This Outward Bound Trip Has Taught Me a Lot About Human Weakness

by Melissa Chiasson

When my mom told me I had to go on this Outward Bound trip or go to boarding school, I was like, ok, sure, I’ll spend a few weeks in the wilderness with some losers and learn to kill a deer with my bare hands. If I had known that, 15 days in, I would be at 0 deer kills and 22 conversations about what responsibility means, I might have chosen differently.

What I have learned from these conversations: responsibility means keeping promises and building trust. What I have not learned from these conversations: how a quick severing of a deer’s cervical spinal cord with a knife fashioned out of flint ensures a rapid and relatively painless death. When I asked Brock, our trip leader and renowned responsibility expert, when we would learn to filter and drink our own urine, he told me maybe I should think more about why I was here and how my actions have hurt the people I love. I said it sounded like someone was scared of drinking his own urine.

Brock does not like me.

The other people on this trip do a whole lot of journaling and crying. My tentmate, Kylie, told me she’s here because she doesn’t get along with her stepmom and that she really misses her younger sister. I told her that I’m here because I want to take down a bear, construct a cape from its bloody fur, and then saunter around the forest, challenging other bears to fight and inevitably climbing the bear dominance hierarchy. Kylie then revealed that her sister’s favorite animal is a bear, at which point she started sobbing. I patted her arm gently and told her that once the bears accept me as one of their own, she and her sister could come visit any time, she just needs to give me, like, two day’s notice.

My mom sent me on this trip because I have trouble expressing myself in a productive way. I would much rather be productive by training a wild falcon to do my bidding than by drawing how I’m feeling on a piece of paper to share with the group (for the record, it was a sketch of a wild falcon doing my bidding). Imagine how proud my mom will be when I show up at her front door, slathered in ursine fat and bearing gifts of fresh deer meat.

I told Brock he has T-24 hours to start teaching us some hardcore wilderness skills or else I’m striking out on my own, IntotheWild style. He said it was obvious I had neither read the book nor seen the movie.

I said it was obvious he hadn’t noticed the bear bait I put in his tent.