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Makell's Story

One of the most significant educational experiences of my life I had at an all-girls treatment center in southern Utah. When I was first sent to Utah, I was incredibly furious. I did not want to be there at all. Treatment is not easy. A person doesn't just go to treatment for nothing: everyone has a reason for being there. Living on a ranch alongside 15 girls and learning to work with cows and horses were some of the biggest opportunities for learning I have had. At the start of my hike over this very big mountain, I was completely closed off emotionally. It took me about four months just to open up and feel comfortable expressing my feelings to staff and my peers. I ultimately realized I was going to have to face my own problems sooner or later, whether I liked it or not. Personally, I did not get along well with girls my age. This was the biggest mountain to climb. Being in Utah meant I was going to have to learn to not only share my space with others, but also understand I was not the only one with problems. Learning to share my living space, the bathrooms, and my room was very challenging at first. Living in a cabin with 15 girls meant there were chores that needed to be done. We were all responsible for little things that ended up playing critical roles in the bigger picture. Not only did I have to live and work with others, I had to learn to ask for what I wanted and stand up for myself. Getting to know these girls in and outside of the cabin as individuals played a big role in making me realize that there are reasons why people act a certain way and make the decisions they make. This is where empathy and compassion came in, the most important lessons I learned at my program. While listening to my cabin mates, I realized you should always be kind toward others. By listening and having conversations, I started to create relationships. Not only did I create relationships, I also got to understand what these girls were going through. These relationships gave me a chance to learn how to be considerate of people around me. During my time in an RTC, taking care of calves became a daily thing. I thought it was a waste of my time: I had better things to do then raise a cow. Three times a day, I went to the calf barn. Each girl was assigned her own calf. For some reason, this brown and white, skinny baby cow caught my attention. As I spent time with him, I noticed he was very weak. He struggled to walk and eat, got very cold easily, and just looked as if he were in pain. When I noticed he was having a hard time, I felt I needed to give this little baby as much love as possible. Winter came and I was getting used to tending to the needs of my calf. This baby cow began to struggle more and more everyday. He then got so ill, he stopped walking. Like I always did in life, I put up a front and acted tough as if it wasn’t that big of a deal. Inside, I understood that this cow might not make it. It was a big deal and I knew that. Taking care of this calf especially was a lot of work. His illness gave me a chance to take a step back from myself. This time I was not the first priority, the baby calf was. Beyond working with calves, I had a weekly equine class where I got to pick a horse and create a relationship. I had no intention of learning about myself through a horse. After I chose my horse, I was told I had picked the most stubborn one. Now the equine staff didn't see this as a bad thing, but as a learning opportunity. I was so upset because I didn't want to put work into a relationship with a horse. In the beginning, I couldn't stand it. Throughout my stay and as I worked with this horse each week I began to comprehend that this horse and I had a lot in common and I wasn't just working with any horse. I was working with myself. This horse was actually a reflection of myself. I started to see myself through this horse. Once I understood that this horse's personality was basically a mirror image of myself, the mutual respect between the horse and I improved. Instead of working against each other, we began to work together. Because the horse was a reflection of myself as a person, It changed my perspective. The bond I created with this specific horse was stronger than it ever was. As I finished my work in equine, I kept in mind all the things I learned from and about this horse related to myself. Through this horse I got a better understanding of myself and how the way I act affects my relationships with others. The entire experience caused me to become more open minded and patient. As I look back at my experience in Utah, I think I had to struggle through that resistance to get to a place where I could open myself up to learning. What I ultimately take from that experience is how to get along better with others and how to work to be the best version of myself.