Saturday, March 05, 2016

A Journey to New Found Confidence

  • a feeling of self-assurance arising from one's appreciation of one's own abilities or qualities.
   I'm not sure when it started. Somewhere between the magic of childhood and the mysteries of adulthood, I lost my confidence. It's a strange thing to wake up one morning and think "I can't do this because I'm not good enough" or "I'm nervous to go to high school because people won't like me." After years of observation it became very clear that many people around me felt the same way; children, teens, and adults alike.

  There were so many different techniques and strategies I had created for myself to adjust to this rapid growth of low self-esteem. My favorite was the humor. I had a whole set of jokes that allowed me to insult myself and amuse others at the same time. If I was laughing then it was okay for them to laugh, too, right? I put a lot of focus into working as soon as I started my first job at the ripe age of 16. Up until I was 22, I allowed myself to go through the motions and live day-to-day. 

  May of 2015, I had a job interview with River Riders. I never, in a million years, thought I would stumble upon a journey that would slowly but surely lead me to a more confident version of myself. I started as a sales and service representative and for those who don't know, it can be a very demanding position. As my first couple of days turned into my first couple of weeks, I began figuring out my own way of communicating and handling guests. 

Jack or "Old Man River"
  Each day at River Riders, a raft guide named Jack (also known as "Old Man River") would greet me as I made my way across the gravel lot. He always had words similar to "Miss Melanie, I appreciate all of your hard work. You are wonderful and I hope you have a good day today." He was soon followed by several other raft guides and managers who would smile, shout my name, or offer a quiet "good morning, Mel." Raft guides rarely make contact with sales staff during work hours unless they have questions about a guest. Their words acted like a jump start to my mood and I would walk in those doors with a smile and optimistic attitude.

  River Riders provided remarkable opportunities for me. I got to challenge myself on the Adventure Park a couple of times - an activity I thought I was too out of shape to do. It turned into 2 hours of surprising myself as I conquered obstacles! I relaxed in a kayak on the Potomac River and even tried Stand Up Paddle boarding for the first time! My first time on the Zip Line Canopy Tour was full of emotions. My heart was beating out of my chest in excitement while my fear of heights made my stomach full of butterflies. 

  From the very the moment I zipped on the 2nd tower, I felt like I had evolved into a better, more confident version of myself. I kept thinking "a year ago, I would NEVER have dreamed of doing this." That first trip is all it took to push me to become a certified guide on top of my sales experience. CPR/First Aid course, self-recovering, command training, knot tying, ride-along trips, and more was required of me before I could guide trips. Let me tell you, after learning what a recovery was and how much strength it took, I was positive that I would never become a guide.
  Just like it did for other guides, my time to shine came. On my last ride-along trip, as I landed onto a tower, the guide leading the trip,Jason, grabbed the rope to my trolley and said, "See ya!" I helplessly flew back out onto the line, knowing that I'd have to pull myself up to the line and perform a recovery. Once I threaded my daisy chain through a trolley, made a foot loop, and pulled myself up to the line, I clipped in close and began my uphill pull back to the tower. For just over 130 feet, I continued to push all the while thinking, "Don't give up! You want to be a guide more than you want to give up!"

A view of the plank bridge in the fall, when I began guiding.
My most recent recovery during a "refresh" trip.
As my arms and legs began to shake, I began hearing encouraging cheers from the guides. To my surprise, I began hearing shouts from the children on the trip as well. They cheered, "You can do it, Melanie! Go Melanie! We believe in you! You're the best! You're almost here!" I began doing anything in my power to make it to that tower. I kicked my legs, used two hands at a time to pull myself up the line, and just kept trying. Just as I felt my battle was lost, I felt the same trip leader who had pushed me out grab my harness and say, "Great job! You made it!" Jason is an amazing guide. He's goofy, sarcastic, and a blast to be around. I relied on him a lot when I first began zip lining.

To the right is Jason, the guide who trained me and pushed me onto the line.

The more trips I guided, the more I began to feel confident in my abilities. Just recently, a long time guide, Ash, had commented that he feels as though I am a "strong person" who he "believes in." Ash is a strong, confident, and inspiring person. His words really meant a lot to me. I guess what I'm trying to say is that going out in nature, traveling, and trying new things is a great way to discover long-lost confidence.

Ash, the guide that believes in me.
For many, gaining your confidence is a difficult journey that could take several years. You have to rediscover and identify yourself before you can begin to love yourself. River Riders was the beginning of that journey for me. Aside from being a blast, the activities provide excellent opportunities to challenge yourself, conquer your old comfort zones, and realize your potential. From the bottom of my heart, I hope to see you all out there this summer! 

To find more information about these remarkable trips and experiences, visit

Remember, you can request a guide, including those who made my journey so special. Speak with a sales and service representative when booking your trip and let them know who you are requesting. 

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