READ ME ... yeah, right. Right?

I'm sick of everyone else having on-line diaries. I want one too.

What is this all about? Maybe you should read the READ ME READ ME.

january 8, 1998:
live and learn

It's time again for another story. Not necessarily relevant, but nonetheless on my mind.

During the summer of 1985, when I was 17 years old, I worked as a counselor-in-training at the summer camp where I had spent an average of 6 weeks each year the 7 years prior. Being a counselor-in-training was a lot like being an actual camp counselor, which I was the two years following 1995, but with less of the responsibility and more of the fun. The group of CITs was a small and tight knit one; there were about ten of us total, not including our group leader, a semi-hippie-ish but remarkably clever guy named Jordy who took his job very seriously, even if we sometimes did not.

That summer was filled with learning for me (aren't they all!) but one of my most vivid memories from those challenging ten weeks was a group community-building exercise that Jordy led us in called "Boundary Breaking." The purpose of Boundary Breaking was to form a tight-knit group of individuals who were loyal to and trusting of each other; the method of Boundary Breaking was the standard highly successful social-psychological technique of subjecting members of a group to frightening and scary experiences in order to build commitment. When a person invests in a group or activity, giving up something or experiencing pain in the process, he or she is far more likely then to become committed to that activity or group. It's "cognitive dissonance;" or the psychology equivalent of economic "sunk cost" -- similar to the way in which a person will alter her attitudes to conform with behaviors, if you spend money on something, you are likely to end up valuing it. Think fraternity hazing; think grad school.

During Boundary Breaking, we all sat in a dark room with only candles for light, and we passed around a candle as we each, one by one, took part in answering a whole series of uncomfortable questions, asking things that we didn't care to think about. The rules were simple yet impeccably enforced: everyone must answer each question, and everyone must be completely honest. The questions ranged from "what is your biggest fear" to "whom do you admire most in this room," but the question that resonates with me to this day is one I still think about often: "What is your biggest regret?"

I tend to attempt to avoid having regrets -- once something is done, it is done, and although you can strive to learn from former mistakes, you just cannot change them. Nonetheless, I think that even I have fallen prey to the regret mentioned by one of the group members during that Boundary Breaking session.

"I regret my relationship with my former girlfriend," that person commented. "After we broke up, it seemed like such a huge amount of time wasted. And for what? For what? Nothing became of it; we broke up, forever."


I don't claim to have learned much of anything in my almost-30 years of living, but one of the few things that I feel satisfied in having successfully learned is that a relationship -- be it with a group, a profession or another human being -- need not last forever in order to have been successful and rewarding.

In my past as I used to speed-read through short-lived romances and interrupted careers, I myself sometimes harbored a sinking "what a waste of time that was" sense of regret about a plan that was supposed to last until eternity but instead lasted, well, a lot less than that.

These days, however, when I make big decisions, I strive to select not "what am I going to do with my life," but rather, "what am I going to do _right now_."

And had I had that attitude that I now possess today back in 1985, as I sat in the dark room building bridges and breaking boundaries with the other CITs and our leader Jordy, I perhaps would have lacked the stomach ache that struck me that evening and stayed with me for years to come -- the very stomach ache that helped create the tight knit community that was my entire world that summer, and that now looks in hindsight like an infomercial of teenage life in a barely-yet-begun career of experiences that did not last forever, but were still worth my while.

Bill's Domain.
Girls Need Math
skink home
Grrl Gamer!

thanks, COMOFLOW





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Copyright 1996, 1997, 1998 Rebecca L. Eisenberg All rights Reserved.