Last weekend, the majority of this year's black belt candidates, along with some black belt alumni and family, spent time together at campground on the Columbia River. It was a great experience, far different from the other two black belt tester campouts I have been to. On Sunday, we went on a hike in the mountains and it was quite the adventure. Not only was the ground steep, it was littered with rocks and tree roots, and about 2 miles of large gravel.
On this hike, I had the opportunity to get to know one of our youth first degree candidates, Kaelan, a lot better. We stuck together all the way up and all the way back down, talking about testing and travel and school, all sorts of things. A few times, during a more strenuous stretch, Kaelan would apologize to me, saying she was slowing us down. Each time I told her that it was no problem, that we were a team and that she wasn't really slowing anyone down. In a team, sometimes it's your job to help the others, and sometimes it's your job to let others help you.
Now, this hike was not some casual walk through the park, no way, this is black belt testing and we AIM HIGH (pun intended). On hikes such as this one that I have been on in the past, I have always been overly wary and even terrified at points- but not on this one. Don't get me wrong, I didn't go sprinting up the mountain, but I was much more calm and collected with regards to my safety. The most obvious reason for this is that I am older than I was in the past, however, I think that the more influential factor was that I was the older one this time. I couldn't spend the hike freaking out- even internally- because I had to be there for Kaelan, I didn't have time to be scared.
And I liked it. I have always tried to lead by example; at the studio, at school, everywhere, but I do not often get to mentor someone one-on-one through one of the most difficult things for them in their whole life. That is special. I appreciate that Kaelan allowed me to take on such a role, and I appreciate the trust of those older than me on the hike, who could have easily stepped in and helped Kaelan in my place. I'm used to being the youngest in my Aim High family, the youngest advanced degree tester, the youngest staff member, the last to graduate, the smallest. It was nice to take on a new level of encouragement with my team members on this hike, and I plan to continue expanding my job as a candidate throughout, and beyond, the test.