by Steven Encinas, Rites of Passage staff
“Where do I stand? What do I believe?” These were the questions one student stated that she hoped to find clarity for during her quest- common questions for, not only these, but all teenagers. And if they don’t capture that window of opportunity before they fly from the nest, it could be decades until they finally land in a place that allows them to ask this again.
Upon her return, before going back to her home and family, she was asked what she was bringing back with her. “Passion, wonder, adventure, and connection,” she answered. She then committed to continuing the expression of wonder, as well as the adventure of figuring it all out.
Not all came back so readily. Some were reluctant to step back over the threshold, afraid their old lives, old selves, and the world they were returning to would creep back in to dull the sharpness of their newfound perception, extinguish the light and fire they had worked so hard to find. They stated such fears as “losing the feeling”, or “not being able to do anything with it”.
As adults we may tend to let our own sense of awe and wonder fade a bit. As we go to work, pay the bills, digest the nightly news (sometimes with the help of an antacid), we forget what’s really important- who we really are, and the life our soul really wants to live. Our culture tends to disregard the wisdom of youth, even as it tries desperately to cling to its own youthful image. We know a lot of “stuff”, and maybe that’s what dulls our vision at times, weighing us down in comfort and complacency.
“Knowledge is knowing stuff; wisdom is doing with the stuff you know,” said another student quester. And so it is. This is the challenge posed to us by our youth: “How will you live today- with courage, or complacency? How are you dreaming this world into being, and is it a dream in which you soar high like the eagles?”
As for their fears, two months after their return, one could still see that firelight, that wisdom from the mountain, in their eyes. Maybe it’s not cascading out quite as it was on the morning they made their way back into basecamp. Maybe it’s a little deeper inside, more a part of the self that they now take out into the world, and it comes out in the flashes and flickers in what they do, and the future they create.