I felt inspired to write y'all with some significant life events occurring for me right now. This time last year I started treatment at a PHP in Chicago, coming directly off my first year at Berklee College of Music. I was in such a dark place that the therapy there did practically nothing. That’s when I chose to go to Emerald Arrow. I truly believed no one cared about me. I felt that I didn’t matter, the songs I wrote didn’t matter, nothing I said or did mattered to anyone. I isolated myself from the people who loved me to prove this prophecy. I compared myself to every person around me and pitied myself for not being enough. I knew I wanted to change my whole life around when I got to the woods, that I couldn’t go on with the depression that had been spiraling my life for several years. When I entered the woods it was foggy and raining. The field staff (she was a phenomenal person) got me from the van and I hiked behind her silently until we got to camp. When we got there I sat under a tarp, scared and lonely.
The students of G9 embraced me as one of their own and I began to feel safe enough to start my healing. Each and every person I knew in the woods helped me to become who I am now. They held me up like no other group ever had: holding me accountable to assignments from Anne, giving me feedback and awareness, holding space for me to process and cry, and sharing their own experiences so I felt safe to share back. They also supported my need for fun with constant silliness and laughter. My connection to nature strengthened significantly in my time at Blue Ridge, and since then I have aimed to incorporate nature in my daily life.
Anyway, I bring all this up to contrast it with my life now: I am getting ready to graduate from my after-care program in 1 week, after 8 months. Last week I finished up my first outdoor education job with “Bold Earth”, where I led and facilitated hikes, rock-climbing, rafting, team-building and more for 8th graders in Pisgah National Forest and Dupont State Park for one week. I was offered a job with an outdoor adventure company and will be moving to Missoula, Montana before the end of the month to work full-time as an instructor - getting to hike, mountain bike, raft, climb, kayak on the reg with kiddos and teens!
Because of this I am resigning from my job at the Asheville Jewish Community Center, where I worked for 6 months as an after-school counselor for kids pre K - 5th grade (leading enrichment activities, clubs, games, etc). I got certified in WFA and as a Lifeguard. My sister and I are close friends again (cue the tears), and my parents and I are getting along as well. I visited my old college and got the closure of laying that chapter to rest.
I am still in contact with my friends from the woods. In fact, they are some of my best friends. My closest, drove 6 hours to visit me last month. Can you guess the first place we went? The woods! I will be visiting another close Emerald Arrow friend, next month; we will be backpacking in Joshua Tree California together. I haven’t been writing songs or playing music like I used to - and I’m not judging myself, at least as harshly as I once did. I figure when it’s time to create again I’ll know and it’s not the season for it right now. I still don’t know what I want to do career wise in my life and that’s okay. At 21, I enjoy working and connecting with younger people outside and making art – so that’s what I’m doing!
The biggest changes have been internal. I am the best version of myself. I continue to grow daily and use the skills I learned in the woods. When I feel lost I remind myself of who I am and what I have to offer this world.
I am brave.
I am capable.
I am talented.
I am enough.
And what I do matters.
My adversities have brought me strength, resilience, and wisdom. I am a great friend. I am a beautiful person. I am proud of who I am and my accomplishments, big and small. I still struggle with depression and anxiety and have bad days, or weeks. My recovery is better. I don’t sink like I used to. I know myself so well and can recognize when I’m getting caught in a thought spiral or have entered what Anne called “the train.” I live my life deeply and richly, loving and hurting hard cause that’s who I am. Life is still a never ending process of trial and error, and staying stable and balanced still takes daily intention. I find that the whole messy process of living is worth it though.
I know first hand how when you’re in the thick of the worst depression in your life it doesn’t feel that way. I’m here to tell you that the work you are doing right now is powerful. Being in the woods right now is setting you up for success. This has been true for not only me, but for all the friends I made in my time there - they are ALL alive and doing better. Getting to see myself grow and enjoy my life, as well and seeing my friends in G9 do the same has been one of the best experiences of my life.
I admire all of you for all the work you’re doing. It’s rough in the woods sometimes and y’all are absolute bad asses living outside and facing your struggles head on. I hope all of you continue to challenge yourselves and make the most of every day.
You are worthy.
You are enough.
You are brave.
You are strong.
You are hilarious.
Stay warm and dry G9! Much love and care,
Breezy (F.S. Songbird)