I Quit My Job to Attend Team RWB’s Storytelling Camp

Editor’s Note: Abbie Wentzel joined Team RWB in 2014 and eventually stepped up to lead our Chapter in Lexington, VA. In 2016, Abbie and her husband Patrick (also an Eagle) moved to Colorado Springs where they have found a new home, new chapter of life, and new Team RWB Chapter. This blog comes from Abbie’s experience at our Northwest Region Storytelling Camp. These Eagle Leaders experiences, numbered over 25 nationally in 2017, and are a critical component of the Eagle Leader Journey. To learn more, reach out to your Chapter leadership or visit https://teamrwb.org/our-approach/leadership-development-program.

Blog written by: Abbie Wentzel

My coworkers thought I was nuts for quitting my job. “For storytelling camp?” They asked incredulously…

In the months leading up to camp, my life had been a series of disappointments. I told myself that storytelling camp was going to be a great opportunity for me to get back on track. At the same time, however, I wasn’t convinced that I actually belonged at camp. What if I took a spot from someone  who really needed it—who needed it more than I did? I’m fortunate to have a great support system around me. When I was accepted, I started thinking it was a sign. I knew I had to do whatever I could to get there.

On day 1, I walked into the great room at the end of our dormitory building for our first session. I looked for a spot to sit where I could see everyone else in the room. I was mortified. Who I should sit with? Who should I talk to? Who should I be? On that first night, we were asked to write ourselves a permission slip. We were supposed to write something on it that we were giving ourselves permission to do during camp. I remember writing something on mine and thinking that I needed to erase it. There was no way I could actually give myself permission to do that. I know myself, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it.  I should have known from that moment what the real reason was for me attending that camp.

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On day 2, we dove head first into the actual writing of our stories. During one of the exercises we were asked to write one true thing about us, a sentence we could use to start our stories. I wrote one line of my story. That was the easy part. Then we were supposed to be able to describe the rest of our story to a small group. The instructor gave us some examples we could model. And that’s when the panic struck. I sat there, unable to move. My pen stayed glued to the page, unable to form even a single letter. Then my emotions overtook me. Tears began silently streaming down my face. I struggled to catch my breath. I knew I had to get out of there. Without saying a word, I jumped out of my seat and found the nearest exit. Then I found a rain-soaked damp tree stub just off a path leading to the dormitory. I was so mad at myself. I had quit my job to come to this place and I couldn’t even write a few sentences of my story. Maybe my co-workers were right. As I sat there on that stump, alone, and afraid of what I had done. My body started shaking. I couldn’t help it. Suddenly I felt outside my body. I could see myself from above, sitting on the stump, surrounded by nature and the damp wet forest. The colors of the forest were so vibrant it was almost as though I was in a fairy tale. I could smell the wet moss on the log and felt the warmth of each ray of sunshine giving life to the nature around me. I sat there for I don’t know how long and simply listened to the stillness of the world. That’s when I started seeing things through my own eyes. Then my breath returned. I gathered myself together and went back inside.

On day 3, I woke up early to run a few miles around the island with a couple other Eagles. Most everyone else was too exhausted, either physically or emotionally, to run a few miles before sunup. I was exhausted too, but I knew I needed the run. When I run, especially on trails, all the other stuff in life falls away as I focus completely on where my next steps will be. After the run, I quickly showered and got downstairs to the great room. An Eagle was already up in the front of the room telling his story to the rest of the group. I still had no idea what I was going to talk about. I had a notebook full of scribbled notes from thoughts about the weekend, but nothing concrete.

When it was my turn to speak, I slowly walked to the front of the room and began telling a story but not the one I came to camp to tell. “I quit my job to be here today,” I said, feeling the gazes of those circled around me. I talked about how terrified I was to be there and that I couldn’t tell the story I originally came to tell. I spoke of a particular moment earlier in the year that had showed me how powerful the members of Team RWB could be. It was an important point, but not the point I really needed to tell.

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It took me months to process what I experienced at storytelling camp. Truth be told, I am still processing moments and situations that happened during that weekend. Yet one realization spurred by that weekend keeps coming back to me: I always put so much pressure on myself to be perfect. On day 1, I had written on my permission slip: “Stop comparing yourself to others and just be yourself.” For as long as I can remember, I’ve tried to be perfect in every way. And I constantly compared myself to my peers who were so much stronger, smarter, and more inspirational than I was. I strived for perfection so much that I wouldn’t even speak to people who I thought were better than me because I thought I would be wasting their time. I tried to be whatever the people around me needed me to be.

The reason I needed to come to storytelling camp was to not to write a story about my past, but to write a story about my future. I had to come to storytelling camp to wake myself up from horror film I created for myself, where I was killed over and over again by my own expectations. I realized I shouldn’t strive for perfection. Instead, I should strive for authenticity. When we are authentic to ourselves, we start embracing our story and everything in it. When we can be authentic to ourselves, we can start being genuine to others. Only then can we find our true passions and reach for the stars.