Say yes to adventure.
Do things that scare you.
The walls in the chic urban office that is home to Sseko Designs are plastered with these phrases, as a constant reminder of this company’s roots. Really, the office is a manifestation of what can happen if you live by these laws: if you do say yes to adventure, if you do things that scare you…which makes me think about the things that scare me.
The list of things that scare me is endless: public speaking, going to a yoga class that is too advanced and having to subtly mimic the other yoga-goers, and spiders—just to name a few. There is one fear in particular that I have carried with me throughout my twenty-two years in existence.
There are many aspects about camping that scare me. The prospect of hiking through spidery trails, the concept of going a weekend without a bathroom, sleeping outside—the whole idea just gave me goose bumps.
And if those fears weren’t enough to inhibit me, then there is all of this mysterious camping protocol that everyone else seemed to innately know. Setting up a tent? I can’t even make a paper airplane. Making a fire? Not unless it turns on with the flick of a light switch. Something about tying your food up away from bears? I think I saw that on TV. That’s critical, right?
When you live in the Pacific Northwest, to say that you have never been camping is actually worse than never having seen Breaking Bad or been to Salt & Straw. Jaws literally drop. “You’ve never been camping?” “You’ve lived here your whole life and you’ve never been camping?” Unless staying in a furnished cabin with your Girl Scout troop that one times counts… then, no. I was never taken camping as a child; my parents were just not campy people, and when I got older, I never felt the desire to change that.
Some of these astonished inquirers even offered to show me the ropes themselves, but I always declined. I was in a committed relationship with my camping abstinence and I saw no reason to end it.
Fourth of July weekend, about two weeks after I started my internship here at Sseko, my best friend, Isabel, and I decided it was time to finally end my twenty-two year streak of life in captivity, to “walk blindly into the fog,” as Isabel put it… to go with spiders and without toilets.
Long story short, we camped around Mt. Hood (Trillium Lake and Salmon River) and the weekend went off without a hitch. There were a few small bumps in the road—a malicious park ranger, an underestimation of our firewood consumption, a poorly positioned tent on the side of a sloping hill—but on the whole, we were amazed at how painlessly our camping trip unfolded.
Suddenly this lifelong commitment to being a “non-camper” seemed silly, downright hilarious. Why did we think we were incapable of constructing a tent? There we were, sitting in front of the fire, roasting marshmallows, Isabel making rice and beans on a portable stove, like we’ve been doing this all of our lives. We felt like pioneers of feminism, self-empowered goddesses. It was the feeling one must experience upon reaching the top of Mt. Everest and looking down at the Himalayas—perhaps on a slightly smaller scale.
Last week, before the camping trip, some of us Sseko girls had a heart to heart about what it means to “do things that scare you.” That is, to put yourself in situations that you normally avoid out of fear, and then to simply stop fighting them.
Just stop fighting them. I can do that? I ask myself. You mean to say, I don’t have to accept my status as a non-camper as an eternal covenant?
And then once you can fathom the concept of letting go of fighting your fears, take it a step further than that. Actually welcome them. Open the door to them and invite them in for tea and scones and make small talk with them on the couch in your living room.
What a baffling concept.
You can go to that advanced yoga class. You can speak in front of people. You can laugh in the presence of spiders. You won’t be as comfortable as you are at home, curled up in a ball watching Netflix, but there is more to life than that, they say.
Life is a riddle everybody is trying to solve, trying to find the path to happiness and fulfillment. It’s an evasive destination, a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. And we’d like to reach it without leaving our warm, worn-in comfort zones, but unfortunately, there is no fast track pass you can acquire to get there. Trust me, I wanted that to be the case more than anyone.
It’s becoming clear to me that fear has been outlining my life with restricting parameters. The more I do things that scare me, the more I realize I am limiting my potential by staying snuggled safely in my comfort zone.
Sseko’s story is inspiring: how the company came to be, where it is today, and the women that they have helped to empower themselves. This company would not be around if Liz Forkin-Bohannon had been at home curled up in a ball watching Netflix, avoiding spiders and awkward small talk.
I’m am taking heed from the inspirational signage on the walls of this office. Camping is just the first step of my walk of faith, into the fog of the unknown. After work today, I’m going to go buy a tarantula and set it free in my apartment. I’ll keep you posted.
Written by our Summer ’17 Operations Intern, Nina Chamlou