• November 21, 2019
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It was the weekend of October 30. Halloween was right around the corner, and my fourteen-year- old cousin, his dad, my dad, and I were embarking on a challenging backpacking trip through the Linville Gorge Wilderness of North Carolina.

Our particular route weaved from Shortoff Ridge through the Spence Ridge trail up onto Tabletop Rock, one of the tallest points in the area, and then dropped down into the gorge for the rest of the hike. All in all, the hike traversed through 23 miles of all types of terrain, ranging from high desert at the top of the rocks to near-rainforest like terrain by the Linville River.

After we had dropped into the gorge with around 13 miles under our belts, we decided to set up the second night’s camp by the river. It was getting dark, we were exhausted and practically starving. Some freeze-dried meals proved to be a worthy pick-me-up. Soon after boiling some water by the campfire for hot chocolate, we cleaned up camp and prepared for bed.

Suddenly, my cousin came running back to camp. “I saw a pair of green eyes with my lamp, what is that thing?”.

That “thing” turned out to be none other than a 250-pound black bear. He probably smelled the food from a mile away. He approached closer and soon entered the campsite. All of the sudden, I saw myself standing 15 feet away from him. There was no room for being scared or worried; I was in awe.

Dad yelled and yelled — it didn’t budge. Finally, we threw several rocks close to the bear, and it fled.

“That’s the kind of thing you remember for the rest of your life,” said my uncle.

What on earth, you might say, does this short story have to do with technology, social patterns, and norms that are carried out in our everyday lives? Simply put, it’s an analogy, a direct comparison made between nature and the society that we live in today.

When you really take a look at what’s taking place in our nation right now, you will start to realize how much weight this comparison carries. A new president just got elected and half the nation is in an uproar. People are cramming in last-minute studying for tests they have to complete on the very same day, then going to play sports for two hours after school. You have business to take care of online, whether it be on Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter.

You also have business at home. That lawn isn’t going to cut itself. Fall is coming in and those leaves need to be raked. All of these things add responsibilities to your schedule and fill up your day. But they also add something unwanted: stress.

A quick look at Mayo Clinic’s description of stress, and its symptoms is enough to put any student at Leesville on edge. “Short term problems include headaches, sleep problems, anxiety, lack of motivation, and social withdrawal. Left unchecked, stress can contribute to many health problems, including heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.”

Fortunately, there are numerous ways you can cut unnecessary stress out of your life and make a positive overall impact on your well being. The single best one of these methods is to go outside. In my case, I dropped the phone for a few days to get out to the mountains and enjoy an awesome backpacking trip while experiencing things I will never forget. I got to wade through a three foot deep river, watch rock climbers scale formidable peaks, and saw my first ever wild bear.

All in all, detaching from all forms of media for a few days helped me not only to open my eyes to and appreciate the world around me, but also helped me to reduce the time I spent watching the news or checking social media after the trip. After about a week of school, I also realized that cutting these distractions out of my life helped to reduce the time I was spending on homework and extend the time I had to do the things I wanted. The trip changed my life.

So next time you find yourself at home with nothing to do, set up an activity for yourself. It doesn’t have to be a strenuous and time-consuming backpacking trip. It can be a simple as a bike ride in your neighborhood or a campfire with some good friends. Simply putting down the media that constantly distracts us could be the key to making the most out of high school and the life that this country’s creators wanted for us: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

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