Explore Without Boundaries
by Justine Herlihy, Development Director
“Change begins at the end of your comfort zone” – Roy T. Bennett
In 2016, I decided I needed to “be less rigid.” I wouldn’t particularly classify myself as having a rigid personality, but some might say I am a master of avoiding what is not predictable.
One should not measure life by the number of experiences you predict, but by how many you did not predict and still learned from anyway. In order to grow as an individual, consistently meeting new people - people who are different - and exploring uncharted territory is essential. Diversity can be found among the people you meet, the places you go, and the experiences you build along the way, but you must open yourself to what life has to offer in order to grow into the leader you want to be. Last year, in an attempt to take a step out of my comfort zone, I decided to embark on an unknown adventure with a couple hundred people I had never met.
In June, my mother shared a Facebook post from one of Mobile Baykeeper’s partners - The Nature Conservancy (TNC), who was giving away two registrations to the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) workshop hosted by Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. BOW is designed to educate and encourage women to enjoy nature-based recreation in a safe environment. The workshop is held twice a year in March and October at the Alabama 4-H Center in Columbiana, Alabama. It takes place over three days and offers a variety of hands-on instruction in over fifty outdoor courses including: Frontier Skills, ATV Handling, Back Packing & Hiking, Motor Boat Handling, Rock Climbing, Furbearer Management, Archery, Canoeing, Camp Cooking, and more.
I must admit – I had never heard of BOW, had no idea what I was registering to win, and had never even visited Columbiana. I was slightly nervous about the opportunity, but keeping my resolution in mind knew I should give it a shot. As time passed, my memory escaped me and I completely forgot about entering. And as it turned out, guess who was selected to be one of the lucky winners - this girl!
I still wasn’t fully ready to step out of my comfort zone without a loyal sidekick, so I enlisted my sister Alison to join me. Upon arriving, we received our information explaining the workshop, various sessions and accommodations at the Alabama 4-H Center. We both feverishly selected our sessions to include: Frontier Skills, Backpacking & Hiking, ATV Handling, Cowboy Action Shooting and Motor Boat Handling. We knew we were on our way to an experience of a lifetime!
Columbiana is a quiet town in Shelby County, Alabama, in between Montgomery and Birmingham. It is the County Seat for Shelby County and has a population of around 4,200. The town is nestled between the woods and Lay Lake, providing many opportunities for nature-based recreation. It was home to an iron foundry during the Civil War and presently maintains many county government offices and Alabama’s 4-H Center.
Before traveling to our weekend getaway, I also had never visited a 4-H Center. In fact, I couldn’t even recall the four core values in “4-H.” My sister and I went back and forth guessing the H’s as we embarked on our road trip. As you can imagine, “Herlihy Sisters” was top on our list, with “Hay-Baling” a close second, but upon arrival we quickly found out what we were missing: Head, Heart, Hands, and Health. 4-H takes a learning by doing approach to foster skill development in young people. For over 100 years, Alabama 4-H programs have existed to help young people develop into resourceful citizens and leaders within their communities. Their pledge is simple:
My Head to clearer thinking
My Heart to greater loyalty
My Hands to larger service
My Health to better living
For my club, my community, my country and my world.
It stood out to me because I realized the four core values are the embodiment of the term Servant Leadership, coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970. It begins with the natural desire to serve, to serve first. He created a philosophy and set of leadership practices utilized for the betterment of the individual, to build stronger organizations, and create a more caring community. Although the 4-H values were originated over 100 years ago, they are still directly in line with Greenleaf’s more modern approach to building valuable leadership skills. I believe these values are a reminder for us to stay humble and let us know there are other people and organizations (many we have never met) invested in these same philosophies.
The Nature Conservancy’s vision is a world where the diversity of life thrives, and people act to conserve nature for its own sake and its ability to fulfill our needs and enrich our lives. Their mission is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends is best advanced by the leadership and contributions of men and women of diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and cultures. As you can see, it makes perfect sense for them to partner with the Becoming an Outdoor Woman experience.
The weekend consists of a gumbo of people all learning, teaching and living in an environment that is unfamiliar. Now I did learn, there are veteran BOW participants who return year after year or travel to other BOW workshops across the country for weekend getaways. These people are genuinely invested in conservation, sharpening their own skills, and graciously passing on what they have learned to the class newbies – like us! Every participant from newbie to veteran has one thing in common: respect. They respect one another, their environment, and the reasons why our most valuable resources are meaningful to us all. It was such a unique experience that I will always cherish.
We are all familiar with Mick Jagger’s famous line “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.” We are constantly learning from the people, places, and partners that surround us, but if you never take the step you will never know what our world has to offer.
As 2017 commences, I would like to challenge everyone to do the same. Be less rigid. Step out of your comfort zone. Meet people who are different from you. Accept their differences and embrace them. Travel to places you have never been and bring that knowledge back. Learn more about the places that constantly surround you. Make connections with new partners and organizations whose knowledge you want to possess.
Better yet, be the person or organization someone else wants to have around. And, if you find yourself wondering why somebody doesn't do something about that – be that somebody!
For additional information about Becoming an Outdoors-Woman or to register for the Spring session, please contact below:
Hope Grier, Becoming an Outdoors-Woman Coordinator
Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries
64 North Union Street, Suite 514 Montgomery, Alabama 36130