The Great Outdoors, by Charlotte Sutherland

I believe in the power of the outdoors. As a child, I was raised in a somewhat unconventional way. I went to a Waldorf school. Waldorf is a school of thought that emphasizes play, art, and music rather than media and tests as ways of learning. The school discourages television and movies from children’s lives. Because of that, I spent my childhood outside.

No matter how hot or how cold, I was in my backyard or on my bike with the wind in my hair. I loved every minute of my childhood. My relationship with the outdoors is still a huge part of who I am today. I have gained so many skills that very few people have in the twenty first century: I can build a fire with a magnifying glass, I can look up at the stars and see dozens of constellations, I can make jewelry out of plants and makeup out of smashed rocks. These skills were not obtained by watching Man vs. Wild or studying them from a textbook. I learned them because this is how I played. From when I woke up in the morning to when my mom rang the dinner bell, I was knee deep in our local creek or at the top of one of the great cotton woods that grew in my yard.

While at times I felt like a freak, looking back I would not change a thing. There were moments when someone would reference Sponge Bob or Scooby Doo and I would feel like an outcast. Every summer we traveled to our family beach house in Hull, Massachusetts, and my cousins would sit down and watch cartoons. If my parents caught me partaking, they would turn off the TV and send me outside. My extended family still teases me about that to this day, but while they were glued to the TV, I was out on the beach building fairy houses in the sand.

I am a more centered, level headed adult because the outdoors made me a carefree, happy child. To this day, I do my best thinking outside in the fresh air. The outdoors has shaped not only my present but also my future. I hate cities, and I know that I will raise my children in a small rural town. I will marry a man who fishes and hunts, and we will have a small garden in our backyard. My children will not be those kids at restaurants who sit with their faces in their iPads nor will they be those kids whose t-shirts are covered in obnoxious graphics of cartoons or animated movie characters.

I credit my character and my confidence to the outdoors. I know that no matter how tough life can get, I will be ok because all I have to do is step outside.

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