"Love has always eluded me and not from my lack of trying. If 35 years of life was not enough to at least have sampled love, then another 35 wouldn't bring about the full course. I read popular books that just confused me more. Take 'Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus', sure, this may answer some questions in the traditional sense but let's take a moment to think about this in a non-traditional manner. What if the Martian didn't want a...Venusian? No that can't be right...Venetian? Ugh whatever the 'Martian' equivalent for Venus is but I believe my point has been made...what if the Martian wanted another Martian? Or wanted a space traveler...Does love have boundaries...or borders? If they do, is that even love at all? And do I deserve it? Quick answer, NO.
Maybe I am overthinking or maybe I'm unworthy. Many religions believe their gods love them unconditionally. If that is true then I should have access to that, right? Well I don't feel it so I must be doing something wrong. Maybe it IS me, maybe I am too scared of taking risks...I am too comfortable in my boring and predictable life. Maybe I needed to spice things up a bit. So that was why I auditioned for the new reality love show, 'All ALONE' and why I stand here, before you now!" I said, slightly embarrassed, as I stared into a red blinking light attached to the top of a camera. Maybe I said too much.
"CUT! Blair, You DO know this is not a reality romance show, yeah?" Said the director sitting in a foldout chair behind the camera.
"SHUT UP! What do you mean this is not a romance show, it's in the freaking title...All Alone, duh, I am ALL ALONE." I spouted, trying to hide my surprise behind sarcasm.
The director laughed but not like a kind laugh or a familiar laugh, this human turned into a hyena. I mean it was a, grab the stomach, rock side to side, and slap anyone in arms length, kind of laugh.
I frowned, "ugh...what's so funny?"
The director wiped the tears from his eyes, " oh you aren't all alone now but you sure as hell WILL be...in less than 8 hours from now"
It started to click...I wondered what romance could come out of ALASKA but I just chalked it up to hot tubs and cozy fires! But then why did they tell me to bring two things I couldn't live without? I brought my pedia-foam slippers and my mini-Keurig but now I'm thinking I should have brought a lumberjack and popup camper. "What kind of show is this then?" I said. I already knew the answer but didn't want to believe it.
"This is a survival show, dear. Did you not read or watch...well...anything about the show" Said the middle-aged makeup artist as she blotted my face with a sponge.
"No", I said, "I wanted it to be a surprise."
"Well...", the director grunted, and threw his fist up to his mouth trying to hold back the laughter, "SURPRISE!". The whole TV crew and other competitors were laughing now.
I was too…until I wasn’t.
"Well, this might be fun," I was trying to look on the bright side of this fiasco, " all of us getting dropped off in a remote area, alone and away from society. Having to survive!"
"Nope. Try again", the director really got his money's worth out of me.
"What do you mean? Will it not be a group?!" I started to hyperventilate. I have NEVER been alone in the wilderness. I have never even put a tent together. All of these "never's" started to fill my head.
"It will be just you, your thoughts, and your ability to survive."
"Oh I am dead."
“No, no, no, you will be fine. You will have a satellite phone, an emergency beacon, and a locked emergency container. If you touch any of those, though, you will be out of the competition.”
“How long do I have to make it?”
“Just get out there and give it your best shot!” said one of the competitors, a scruffy guy who looks as if he crawled out of a Jack London novel.
“Easy for you to say, you look like an offspring of the mountain dwarves and forest elves. Did Frodo take the ring to you so it could be destroyed? Did you crush it between your 13th and 14th ab? You didn’t bend to the ring’s will, it bent to yours. Yeah, I know your type”
“And what type is that?” Mr. Scruffy McGee asks
“The type that dribbles bowling balls.” My mouth has gone rogue.
“The type that does wheelies on unicycles.”
“How is that even pos–”
I interrupt, “or makes onions cry. Or drowns fish…builds a snowman out of rain, perhaps?” He looks at me in bewilderment
“Sorry,” I said, “ I blab when I get nervous…”
He laughed, “No, no, I thought it was great. I gotta try dribbling a bowling ball.”
I looked around and noticed everyone else had gone to their heated tents for the night, “well good luck,”
“Yeah you too.”
The morning came quicker than I wanted it to but I’m not sure what I was expecting. It’s time, it always works the same way. The medical team spoke to us, might as well been speaking to a wall. I was too disgusted with myself for making this colossal mistake but it’s nothing new. They started dropping people off by helicopter to their designated spots, the farthest person away from home base was the first to go and who might that have been? YEP! You guessed it!
The ride there was, well, beautiful. A reverent orange pierced the blue sky, still lulled by the previous night, and lit up the soft rain clouds perched around the mountain tops. I hoped to see the sun burst forth from behind the mountains before I made it to my area but no luck there. The helicopter landed for a moment, I hopped off, my bag was tossed down beside me, and one crew member joined me for a second. He handed me a bag and reminded me that it was my GoPro for my video journaling. He hopped back on and then it was back in flight. A few moments later there was no sound at all and I sobbed. I was truly all alone. I was stuck with the one person I couldn’t stand. Me, myself, and I.
After crying and then being sick of my ‘pathetic-ness’, I decided to try and do something. My scruffy friend whose name I never asked for gave me a sawing chain and a zippo, along with a couple of pointers, so I tried to actually do something. I cleared off the ground where I was going to set up camp and I started collecting shrubbery. The show purposely started 4 weeks before the snow season so the contestants could do things without three feet of pure evil ruining everything. Oh, I forgot to mention…I hate snow. But I digress. I had no idea what to do but Mr. Scruffy said building a shelter, starting a fire, and finding food were vital so I figured I would start there.
“This day was a disaster. I am such a failure.”, I felt weird speaking to a camera at first but quickly thought of it as a friend…who couldn’t speak. “I spent most of my time trying to saw down small trees for shelter and fire. I just don’t get how anyone could saw wood with this little chain. All I managed to do was cut six trees down and collect a medium pile of wood for the fire. I had no idea how to build a shelter so I’m sleeping under my 4 year old niece’s teepee. No, hers were much better. If it decided to rain. I would be screwed. I was unable to find any food and have no idea how to hunt. I will probably have to quit tomorrow.” I said then reached over and powered down the camera.
I sat down on my log that I had set up next to my camera. It started to feel like a confession both or something. I turned the camera on and opened my mouth, “Last night wasn’t too bad. It was cold but I was able to manage with the cold weather clothes and gear provided. Today I’m going to repeat what I did yesterday and see how bad I messed up. I set my Keurig up on a log so I can pretend it makes me coffee. Lame, yeah I know, but it kind of helps. I wonder if I will make it through the day…we shall see.” I said to my new friend then turned it off.
After chatting with Gary the GoPro, I worked on the tree sawing. Believe it or not, I got down 12 trees AND I found two massive blueberry bushes not far from my base. After I drug all the trees back I took a much deserved break and ate some of the beautiful berries. Then I got back to work on my teepee. The newly chopped trees, along with some brush, filled most of the holes in my shelter. Don’t get me wrong, it still looked like it could have been knocked over by a small gust of wind but this was a big day for me. I thought, just for a second, that maybe I wasn’t a failure. But then I attempted to start a fire…FAIL, ugh. I’ll be going to bed again without the warmth of a fire. Oh, well.
I awoke earlier this morning because I heard something rustling around my yard. I panicked and threw a shoe. A rabbit scurried away. I made a trip to the river and gathered water but before I did so, I sat down and admired the beauty of it all. Alaska was really just as beautiful as people said it was. But it is also harsh and unforgiving. Then my thoughts landed on me and for the first time…in a long time… I was not angry or bitter. In fact, I was so confident I attempted to start a fire…I failed, but the most important thing was I failed with hope. I decided to grab Gary and give it a chat.
“Hey you! My favorite GoPro! Today was a special day for me. I didn’t do anything spectacular…In fact, I didn’t do much at all but I didn’t break or destroy anything. I didn’t whine or cry. And I didn’t beat myself down. You GO ME!” I got up and danced. I danced like nobody was watching. I laughed. I cried. I danced. I crawled in my cozy teepee and went to sleep.
I did it! I achieved a feat that mere humans could not handle. I built something the likes of which this world had never seen. I…created…FIRE! Well, to be fair, my zippo did most of the work but I finally figured out which wood to use, how to set it up, how to grow the fire, then lastly how to keep it sustained. I never thought in a million years I could have achieved these things I have achieved here…in ALASKA! It was time for Gary!
“HEY Y'ALL!” I shouted. I still wasn’t sure who I was talking to, “ I made it TWELVE whole days! I thought I would have been gone by day 2 or 3 but NOPE! Day TWELVE! And this day was extra special because…” I gesture behind me, “FIRE! I did it all by myself. Just me and my trusty Zippo. Okay, I’m gonna go all Oprah for a minute, please listen up! I came to this show with a deep hatred for myself but have learned in just a couple weeks how to love myself again. How to not be so harsh on myself when I fail. And how to give myself credit when it is deserved. I came here thinking I was broken…undeserving of love but that was not true at all. The issue was I didn't love myself but when I found the way to do that, I knew then that I WAS deserving of love just like all of us are. Please, before anyone seeks to love others and be loved by others, first fall in love with yourself. Learn how to love yourself and everything else will be worth it in the end. And with that,” I ignited the flare that I took out from the emergency kit, “ I am GOING HOME!”
The flare shot in the sky and the helicopter was there in 12 minutes. I admired my plot of land that helped me find myself again. I came to this show with the thought that this was a romantic reality show and the hope to find a partner but boy was my life turned upside down. This was far from a romantic reality show but I found love anyway. It may not have been the love that is shared with someone but it, in many instances, is a more important love.
I hopped on the helicopter and gave one last look at the place that would always hold a very special place in my heart, then gave the “good to go” signal and we were off, headed back to home base. I wondered how far I made it in the competition and to my surprise, out of 12 contestants there were only 4 left. Back at the home base I was headed to the contestant tents and to my surprise, out came Mr. Scruffy, hobbling from the medical tent.
“Hey! I didn’t expect to see you here. What happened?”
“I tried bouncing a bowling ball. This,” he points to his foot laced in a support boot, ‘is YOUR fault.”
“WHAT?! Oh my I am so sorry, i didn’t know that–” I glanced up from the ground to see him smiling.
“Gotcha!” He laughed.
“Haha, very funny!” I said. “Hey...I never got your name?”
“WHAT!? You are not going to believe this but I named my GoPro, ‘Gary’” I could barely believe it myself.
“Haha that is amazing! What a coincidence!”
Without the mistake of signing up for this thinking it was a romantic reality show.
Without the 2 weeks of hard, back breaking work
Without the struggle of finding how to love myself again.
I would have never been able to do what I did next…
“Hey Gary?” I looked at him softly.
He looked back, “yeah?”
“Dinner?” Wow, that's what I came up with. No, ‘may I take you out?’ or ‘Want to go on a date with me?’...good job me, ugh. I look away, embarrassed.
“Thought you would never ask”