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#22033 Henry Bransford

We’ve come to believe superpowers are reserved for the Avengers, or DC heroes if you’re into that. I’m here to tell you that we all have access to a superpower, it may not let you shoot lasers, but it can move mountains. And the more you use it the stronger it will become. My origin story began mid-2015 in Watson cabin where I nervously awaited to embark on my Aides experience. For those unfamiliar, the Aides experience is [was] a 10-day wilderness adventure of development and growth—readying 15-year-old Aides for Dudley leadership. Before venturing into the Adirondacks, our division of 30 or so Aides were sorted into 4 separate groups. To my horror, I was separated from my similarly unathletic friends and placed on the “boys to men” group, comprised of star athletes and NOLS veterans. My stomach sank as I stepped on the bus and heard our group leader talking about the awesome 23-mile hike ahead of us—part of which involved packing up Whiteface Mountain.

When we arrived at the trailhead and unloaded the gear, we circled around our group leader. In addition to words of encouragement, he told us his one rule: no complaining, because anything you’re experiencing, we’re all experiencing. At first, I thought, wait I love complaining! It wasn’t until we were two miles into our hike that I comprehended his rule. We had been hiking uphill the entire time, my legs were on fire and my pack felt heavier than a meat truck. I was about to share my frustration with the group until I remembered the rule and instead, asked what everyone’s favorite movie was. A seemingly insignificant moment changed my perspective entirely. Focusing on a positive aspect of the hike, getting to know my fellow Aide’s better, rather than the negative was groundbreaking. It felt as though that choice alone unlocked a superhero. For the remainder of the trip, not one person complained. Instead of complaining about how tired we were, we just took breaks. If there was something to complain about, we changed it. If there was something we didn’t appreciate but couldn’t change, like the hot weather, there was nothing to say capable of changing that reality. We realized that no amount of complaining would change the situation for the better, if anything, the opposite. Although packing up Whiteface was no easy feat, I did it with a smile on my face as I took in the breathtaking views.

The superpower is the ability to [metaphorically] travel to an alternate dimension. There are two hikes I could have gone on, one plagued with negativity, and one appreciative of the incredible people and scenery around me. By choosing the latter, I had one of the best, most rewarding experiences of my life. I learned that when life takes a turn for the worst, which it will, reacting negatively will almost always result in a negative experience. How you will react to a situation is entirely your choice. I’m not saying, “instead of being sad, be happy”. I’m saying that reacting to and anticipating situations with optimism will change how you perceive the world. Don’t get me wrong the hike was difficult, one of the hardest things I had done, but I don’t remember it as such. Instead, I remember the conversations and the immense feeling of accomplishment when we summited the peak.

For better or worse we all have a lot of extra time right now. Accepting that reality, even if it’s not ideal, and traveling to a dimension where you appreciate the positives in your current situation makes a huge difference. Best put by one of the greatest superheroes, Maya Angelou, “What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing, is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”

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