Coming of Age
For many people, their entrance to young adulthood was marked by some sort of coming of age experience when they were around 12–14 years old. This event is usually cultural or religious, and the individual becoming a young adult is often surrounded by their friends and family. My experience was far different than anyone else’s that I have heard, besides the children who went through the same program. For me, I spent my coming of age moment entirely by myself. My family belongs to a church that holds the importance of nature and being kind to one another to be far more important than any higher power. Many members of the congregation do not even believe in a higher power. For them, Mother Nature often serves as a replacement. As you can imagine, I did not have a normal confirmation or bat mitzvah. In order to be seen as a proper young adult in the eyes of the church, I was sent out into the woods, and I was told to stay there. We were taken to a forest we were all unfamiliar with, at which point, we were separated from one another and given a spot where we had to remain all day. Each one of us had nothing but a bottle of water and a granola bar. The instructors ensured that we would have no distractions. My space in the woods was incredibly beautiful, and I would not have noticed if I hadn’t been told to sit in that spot all day long with nothing else to do but appreciate nature. I sat at the top of a large hill in between two trees, just off the path. I can picture my spot in the woods with the same clarity that I can remember my childhood bedroom. I could say that that small area of the forest is my “happy place.” Before this seemingly odd endeavor, I was thoroughly skeptical that I would benefit from the experience, let alone gain some sort of knowledge that would magically turn me into a young adult. Admittedly, I did not walk out of that forest feeling as though I was any different. However, now that I am older, I would consider that moment to be a turning point in my life. I learned patience. I learned to stop and pay attention to my surroundings. I learned to appreciate the natural world and all of its intricacies. That trip was the beginning of a lifetime of attempted meditating. At the very least, my experience in the woods forever linked my idea of growing up to the importance of nature.