Day One: Joining
Posted by Huston on August 1, 2009
I am 31 years old, and I want to be a Boy Scout.
I’ve been surrounded by Scouts all of my life, and they always seem to have the most exciting lives, full of fun, camaraderie, new experiences, and adventure. The ones who’ve gone the furthest with it appear to have gotten the most out of it, and are often the most fulfilled people I know.
Like a lot of people, I wasted my teenage years watching TV, playing video games, obsessing over trendy music, and feeling sorry for myself for no good reason. I was never very happy, and as amazingly wonderful as my adult life is, I’ve always regretted those years of freedom, strength, and opportunity that I threw away on nonsense. I admit it: I feel like I need to atone for that great blank canvas that life handed to me and which I only ruined with thoughtless scribbling. It’s not that I did a lot of terrible things, it’s that I just didn’t do very much at all. And I hope that I can make up for it a little now–and enjoy life to the fullest–by becoming an Eagle Scout.
Of course, this isn’t official. Boy Scouts ends at 18, and nobody older than that can become an Eagle Scout. I have no illusions about joining a troop of teenagers, or having a Court of Honor, or anything like that. I simply intend to go through the Boy Scout Handbook and do all of the activities on my own. I want to have the skills and experiences that an Eagle Scout would have had.
I’m beginning with the following expectations: I will do every requirement. If it is difficult, or doesn’t apply to my situation, or is too unusual to be practical for me, I’ll adapt it reasonably and document it here. For example, for requirements that involve meeting with a parent or Scoutmaster, I’ll meet with my wife or present what I need to before my wife and children. I hope that they’ll be inspired by this project. Actually, I just hope that the older kids don’t make fun of me.
Only activities that I do starting today count. I won’t look at a requirement and say, “I did that on my own three years ago. Check.” I’ll do things again, if needed.
The third habit of highly effective people is to “begin with the end in mind.” So, I’ve surveyed the requirements for each of the six ranks–tenderfoot, second class, first class, star, life, and eagle–and made a brief schedule. The last three have minimum required time periods for leadership and service, so it would be impossible to do this project in just one year. I plan to be finished within two years. I’ll work on each rank during the following time frames:
Tenderfoot: August-September 2009
Second class: October-November 2009
First class: December 2009-January 2010
Star: February-May 2010
Life: June-November 2010
Eagle: December 2010-May 2011
Yes, I will do an Eagle project.
The requirements for each rank, and the page that I’ll be using for reference, may be found on the official Scouting Web site here.
I’ve been motivated by other such projects in recent years. Two of my favorite books are A.J. Jacobs’s The Know-It-All, a memoir of his project of reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in one year, and Ammon Shea’s Reading the OED, his story of reading the Oxford English Dictionary from beginning to end in one year. (Both books were excellent, by the way, and are highly recommended.) Next week, a movie comes out called Julie & Julia, about one woman’s experiences working her way through every recipe in Julia Child’s cookbook in a year. Similarly, I’ll use this blog to record the events in this project and my thoughts about them.
Do all of these projects hint at a societal yearning for self improvement, a desperate hunger for novelty, or are they cheap attempts at exploiting quirky ideas for publicity? I honestly believe that the first option is the truth. I think that a lot of people are already tired of living passive, consumer-oriented, virtual lives. There’s a need out there for real life, life you can hold in your hands and taste in your mouth, life that might make you sore and bloody at times, but a life that will keep you cool in the heat of day and that will warm you up at night.
On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.
I think people are also getting bored with the media’s addiction to everything “edgy,” or “dark,” or “shocking.” There is a genuine desire in our world for a simple, clean, natural life that emphasizes values, family, and decent hard work. I wonder if this way of life hasn’t found more of a large-scale voice yet because we’re afraid of being labeled “uncool.”
Well, I am uncool. I spent enough time absorbed in the mainstream’s definition of cool, and it got old. I got old. Now, from the vista of maturity, unclouded by the haze of youth that blinded me when I should have been doing this the first time, I want to be a Boy Scout.
A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly,
courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty,
brave, clean, and reverent.