By Karine Chalifour
What a summer I just had! I am filled with memories of travel, music, sunshine, food, ocean, Bruce Springsteen, and some work. After a very busy few months delivering events at YACC, I was lucky to leave for beautiful San Francisco to attend what would be a retreat for ME.
For the first time ever, I registered for an event with the sole purpose of taking care of myself, thanks to Terri Wingham and A Fresh Chapter (AFC). AFC — a non-profit offering U.S. and International volunteer travel experiences to cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers — offers the “ReFresh for Cancer Advocates Experience,” a retreat allowing a variety of cancer advocates to process some of what it means to work with cancer patients daily — the loss, the grief, the joys, the sorrows.
If I’m honest, I was a little scared. Attending an event where I wouldn’t be “in charge” and where I would be encouraged to be vulnerable was outside my comfort zone, but despite some hesitations, I knew this would be good for me and for anyone around me!
Not only did this opportunity bring me back to San Francisco — a city that I love — I got to share five days with 17 absolutely amazing humans! I got to know them, hear their stories, cry, laugh, learn, and grow.
I was surprised by what happened to me at the ReFresh retreat. I didn’t expect to feel so deeply for the people I met in such a short time. I didn’t think I would allow myself to be that vulnerable, to have so many ugly cries — and deep laughs. I didn’t expect to leave not really knowing how to explain what had just taken place, but I did. I’ve been leading retreats for young adults for over 10 years and have witnessed friendships growing in front of my eyes from people sharing with such honesty. It blows my mind to see transformations I can’t have imagined, with so much real love to boot! This is what we want for each retreat to feel like, this is how we build them, these are my intentions when I facilitate them, but even knowing that, I didn’t expect to feel it so deeply myself.
The structure of the Retreat is built with safety right in the core of everything, thanks to the amazing leadership of Terri and Janet Ottersberg. My feelings after this retreat speak to how committed everyone was to make this as real, honest, and meaningful as possible, and how beautiful we all are when given the chance.
The retreat was a good mix of community building and personal work, and I was glad to have a greater focus on the personal work side of things. I made a commitment to myself to fully go wherever they would lead me, to dig deep, to stir up some shit, and to leave feeling lighter and freer. The tools they used, the conversations we had, and the numerous journaling activities we were given helped achieve just that while also opening up some new ways to continue the work of daring greatly.
In San Francisco, I bought a bracelet with the letter “F” on it. Some people who know me well might think it’s for “fuck,” but it is actually for “free” — a reminder of what I worked towards at the retreat, and what I want to keep working on in my life.
I am so grateful for this opportunity. I’m grateful to Terri, Janet, and my tribe 2018. I’m also grateful to my YACC team — to Geoff and Dawn who made it possible for me to take part in this experience, and to my colleagues who made sure I could unplug guilt free. But ultimately, after experiencing a retreat for me, I am so very grateful to the hundreds of young adults who attend our events each year; who take the leap of faith, trust us, open their hearts, and jump in. I know this experience changed me for the better and I’m excited to continue working on flushing down more balls of shit as I go!
If you haven’t been on one of A Fresh Chapter’s programs, check them out! You won’t regret it!