, we slept on snow under the stars, we argued about which route to take, we fought off overly aggressive marmots, we easily crossed mountain passes other hikers deemed “un-passable,” we spent 72 hours alone on a solo without each other, we told the stories of our lives, and most importantly, we learned to exist together as completely different people with completely different backgrounds.

With the Sierra Nevadas as our backdrop, our instructors revealed to us the beauty of navigation, glissading (butt sliding, seriously look it up) down mountainsides, and leaving no trace of our presence in the wild. I’m forever grateful to May, Josh, and Tara for the invaluable lessons they taught me of mind, body, soul, and the mountains.

Although there is something euphoric about spending all day hiking and then sleeping under shooting stars, it was not the mountains that changed me. It was removing myself from a stressful year and thriving surrounded by a team who needed me to physically carry more weight, and who would never judge me when the emotional toll was filled. Out there I realized I am so incredibly alive, meant for so much more than I had given myself before.

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