On the weekend I attended a camp run by the I CAN Network, where I work as a mentor, Network leader and speaker. I was privileged to be given the opportunity to be a group leader of a few mentees who came on the camp too, to make friends and learn how to embrace who they are and accept that being on the Autism spectrum doesn’t have to be a big negative.
Even though I was on the camp as a leader, I still had some experiences that I would have really loved had I been a mentee. Many I Can employees discovered the magic of I Can by attending a camp as a mentee themselves, and then being trained as a mentor. I wasn’t one of those mentors, but all the same I took my first teen camp experience for Autistics as an opportunity to not only show the mentees that embarking on a challenge doesn’t have to be scary, but also to contribute to the growth of myself too.
We could do numerous activities on the camp, one of them being rock climbing. Now I’m not particularly fond of heights and I can have issues with trusting people, but for some reason prior to my rock climbing experience I had this feeling in my gut that was compelling me to take on the challenge.
I have done rock climbing before, but I’ve never gotten too high for a lot of reasons. One, I didn’t think I was strong enough and two I was afraid that I would fall and the person responsible for the rope would screw up and drop me.
I Can made me realise that reaching a new height is not just about physical ability, but belief and support.
I climbed passed the half way mark and had about less than a quarter to go until I reached the top. I can’t tell you how emotional I was after setting that new personal record of mine. You see, the whole experience was symbolic.
I would not have gotten to the top if I hadn’t had my network of friends down there cheering me on and reassuring me that I would be safe and looked after. I would not have reached the top if they hadn’t believed in me, and understood that my anxiety could pose as a challenge. I would not have reached the top if I hadn’t had trust in myself and the friends below.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is that having a personal support network, and a positive attitude can lead you to accomplishments that perhaps previously you would have never thought possible.
I didn’t just do this for myself, but I did it to be a role model. I wanted the mentees to see that there is no threat in pushing yourself, and that if you have the right network of people by your side you can accomplish so much more than you may have ever believed.
I’ve never been this happy in my life. I’m so glad my aunty told me to apply for the I Can network, because had I not done so I would be a mess embarking on purposeless adventures in the hope of finding some fulfilment that would never leave me fully satisfied.
I love my I Can friends, and hope to be their friends for the rest of my life.