I used to be very pro-violence. Not sociopath level pro-violence, but I had a hot head and didn’t mind using my fists to settle my differences. I didn’t mind sending in the military to invade a country who had done nothing more than made fun of the US, I didn’t mind the cops “roughing up” the bad guys. In other words, I was very typical GOP – which was exactly the Party I identified with at the time.
Now, I’m not. And that is an understatement. Now, I prefer a defensive ONLY stance towards violence: So long as you don’t harm me, I won’t harm you. I will NEVER be the first to go violent – no matter how heated the rhetoric gets and honestly, no matter how much I may WANT to deck you.
What I am now is almost a polar opposite from what I was then – although I still retain the ability to get down and nasty when absolutely needed, I try EVERYTHING else first. Back then… yeah, I was known to get into fights over nothing more than a kid staring at me wrong.
So what changed between then and now?
I realized tonight it was a time and a place. It was One Hot Summer – the Summer of 2005.
At the time, I was fresh out of college and smack dab in the middle of my Year of Failure. Nothing I touched that year was going right. I couldn’t keeo a job, the only reason I had my degree was because I had finished it a year and a half earlier, I was single with no prospects ANYWHERE. It really was one of the most hopeless years I’ve ever experienced in my now 28 of them.
Even the Summer of 2005 was an immediate failure.
I landed a job I thought I could handle. It was as a wilderness counselor for a Juvenile Justice linked correctional program. I was good with working with kids – I was trying to become a teacher at the time fercryinoutloud! So I thought I could handle it.
I thought wrong. I lasted a month at that place – one of the most physically brutal times I’ve ever experienced. We were outdoors nearly 20 hrs per day, including when sleeping. Out living arrangements were tents made out of tree trunks, tarps, and twine. It was 98 degrees at 10pm a night, and you began to BEG for a thunderstorm just to make it easier to sleep.
The last week I was there, the week I left, was to be the first week of a month long training course. I had already been at the camp for 3 weeks before this, but was limited in what I could actually do due to not having yet received this training.
Part of this training was in the physical aspects of the primary part of the overall camp philosophy – it was a no punishment camp. Kids could run away from the group at will, and a counselor had to follow them and talk them into calming down. ONLY when they presented a clear and immediate danger to themselves or others were they allowed to be restrained in any way – and the proper techniques were one of the primary things we studied this first week. Everything from gentle verbal commands to arm bars to sitting total control manuevers to team holds where the kid is on his stomach with two adults on his back, as well as the proper application of handcuffs and shackles.
I went into this week calling this physical training “Combat training”, as my philosophy at the time associated it with. Remember, going into this summer, I was very pro-violence.
But it was here, after having lived the no punishment philosophy for 3 weeks and being trained in purely defensive physical restraints, that I actually came to see the benefit of a less violent philosophy.
I don’t know that it was an immediate change – actually, I’m almost certain it wasn’t. But I did come to realize based on this brutal, HOT summer, that there were other philosophies out there.
I still don’t agree with the overall “no punishment” philosophy of the camp – in fact, I often favor very draconian punishments, even now. But that summer WAS a turning point, and I don’t know that I’d be where I am without it.
Kinda crazy how One Hot Summer can change your life without you even realizing it, huh?