This week’s Throwback Thursday comes from Bethany Bylsma (MACP, ‘16), who looks back on the tools and traveling companions that helped her navigate her Seattle School adventure. Bethany now works as a therapist in private practice, and she recently launched the Tender Wilds, an organization devoted to sharing stories, tapping into deep matters of the heart, and leaning into community through pie making, writing retreats, and more.
When I was little, I had a set of cousins who spent their weekends orienteering.
Orienteering is a high-paced, family-friendly adventure of sorts. You use navigation skills, maps, and compasses to navigate diverse and unfamiliar territory, often racing against other families. (Thanks, Wikipedia.) I always found my cousins a bit funny for wanting to run around the woods, racing other kids to find flags tied to trees. Who used a compass anymore, anyway? Why couldn’t we stay at home and ride bikes in the cul-de-sac? I was all about familiarity and comfort.
Now, 20 years later, I find myself changed. My life has been a fast-paced adventure, and I would give anything for a map of the area—for an internal GPS system telling me where to turn, what roads to avoid, and where I might get stuck in traffic. I’m not talking about road maps either. I’m talking about a way to chart my course through this life.
Seven years ago, I plopped down my possessions at my brother’s home and drove my car into downtown Seattle, making my way to a red brick building in Belltown for my new student orientation at The Seattle School. It was an overwhelming and exciting day full of new faces and a new curiosity about the people I would come to know during my time as a graduate student. I wondered if I would actually remember anything I had been told, or if there would be a test later.
Overall, what I felt most welcomed into was a journey. There wasn’t a comprehensive map given to me of every step I would be taking, but there was a sense that I would not be alone. Others had taken this road before me, and others would take it after me, and there would be signals along the way, warning me of danger or geocaches of richness waiting to be discovered. And through it all, I wouldn’t be alone.
This particular adventure has had unexpected twists, new languages to learn, and new adventuring pals. As a student, I worked in the Office of Students & Alumni, where I helped orient new students to this place, this culture, and their own adventure in the red brick building in Belltown. From that vantage point, my cousins’ fondness for orienteering didn’t seem so crazy after all.
Orienteering is about tools for adventure, risk, and calculations. And maybe most of all, it is about the friends and family you journey with. As this new season and new school year approach, let’s all find again our maps and our senses of adventure. Let’s get ready for the ride.