The guides woke us for the Final Challenge. By the color of the sky, it looked around 3am.
I feared the Final Challenge would be a grueling physical labor, like in Army Boot Camp when people have to exercise until they almost can't take it, for no good reason. But I needn't have worried. Final Challenge was perfect -- a beautiful experiene. [details omitted for future students of the course] I was alone the first hour, and with Shana for the next few hours. It was magical. I worked out things in my head that have bothered me for years. For example, I was always wondering how to balance my time between work, love life, and social life. During Final Challenge, it became clear that the most important thing is actually health, which I have sometimes neglected. Also, some other things that I thought were important to me (e.g. status within the tech community), kept moving lower and lower on my priority list as I thought about it, until I realized that they are not actually important at all.
After Shana found me, we continued together. She said on Impact after she snapped at me, she felt that it was over and she'd alienated her ally and now she'd be the outsider. I was surprised. I told her that's how I felt after I argued with T. Turns out Shana had been further behind on the trail and missed the entire argument except one comment when I announced, "I only have an issue with T, not with any of the rest of you!"
We got back to the BOSS office an hour after daybreak.
Me, near the end of the Final Challenge.
The graduation events were perfectly suited. We did a steam lodge (I fell asleep inside). Afterwards, some of the others jumped into a very cold pond. O_o We had ants crawling all over us during the graduation ceremony. I hopped from foot to foot to minimize being bitten by ants. Shana told me that she saw me over the week relying increasingly on my internal resourcefulness to overcome survival challenges.
Shana wanted Before vs After photos with the BOSS sign. But the sign was moved when we returned, so she had to pretend.
We packed. Two groups of 28-day students came in. Their two classes together comprised 13 students at the start (11 guys, 2 women), and six quit during the process. The 7 who were left (all guys) had bushy beards. They talked about how it rained for 10-12 days, up until right before our class started. They had a silent communion. One of them is 43, and the others are 19-23. They had a four-day fast (ours was 1.5 days) and a five-day solo (our was 24 hours). Two of them talked about how hard solo was. There was nothing to do for five days except measure the sun's progress across the sky. Another young man, Tyler, a philosophy student, loved it. He sat outside thinking all day.
They said the 43-year-old was the fastest of them. "He's a rockstar," Tyler said. "He would get up every day at 4am and scout ahead for fun." The older guy was looking at items around the store while we spoke, ignoring the praise. He finally said, "I'm twice your age."
We all took the same van back to Provo. It was a rather smelly van. :) The 28-day'ers ate candy bars and Subway sandwiches at every rest stop.
We got back to Provo and I washed my hands and face several times. I thought my hands were covered with a layer of dirt but it turns out actually they're tanned.
Mike and I "pre-ate" dinner at a sandwich shop. We shared a turkey-avocado sandwich. We talked about how there was diversity within the group and how everyone represented the extreme of an archetype. Mike is the perfectionist overachiever. Shana is the free spirit. I asked what I am, and Mike said the academic. He revealed that (unbeknownst to me) at least one of the other students said that I take a really long time to get ready because I'm thinking so much during it. But Mike commented that as a result, I'm organized and my pack never needed readjustment or lost anything.
We went back to the hotel and then all went out for Mexican food.
Mexican meal together, after returning to Provo.
That is the end of my survival school journal.
Overall I'm really grateful to my friends who had previously done the 28-day class, for encouraging me to do the course. It was like time travel to a primitive culture, where we were a little tribe that banded together to survive. The normal things we worry about didn't matter. We didn't worry about appearance, as we all were extremely dirty. We didn't carry or use any money. We talked about our work, but nobody was trying to impress anyone or make business connections (though now I'm trying to recruit Nina for Minted, ha! She's a UX designer with good experience).
We were forced to get along, because we needed to go through the survival lessons together. Even though we were so different from each other, we had many hours of things to discuss each day. The situation also led people to really open up and share emotional vulnerabilities. There was little ego involved. People freely admitted things that depressed them, or made them feel "less than their normal self", or made them anxious.
I experienced culture shock upon returning to the real world. On the street, everyone is rushing around so quickly, with no good reason. Conversations feel more superficial sometimes. When someone emanates a negative energy, it used to be tolerable, but now I feel compelled to get away quickly.
I purchased a delivery of organic fruits and vegetables. I have also been drinking twice as much water as before.
I might go visit Nina in Chicago over Labor Day.
The 14-day version of the BOSS survival school involves collectively slaughtering a lamb, to understand the process of where our food comes from. I might go back to take that course. Or I might do their "Survival Rescue" course where they simulate a 72-hour survival situation.