Monday, August 3, 2015

Eagle Scout projects, returning to my roots, blaze path to opportunity

The Eagle Scout curriculum offers and amazing array of self-led learning experiences that, when meshed together in the imagination of an innovative scout, can prepare him for limitless opportunity.

As an adult, this curriculum is no less valid. In fact, perhaps it is more so. There is no one looking over my adult shoulder, for example, to keep me on track toward the goals I want to pursue. There is no one that, at the end of it all, is going to say I did a satisfactory job or not. The proof is in the pudding, as they say.

Still, in ticking off each small task that is part of the three or so merit badge projects I'm working on at the moment, I'm constantly coming up with new ideas of how to put my newly acquired knowledge into practice. Beyond what I'm doing at the moment as a means to complete the list of must-dos in a finite booklet, I'm finding limitless the ways I can make an impact in my home, my community and in my world.

Recently I decided to abandon city life - a life I've known for the better part of 25 years - to return to a life that's, geographically at least, closer to my roots. My formative years were shared among what, as a child, I considered to be four very different communities. These communities were each more than an hour's drive from each other, and because my parents were divorced, I was constantly being shuttled between some concoction of two of the four.

These communities were Orange, in the Virginia Piedmont, Stephens City, in the Shenandoah Valley, Hanover, in South Central Pennsylvania and Olney, a suburb of Rockville in the DC Metro, a.k.a. the DMV.

Since I returned to live in the District of Columbia a year ago, I've been out exploring each of the four communities of my youth. Before coming back, I'd always remembered these communities as prisons of torment to an angst-filled teen. But in fact, there is great beauty in each of them, and the forests and trails that surround them have given me a new perspective I had not originally held.

I brought with me my adult perspective as well as my reborn love of the outdoors. And because of that, ideas that have been brewing in my mind over the past five years, since my 2010 transformation are bubbling to the surface and beginning to take shape.

Now I'm returning to a rural life, at the foot of the mountains, here in the southern end of Megalopolis. Being self-employed was a goal of mine five years ago. As such, I've been making calculated career moves for the past five years while continuing to increase my outdoors and leadership skills. And the projects I've been working on in pursuit of Eagle Scout merit badge completion have prepared me to launch new endeavors in areas I'd not originally dreamed possible.

So what's next for me? I guess like me you'll have to turn the page to the next chapter to find out.

ABOUT Man of Merit: This is a project I started to help me overcome post-traumatic stress disorder. I was diagnosed with PTSD some years after 9/11, when my weight had ballooned some 200 pounds and I was struggling to keep employment due to bouts with anxiety, depression and impending physical disability. Impacted greatly by a brief stint with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy while living in Philadelphia, the birthplace of positive psychology, I underwent a weight-loss transformation. Subsequently, I began to pursue goals I'd left behind after quitting Boy Scouts as a boy of 15, when I was "coming of age", attempting to balance an outward Christian identity with my burgeoning inner queer self.