Catherine Nicoli


Photography by Alec Redding

“I was on my Outward Bound trip — a three-week sea kayaking and mountaineering trip in Washington. Outward Bound is a challenge-based outdoor expedition organization. It was this very difficult adventure for three weeks without my phone, without talking to any of my friends, and with seven other kids from around the country. Every night of our trip, we would do what we call the Evening Ebb, which is where we would check in with each other about the day that we had and we would do things called ‘Appreciations.’ It was our final Evening Ebb and we did this ceremony where we got Outward Bound pins. Most groups put the pins in the middle and the instructors told them to grab it when they think that they’re ready. But my instructor decided to put all of our pins at the bottom of a river. This was at eleven o’clock at night. He put them in the river and he said, ‘You guys can go find them. Stand up when you feel that you’re ready and you can go find your pins.’ So we’re all freaking out, we’re like ‘How the hell are we going to find these pins?’ It was pitch black and the water was super cold. I ended up being the last one to stand up to go get my pin, and it happened to be that they were all attached to glow sticks so you could see them easily. I got into the river and it was so cold. It was so cold that when it got up to my chest I almost couldn’t breath. When I dove down to try to get my pin, a rock moved over it. I came up and I thought ‘I’m such a failure.’ I dove down again and I finally got it and came out of the water and screamed so loud. I rushed back onto the shore as fast as I could. It was a combination of closure from the trip, the excitement that I finally got my pin, and the fact that it is so cold that made me really excited. I had a lot of adrenaline. I can still feel how happy I was now.”