Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Straw Spun From Gold/She Craves a Tortured Soul



The last few days have been oddly chilly and foggy outside. I've actually taken to sleeping in a jacket with several blankets. In August, in SoCal, and not exactly within the foggy haze of San Francisco. Not that I totally mind this. I just really really want a rainy day. That way, I would have a legit reason to take off from work (insert excuse about stomachache/cramps/fever here) and sit in my room, watching Flight of the Conchords and eating Mac and Cheese with the window open.

Next week, I get to go on that lovely little Peer Advisor retreat. DEAR GOD NO. I wish I could say that I'm being a tad overdramatic about this but I'm really not. I'm going to be trapped with a group of overenthusiastic future soccer moms (and dads) in training for the better part of the weekday. The kind of annoying teenagers who run around crying out "Best friend!" to one another and randomly breaking into group hugs and plugging "That's what she said" jokes every five goddamn seconds.

In order to avoid my head exploding, I'm going to have to count to fifty in three to five minute intervals (more or less depending on the circumstances) and stick a little bit of glue in my ears so my iPod's earbuds stay nice and anchored.

Retreats have never been my strong suit. In middle school, I went on these confirmation retreats at the private school I attended. The first one was in seventh grade and it actually turned out on a positive note. We stayed at a big house conveniently located in the middle of woods and our then-pastor decided that rather than coop us up inside watching religious documentaries, we would spend the entire day outside, exploring (in groups) the woods, the trails, the creeks and having big volleyball tournaments together. I wish I still remembered his name because that pastor pretty much let me do my own thing, be it in a paper or voicing an outside opinion in class, and would actually encourage it. Solid, man.

On the retreat, I had to walk down this huge sloped hill filled with sticks and rocks and basically everything you can think of that would be the scapegoat for a twisted or broken ankle. My friends just ran down it like it was no big deal. As usual, I was on my princess behavior (I think it was during my 'how to be a proper lady' phase) and put my hand on a tree trunk, debating about whether running down the hill and rewarding myself with a pair of shiny new crutches was a good idea. Along came this huge spider (the size of your fist) right above my resting hand and I bolted down the hill screaming, "SHHHITTTT!!!!"

Once I got to the bottom, everyone was cracking up including the pastor. Then we all went inside the cabin and watched "Wild America", a Jonathan Taylor Thomas classic.

Eighth grade rolled around and that pastor left and in his place, a new one came in. This one I had issues with. We went on our retreat, back to the same house as the year prior and this time around, got to watch movies about the various people heading to hell especially any and all people who believed in reincarnation. This bullshit went on for the next four hours and I seemed to be the only person in the room itching to go outside. By the time we finished the movies, we had about two hours total to play outdoors and I went to sleep that night, dreaming myself in a better place. Because the next two days would be filled with more movies and a disastrous ecosystem science project. That's right, homework on a goddamn retreat. Homework that was going to be graded that very day. My best friend and I did ours and spent the whole time cracking up and putting in extra shopping malls but paying little attention to the agricultural awareness necessary to live in a fictional utopian bubble. I would just like to point out that at least the state of the economy and spending would have been excellent and that I really don't mind living off of Pop Tarts for the rest of my life.

Then there was a high school retreat. God that was a nightmare. There were 2 specified retreats for the seniors at my school. Kairos and Mac. Who knows where they came up with these absurd names. Kairos was a week long and was notorious for brainwashing its participants. Everyone who went on it and came back returned with sudden newfound love for his/her fellow classmate, wrote letters to people they had wronged and remained mute about what really went down there. From what I heard, people got really emotional on that retreat and would break down in tears in front of the very people they despised/feared. I can't say I'm surprised at some of the criers but the unfortunate aspect is that most of them didn't have actual problems. Nobody (as far as I am aware) had ever been homeless, starving, unemployed or dealt with a severe disease or medical condition. They never had to fight or struggle in life. A boyfriend breaking up with you is not life threatening. Your parents not understanding you is no reason to write them off as "impossible."

The kids cried and came back wearing hideous wooden crosses on ropes around their neck. That's when they should have been crying, in my opinion.

I went on Mac, where all of the skeptics went. This retreat was so dull that most of my classmates sat outside smoking or talking on their phones. My retreat leader tried to coax some tears out of my group by name-dropping "Iraq War" and "9/11" in the same sentence but it wasn't happening for us. Then she went on to tell us that when she was in high school her nickname was "Puff" as in, the Magic Dragon. I smell a 420 reference. That nickname was given to her because she claims she once saw Puff and said that she was beautiful, all pink and sparkly with wings.

Oh honey. And did you live by the sea with Peter, Paul and Mary? Of course you did.

During our free time, I went back to my room and tried to read a little bit but instead napped, dreaming myself to a better place. That seems to be my quickest escape in any situation. I was destined to be a Lane (Daria characters Jane and Trent who are seldom awake before 4 in the afternoon).

Summing up that retreat briefly...I woke up and stumbled in late for a group activity, got ostracized for not wanting to participate in the late at night praying around the stones to Mary ritual (a very surreal and upsetting experience), had to write notes to members in my group and exchange them only to discover that two guys in that group wanted to get to know me better and asked me to hang out at their lockers with them (no, no and no thank you, I was too busy crushing on various other guys at that point).

It was only when I got off the bus and went home and then went to work at Subway that night that I realized that simply by being back at work, I was happier than I had been since starting that retreat.

And that's my retreat history in a long, long nutshell. I know it must sound apathetic and antisocial but ehh, I never did care much for the smell of teen spirit.

If you did though, I would love to hear about it! Good stories, shitty ones, nonexistent ideals of what you think a retreat is all about.

Love to you all,
Heather

2 comments:

Mahmood said...

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Heather Taylor said...

Thanks m'dear!