A story about stories: life experience are crucial for personal growth

Story by Alex Zank, News Editor

I was driving on Highway 53 Easter Sunday, avoiding congested interstate traffic and had the chance to see some of the Western Wisconsin landscape, with which I grew up surrounded by. It was sometime then I realized I no longer have any good stories to tell the world.

I’m not talking about the stories I overhear people tell every Monday about their weekend of drunken stupor. Those stories are not unique. The stories I no longer have to tell are those that speak of individual experiences; one-of-a-kind adventures only the parties involved could recreate with words. These experiences are real stories.

To get a sense of what I’m talking about, I read “Walden” and “The Sand County Almanac” in high school. Those are the stories that no one could possibly recreate because they were such unique experiences for Henry David Thoreau and Aldo Leopold. I will never forget Leopold’s fantastic story of when he cut down an old tree — don’t understand why that would be so engaging? Read his essay, “February.”

What was the product of these stories? Great literature. Now, I have never had a story to tell that would influence anything like Wisconsin conservation or a nation’s literary style. But the stories, like I’m sure they did for Thoreau and Leopold, made me feel like an individual, like I was different from everyone else.

I think I need to make some more adventures for myself, because somewhere between working multiple jobs, mountains of homework and hours of extracurricular activities, I’ve lost a sense of who I am.

It’s not as if I’ve spent the last four years sitting on my hands and not experiencing things. I could tell you all about what Student Senate is doing since I’ve covered the body so many times in The Spectator.

I also have some funny stories that occurred at work (I’ve actually got a great story to tell about a toddler headbutting another), but these aren’t really the stories that make an impact on one’s life.

And how often do we all do this? If you had the choice between putting in a 40-hour work week in August and make the big bucks to spend on whatever you wish, or to take a road trip to the Badlands and just enjoy being a human, what would you do?

Too many times in the past few years I’ve chosen money and career over life.

I’ve done some reflection recently, and realized the best kinds of adventures I’ve ever had are those from being in the wilderness.

I have gone camping in the middle of winter and backpacked for miles on rugged terrain with my Boy Scout troop (go ahead and laugh now; I’m sure the entire Spectator staff already has) as well as spent hours in the woods hunting various game.

There really is nothing quite like sitting in a tree stand waiting for what seems like an eternity for a buck to appear. I can also look back fondly on the time I was learning to survive in the wilderness with little to no resources, and decided against the warning of a friend to use an old rotten log as part of my lean-to shelter.

It turns out the log was filled with ants, which I discovered sometime around two in the morning.

I woke up the next day with hives and after we returned to the main camp I no longer resembled an awkwardly thin preteen, but more of the balloon variety.

I haven’t really had an experience that great in a while.

From these experiences, I had the chance to learn about myself. Now, it seems like my focus has been too much on making money and building my résumé and not enough on experiencing life.

With that said, I am vowing to spend this summer less at work, and more time experiencing things outdoors and becoming more self-aware. If you are reading this and feel similarily, I would encourage you to do the same.