We received so many amazing submissions for the Dagger + First Descents Whitewater Scholarship. It was so difficult to choose just one. All of our participants exude and embody the true meaning of Out Living It and we’re so proud of each of you for having the courage to face your fears, push through, and continue living life to it’s fullest. The winning essay touches on so many amazing points about strength, the river, and how her experiences and friendships through First Descents have changed her life. Please read below.
CONGRATULATIONS ERIKA “NAMASTE” BROWN!
Sitting around a campfire in rural North Carolina, my FD1 group discussed what makes us strong. There were many as many answers as there were participants: family, friends, religion. My answer was a little different, “I don’t really think I am strong, but I’m trying to get there”. Perhaps this answer was unfair; strength to me is not a state of being, strength is a series of choices that we make, whether we acknowledge them or not. My cancer diagnosis showed me that the “strong” choice does not have to be impressive or powerful.
Sometimes strength is choosing to eat when your body is screaming not to.
Sometimes strength is going for a walk, even though you need to rest every two hundred feet.
Sometimes strength is getting on an airplane for a trip to the middle of nowhere to spend a week learning to kayak with a group of people that you’ve never met before.
For me, the concept of Out Living It is the process of making the “strong” choice, even when that is not the easy choice. Out Living It is leaving your comfort zone behind because we, the FD-ers, know better than most that this is our chance at life, and in the face of a vast, unknown future, we need to take every opportunity to go out and live it.
When I first climbed into the Dagger Mamba, I felt nervous and excited. Sliding into the lake, I could barely maneuver in a straight line. By the end of the day, I knew how to roll a kayak. By the end of the week, I had conquered a Class III rapid. I was hooked. I want to continue kayaking because on the river there is no such thing as a cancer patient. You can’t “play the cancer card” and have the river take it easy on you. As Patch told all of us, “The river doesn’t care. The waves will be no smaller, the rocks no softer because you had cancer.” The river is the great equalizer. Each time you get on the river, you are making the strong choice. You are trusting your wits and your body and your fellow paddlers. Kayaking is Out Living It to me; it’s challenging and thrilling and it reminds you all the time that you are living your life to its maximum potential. A cancer diagnosis is an incredibly hard thing to face. Your life changes in many ways, and very few of them are good. However, through my experience with FD, I have not only acquired a new passion, but also new friendships that have highlighted the positive changes in my life, and helped to set me on a path that leads to a fuller, more adventurous, post-cancer journey.