Sixth, seventh, and eighth grades, in particular, were rough on me. As a boy amongst peers I was smaller and slower than my peers. Awkward is a pretty good word to describe me. But that awkwardness also made me frustrated and angry. So much so that I struggled with this and a serious lack of self confidence for years.
I just read an Op-Ed by Peter Brown Hoffmeister that Tess found and passed along. It described me during those years. It also describes a trajectory that is not uncommon for boys of that age. And finally it talks about a solution to this problem, one that I know works because it has helped me time and again throughout my life.
The summer of my freshman year in high-school my mother prodded me to apply for a job at a summer camp I had been to when I was younger. I landed a job washing dishes and mowing lawns, but more importantly hiking, horseback riding , and rafting all summer long. Later that fall I discovered bicycle touring.
The summer of my sophomore year in high school I applied to work on a portion of the Colorado Trail through the Student Conservation Association. I spent most of that summer moving dirt, taking out stumps and working with other awkward kids my age in the San Juan’s of Colorado.
This kind of activity was a regular occurrence in my life at this time. I learned to value these experiences much more than all that hurt and frustration I had pent up. In fact, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that these kinds of pursuits saved me from a very terminal path.
I know I have been harping on the idea of gun control for a while now. And I don’t believe that assault weapons have a place in modern society, but perhaps here is a point at which I can get off that tired old topic and say that if we, as a nation, want to stop shootings and bombings than we need to get (especially) our young men outside early and often.