(blogger’s note: most of u that have been readin my blog for a while might be kind of bored by this entry, but since this is, indeed, a journal, i’m posting it anyway. so read on for my account of my time at RYLA if you want, or skip down a paragraph or 2 and read up on my usual blog stuff)

well i’m home. back from RYLA. if you were to ask me last week what RYLA was i would tell you…i dunno, it’s some leadership conference sponsored by Rotary…WOW was i off. It’s soooo much more. it was a life changing experience. 6 days at Camp Bryn Mawr and i don’t think any of us are the same person as when we left, and i don’t think any of us will be the same person ever again. RYLA instilled so many lessons in us not only about leadership, but about life. I first got there with barely any expectations. I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I had been to a leadership conference last summer and i didn’t want to attempt to compare or to have one live up to the other. At first, i was a little disappointed, it seemed like the week was going to be boring beyond belief and i wouldn’t enjoy it at all. Wrong again. After we got through some ice breakers, had dinner, and moved into our cabins, it all started to fall into place. I started to make friends and get comfortable. we had an orientation and then broke up into action groups. i chose weekbook (like a yearbook). great choice. i had so much fun working on it and it came out GREAT. then we split into small groups. that was when i finally realized that this experience was going to be like no other. my group instantly clicked and my counselor was awesome. the rest of the week is just a blur of challenges and friendships. I threw myself off a stage in a trust fall, climbed 50 feet into the air and swung out in a ropes course, completed an adventure challenge (the gauntlet), i karate chopped through a wooden board, and SO many other things. We were challenged to both learn to become better leaders and better followers. after all, in a room full of 135 leaders, SOMEONE has to follow. We were challenged mentally and physically to points none of us thought we could reach. We are all stronger people because of it. As one of the speaker said…we feel like superman, there’s nothing we can’t do. It felt so short, yet so long. We created our own little reality in that camp. It felt like nothing existed outside of us. We were our own little utopia, our own little world of the best of the best of the best that our towns had to offer. I made so many amazing friends it was difficult to leave at the end. I love everyone i met there and i miss them so much already.

it taught me so much. ledge’s speech about what it means to be a success and to be a failure, crow’s speech about being a servant leader, everything. i took so much away from this week and the more i think back on it the more i realize how much i learned. i have such a desire to go out and do something now…i want to make an impact on the world, leave my mark. when you really think about it, there’s nothing stopping you from achieving your goals but yourself. Camper instilled that in each of us in his speech. If he can do it, any of us can, all it takes is determination, courage, and the support of people around you. and even without the support, you can STILL do it, after all, it’s your life and you have to be happy with every choice you make, and take something away from it, positive or negative. my entire outlook on life has changed. i don’t have to be a multimillionaire to be a success, success is determined on your own terms. Most of this probably seems cliche, and most of it probably is, but actually experiencing these things, after carrying out tasks that put into reality these ideas, you come to realize that, wow, maybe it IS true, and you begin to believe it. The biggest lesson i probably took away from this week is trust. A leader needs to trust their team, micromanaging just makes it harder on everyone. Trust yourself to do your task, and trust your team to do theirs. I would have never fallen off the stage if i didn’t trust the people that were going to catch me, but i did. Mark was right, there’s nothing you can do about what the other part of your group is doing. Trust them to do their part, the only thing you can control is how well you do yours. My job was to stay as still as i could and fall. Theirs was to catch. Part of being a leader is making your teammates want to do their part, motivating them to be the best they can be while you be the best you can.

anyway, i can tell i’m starting to ramble on about everything i learned, so i’ll stop there and leave the rest to mull in my head….

RYLA was so memorable for more reasons than just the planned events. My cabin made the biggest news of my life so far the most memorable moment. I walked into my cabin after dinner one night and my whole cabin got quiet. they were saying “shh! it’s jenn..it’s jenn” i got really nervous, i thought they were talking about me or that i did something wrong. one of the girls, Daya, who i’d met at the Rutger’s pharmacy program, said to me…jenn, ur mom just called the camp. i was confused of course because my mom would have just text messaged me if she needed to talk to me. so the girls all say..yah..she called daya’s cell phone (because she was the only one that had reception and we had all called our parents from it to say we made it there OK) still confused, i said…wait…my MOM called YOUR phone?? i thought daya was mad. and one other girl looked like she had tears in her eyes, so i started to get really worried. Daya said…yah…she said there’s been a crisis….OMG…my heart was in my throat. i thought that something happened or someone died….then daya said…yah…bayonne high school is going to fall apart. right then i knew what she was tlaking about. i said…john won for president, didn’t he? they all looked at each other for a little while and said…NO GIRL! U GOT IT!!!! needless to say, i screamed at the top of my lungs and told them they all sucked! lol i dunno if any of them are going to read this, but if they do one day, i just want them to know that i appreciate that little trick SO much. it made one of the most important things to me SO much better. i had been waiting the entire week to find out what happened in the elections, and the way you told me made it SO much better than if i were just sitting in my classroom in school hearing it over the loud speaker. thank you guys.

so now i’m home, still processing everything that happened in the past 6 days. it all went so fast. i don’t think i’ll ever do anything that will live up to this experience. I feel like i’m ready to go out and conquer the world now. actually, to RYLA-fy that statement a little more - i’m ready to go out make the world a better place for everyone. The counselors taught us so much and i don’t think any of us could ever thank them enough.

that’s about all i have for now (lol…i think this is one of my longest entries ever…) i’m goin to great adventure on monday, my 1st time on a roller coaster…ever…so i’m kind of excited and kind of scared. then tues thru friday i have finals. then that’s it for school. then on the 25th it’s time for vegas. i can’t even begin to think about that right now! lol i’m still getting over this week, i don’t know what i’m going to do when i add who knows HOW many more people to my list of friends in vegas, and these people are from all over the US! AND i have to survive my exams first!

so yah…i’m going to go and probably go back to sleep again….thanks for the comments and stuff.