A ship is safe at port, but that’s not what ships were built for. – Grace Hopper
While each student is on their own individual journey, there are quite a few similarities to the path of the students here at Ironwood. Each journey starts with some degree of resistance.
Ironwood is a completely new world with unknown expectations and environments. For our new students, it’s a bit like being a fish out of water. As a recent student suggests, “All of my outlets are no longer available, and that forces me to deal with today.”
During the first few days, students participate in what is known as Initial Reflection. This opportunity is given to allow student to take some time to observe what’s happening around them. It allows for a moment of clarity of where they were, where they are, and hopefully where they might want to go. This reflection space is their harbor.
Further into the program, students are testing the waters. Deciding where they want to go. This past week I had a discussion with a newer resident that wasn’t very interested in participating in the day’s activities.
I took some time to validate her feelings. Sharing my compassion with the struggles of residential life and frustrations of obligations and responsibilities. When I asked her what her plan was for the rest of the day, she had no answer. She was floating around with no direction. I shared with her that both within this program and in life, she could explore and conquer as much as she could possibly dream. I shared that she also has the right to stay in a comfortable space and not challenge herself at all. However, she has to pick a direction. Whatever the direction is for today, you have to orient yourself to a course, making some headway.
He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards a ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast. – Leonardo Da Vinci
After a destination is set, our next step is digging deep to see what’s below the surface. The hidden ingredients of thoughts, feelings, relationships, and expectations. During this week’s gardening workshop, students took the time to physically dig with their hands to dissect the soil. They learned about the variety of materials within the soil and how the variety of materials contributed to supporting life. Students were also taught the importance of natural soil fertilization through cover crops, reinforcing the concept and need to support existing environments. The transference is evident, but we also enjoyed finding worms and “really neat” rocks.
The final phase of this adventure is for each of our students to navigate through the regular surprise of challenges that show up along the route. As the sea has changing currents, cresting waves, rocky shorelines and sand bars, we humans similarly shift based upon social, emotional, relational and familial impacts. At Ironwood, we try our best to offer support as young captains try to master the navigation of their own vessels. They are in a safe space to move fluidly through each success and failure. They have staff, resident peers, therapists, horses, and most importantly you, to encourage when times get tough, and affirm and love, whenever possible. Thank you for placing your trust in Ironwood and our apologies for all the cheesy nautical references in this writing. Have a great weekend.
I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship. – Louisa May Alcott