AORE Association News September 2015 - Page 6

By Lance Haynie

“Prepare the person for the path, not the path for the person.” This was a theme for Tommy Caldwell’s recent TEDx talk. If you haven’t heard or watched it yet, I would suggest checking it out before or after reading this.

As Tommy used this line to describe an adventurous childhood with his father, climbing and mountaineering in Colorado, he began to make the link between this “gritty” upbringing and his ability to cope with the challenging portions of his own “path”. In 2000, Tommy and his climbing party were kidnapped by Islamic rebels in Kyrgyzstan. They were held captive for six days before managing to escape their captors. In 2001, he severed one of his index fingers on a table saw. In the pursuit of being a professional climber, both of these events could have been enough of a “sign” to lead him away from this path. However, Tommy goes on to describe how his upbringing somewhat prepared him to meet these adversities head on.

As someone who works with young people, other professionals, and now as a father, I am moved by the implications that Tommy’s idea provides. Whether we work with college students, active duty soldiers and servicemen, or the general public, the nature of our work carries some intrinsic need to empower and equip our participants with skills and knowledge to meet certain challenges. I strongly believe that there needs to be an ownership that each participant takes for their own experience. There must be some self-care performed.

However, as much as I care about my participants knowing how to light their own stove and safely cook their food, I am starting to be much more sensitive to the transferrable nature of the work we do with our participants. If I take Tommy’s story to heart and wade into the deeper pools of what it means to prepare a person for their path, I start to see more clearly the positive and long lasting effects of what we do as outdoor professionals. When I see statistics on college students’ mental health released by groups like the National Alliance on Mental Illness, American Psychological Association, and the National Institute of Mental Health, and then hear a message like Tommy’s, I get a renewed sense of purpose and vigor. I hope that I can contribute to my participants’ grit and development of resilience in their lives.

As a collective of outdoor professionals and educators, I hope that we are doing our part in preparing our participants, staff, and families for their own paths.


NAMI on Campus: Learn About the Issue

NIMH: Depression and College Students

APA: College Students' Mental Health is a Growing Concern

“Prepare the person for the path, not the path for the person”