The Great Equalizer

I have found true peace and a deep sense of belonging when I get outside. It’s actually one of the reasons I keep heading into the wilderness. It’s also at the top of the list of reasons I am so passionate about creating scholarships for GOLD/BOLD. I hope the next generation has the chance to feel the strength, commitment, and community I have experienced in the outdoors. I hope Generation Z and beyond have the opportunity to create a sense of themselves away from social pressures. The wild is the great equalizer.

I think that finding a space where you feel power, ownership, and ability is incredibly important when growing up.

I grew up with parents telling me I could do anything I set my heart upon, and a society that told me I was different because of my gender. I grew up with my mom singing “He had it coming” (a song of glorious, devious misandry from the awful, strong women of Chicago) while still pressing The Collector (a book that followed the life of a deranged man as he kidnapped and held a woman in his home) into my impressionable hands and teaching me to hold my keys between my fingers, ready to stab, when approaching my doorway.

I was taught not to carry heavy things, to hold in farts and burps, to giggle, and to submit gracefully to forceful opinions. I learned to hide my beliefs, keep my hand down in class, and be bad at sports. I understood that I was not competition, I was in the sidelines.

But those patterns of fear and powerlessness I experienced in the “real” world were toppled when I went to the barn. If you don’t know, horse barns are ruled by little girls and hard women. The fairer sex mucks the stalls, wrestles huge barrels of hay, and rides the bucks right out of horses. The gentle gender keeps their nails short, doesn’t shy from physical exertion, and is LOUD!

I belonged at the barn, and was shown that I was physically capable — tougher than a pine nut, some have even suggested. (Avry’s Note: Pine nuts are squishy thats why we use them in pesto… you are tougher than a avocado pit.) There were no boys to lift the heavy things, lend a hand as I clambered out of trees, or soothed angry animals. There was just me and a gaggle of unruly girls — getting zapped by electric fences, crushed by horse hooves, bitten in the ass by real asses.

I was free to be me — in all of my dirty, hairy, rough glory.

These kind of spaces — that throw off some of the confines of societal norms — are precious. The wild is an equalizer for people of every shape, size, gender, race, ability, and wealth. The road less traveled isn’t silently weighing you as you walk. Lightening doesn’t give a damn what’s inside your pants when it chases you. Bears don’t mind what color you are while stealing your food. Rocks aren’t judging how many limbs you have while climbing them. Gear (despite what outdoor companies and gearheads might say) doesn’t need to cost a lot to work. And mountains (and so much of nature) don’t even acknowledge human life.

There are as many ways to be outside as there are people who go outdoors. I believe it is necessary to make sure everyone has a chance to experience the weightlessness of life outside of social structures.

Help us get there: make a difference in one kid’s life today.