Get Me


It took me the first few years of my life to realize I was a “girl”. No, I don’t mean that I literally didn’t understand, but the girl stereotypes just didn’t fit the mold that God used when he built me…well at least not until I was 5 or so and found chap stick a handy tool for keeping your lips beautiful and hair curlers to be something desired to sleep in.

Those first few years of my life I spent doing things that society would deem more appropriate for a little boy. I liked to go fishing with my dad. There, it was quiet and while Dad cast the line since I would take out an eye doing so, I found myself time and time again playing with the basket of crickets. They were doomed, those spiny creepy crawlies, but I made friends with a few and would always secretly lead them to safety when Dad’s gaze was fixed on the lake.

Most weekends as a middle-school aged kiddo I spent my time, again, doing things my girlfriends would give me that questionable eye look about. Dad and I would go to my grandparent’s farm and I’d live in the treehouse that, if you look closely, you could find blood stains from when my dad built it. The treehouse overlooked the creek that separated our trailer from the rest of civilization, and I would go wading in it to find crawdads and other secrets that dwelled in those rain waters. Sometimes exciting and sometimes annoying, like the ticks that would show up in inopportune times in undesirable places.

I grew out of some of the fun I had when I was young. Now-a-days if I see a cricket in the garage 10 feet from me I do mental backflips trying to run in the opposite direction like it’s going to mysteriously become enlarged and decide I look tasty. And wading in the creek, while fun in theory, comes with the opportunity to cut your toe on sharp rocks. Or those ticks that once I overlooked, now just the thought of them can drive me away from even considering sticking my feet in.

Yes, growing up can take away your naivety and set in gender role expectations unfortunately, but it didn’t rob me of everything.  may have turned in my fishing pole, but I took on new adventures with my dad. No, wading in the creeks didn’t sound like much fun anymore, but rafting on them… yeah, I was up for that!

It didn’t matter to my dad that I probably barely would have met the weight requirements when I was 12 if they had them, but my age justified that I was ready for a whitewater rafting adventure in West Virginia. Or at least my dad said I was and I believed him. Plus, my grandma loved to raft and would be joining us; so if grandma could do it, have no fear, I’d make it out alive. Gulp.

The drive there gave me plenty of time to develop a pit in my stomach that I just chalked up to excitement. And while that pit grew after watching the safety video, there was no option of backing out. Nope, even river flooding and fast waters weren’t going to stop this youngin from the adventure of a lifetime.

I was set. Life jacket secured tightly and helmet fastened. You could probably barely see this little girl peeking through all of the safety gear that was promised to save me if I got washed overboard. Well, at least until the water took me to the banks where trees were not my friends in this situation. The flooding caused the river to move at lightning speeds, and our guide nailed in our brains that if an accident occurred, stay in the middle of the river. DO NOT DRIFT TO THE BANKS. There, the river pressure would snap a little body around a tree and there would be no going back. Gulp again.

They positioned me in the safest spot on the raft…the very back. And while we didn’t know everyone on the small life vessel, my grandma and I wedged our toes as far as we could in the last two spots next to the guide, knowing that he wasn’t going to let a child or a grandma not enjoy their time. I scooted my bottom as far out on side of the raft as my nerves would allow, grabbed my paddle like I knew what I was doing, and when the raft hit the water, I quickly realized that there was no turning back.

I think they strategically place you on the river where you experience a few small rapids to build your confidence. While river flooding didn’t allow for the typical rapid experience, we enjoyed some smaller waves, learning as a team how to dig deep to maneuver the raft through. It didn’t take long to realize that our guide, who was extra goofy that day, had ventured these waters regularly and if we trusted his commands, we’d navigate through each rapid safely. Well safely with a little touch of excitement. He’d give us a taste of the adrenaline rush but with just enough time to coach us on how to wiggle around any complicated areas that were off-limits.

We were laughing together as we got the hang of this adventure. Besides my constant worry about what do to when I needed to go to the bathroom in the middle of a river where bathroom breaks weren’t an option, I was set. No worries, just fun. Until we came up to the waves.

It must have been originally a larger rapid. One that maybe was a category IV on normal days, but with the river flooding the rapid evolved into large waves and as a team we were about to figure out if our navigation skills had been perfected. Our fun-loving guide got serious. He told us we were going to have to be prepared to dig in when he yelled to but some of the experience we were going to have to hold on and ride out. He whispered to my grandma and I to scoot in. No need to try to be a hero during this; we were just going to have to survive what was to come. You didn’t have to tell me twice. I scooted closer in, wedged my feet in deeper, and looked everywhere to find something to hold on to. But to no avail.

He was right. This rapid was a beast. The waves were high and the water fast. My heart was pounding so loud I’m not sure I even heard when the waves would break. I’m not sure they even did. But we rode them as best as we could. We thought we were doing good until we saw it. This one was massive and was promised to break at the same time as we were going to ride it. There was nothing we could do. The wave was going to engulf our raft. A last-minute “hold on” from our guide prepared most, but this light weight had no hope. I was gone.

As the rest of the rafters recovered from getting drenched, I was trying to remember everything that the safety video had warned me about. That was a joke. I could barely think to be honest, as I bobbed up and down in the water gasping for breaths. I didn’t have time to stress about the fish in the water nipping at my toes because the water was so fast, taking me farther and farther away from the raft. All I could think about was doing everything possible to not become one with the trees, literally. And yet I was finding out quickly, within seconds, that if that was my fate there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.

All I could do was yell, so yelling I did. The little breath I could find in between gulps of water as I personally took more waves alone I used to scream “GET ME” in the loudest voice possible. It felt like eternity and I started to come to grips that they couldn’t hear me over the crashing waves until I saw the bag floating within arm’s reach. As the guide pulled me to safety, I noticed another man on the raft pulling my dad in from the water as well. At the time I thought that maybe he had been washed overboard, but later I learned that wasn’t the case.

My spot on the raft never looked so good after experiencing the river in the way that I had. The day was young and giving up wasn’t an option even though I begged it to be. The river had not only drenched me to the bone but it washed away any false appearance of bravery. Nope, I was a scared little girl on a path of no return. There was an end but it definitely wasn’t in sight and we had the rest of the day to get to it, hopefully in one piece.

We did. We lived to tell the tale. But you betcha after we made it to land, my dad got a beer and me a soda and we thanked God we made it through in one piece. As I sipped my drink and allowed my heart to remember it’s normal pace, I realized that the river was everything it promised to be. A rush? Oh yeah…I had never experienced an adrenaline rush like that. An adventure? I would say that’s an understatement as it topped any experience I had had before. Memorable? Undoubtedly.

So memorable, in fact, that I will never forget it. And now, after years of recounting the story where I had a “near death” experience, I realize that the river was everything it promised to be and so much more. That day, I had to learn to trust blindly. As we made one with the water, all of us on the raft were in uncharted territory, literally. And the only person who knew the way was our guide. He was gnarly and cussed a lot, but he was the only person who was able to lead us to safety.

He taught us skills along the way. He helped us learn teamwork, which was critical to ensuring we maneuvered the raft appropriately around any troubled areas we could avoid. But, as with life, not every hurdle was avoidable. And on days that you had to tackle one head on, I learned that sometimes all you have to do is yell for help and a rope will be tossed your way. Or your dad will jump out to save you, which I learned later is how Dad found his way outside the raft. He shared that the rest of the team had been able to hunker down and hold on through the wave but the moment that he noticed my little body missing, he jumped in knowing that he couldn’t come home without me.

After being pulled to safety I wanted to throw in the towel. I begged for a helicopter to come and take me back at lunch, but that’s not how it works. Once you start you have to finish. You don’t get the chance to chicken out, no matter what you just went through. We refueled, took a bathroom break (thank heavens), and tackled my worst fears again until we made it to the end of the river and on the bus back home.

Same is true for life. We don’t get to decide when to stop, but we do get the opportunity to beg for help. And even when you’re bobbing up and down, gasping for air in between gulps of water…just when you think that you’re sinking instead of swimming, you realize you have a life vest doing the work for you when you can’t. You have a rope within arm’s reach once you open your eyes to see it. And you have people determined to ensure you are there with them, willing to go to any measure to pull you back in.

We bought the video, of course, of our crazy adventure as to document the occasion. No, it doesn’t show my wash overboard, but when dubbed to some pretty rad music it paints a memory filled with more smiles than tears. And I have several more just like it. You see, yes, that experience was “memorable”, but it shaped me to take risks. Some you may falter on and others may wash you away altogether. But through each you grow. For me, literally…so every year as I got older I became more capable of holding on when I needed to and knowing when I needed to as well.

Life is like a river filled with a series of rapids. Once you start, there’s no turning back. Sometimes you’ll get to tackle rapids and other times you’ll have fun surfing them. There will be flooding that will occur and the you just have to pray to make it through in one piece. You will have times that will be fast-paced, and other quiet moments that leave to ponder God’s beautiful scenery. A lot is unknown, and no matter how many times you navigate it, new challenges always show up.

You can be prepared though, if you’re up for looking for guidance. It requires a little trust and a whole lot of faith. No, you may not find a safety video, but one book will fill you with everything you need to make it through. The life vest may not be visible, but I promise you that He didn’t throw us into this world without wrapping His arms around our chest to help us come up for air each time we need it. His life vest isn’t one you remove. His rope isn’t ever far from reach. With a little trust, our Guide will get us through, and if you ever have a moment of uncertainty, just find your voice deep within and scream “GET ME”. He answers our prayers, and I promise He won’t let you drift to the banks.


Picture of Stephanie Feger

Stephanie Feger

Throughout her life, she’s been in the business of empowering people. She’s empowered her teams to collective success. She’s empowered individuals, groups and organizations to embrace perspective as a tool for deeper satisfaction and personal and professional accomplishments. And she’s empowered authors, small business owners and entrepreneurs with communications and marketing strategies to help them reach their goals.
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Stephanie Feger

Through her life, she’s been in the business of empopwering people. She’s empowered her teams to collective success. She’s empowered individuals, groups and organizations to embrace perspective as a tool for deeper satisfaction and personal and professional accomplishments. And she’s empowered authors, small business owners and entrepreneurs with communications and marketing strategies to help them reach their goals.

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