A Hero’s Journey: Charles D. Leibrand

Chuck becomes number five and shows that you can be friends with someone for ten years and not know half of their story.

The Mundane World: “Life is what happens to you while you make other plans,” according to John Lennon anyway. It would be more accurate for me to say “Life is what happens while you have no plans.” The mundane world for me was not an enjoyable place. I had wallowed my way though a high school education barely passing my senior year. School did not fit for me, it never had and I felt that I did not fit in at home either. The only thing that had fit for me was scouting and that was coming to an end. I had gotten my Eagle and reached the age 18 and I felt that I had gone as far as I could with that organization. I was haunted by feelings of inadequacy, depression and suicidal thoughts that had been with me from puberty. I had tried the camp counseling gig for the scouts but it was mostly a summer spent playing. When I returned home I tried community college but failed, my heart was not in it. I got a job in retail sales and hated it. When I turned 19 I got my ear pierced and had a cliché argument with my father and moved out. I could not really support myself and for the next few years I lived with a surrogate family and flipped burgers at BK. Along the way I sank deeper into depression and some very un-heroic behaviors. I knew that I could not continue on the path of self-destruction that I was on, so I decided to join the Navy. If I could not whip myself into shape maybe the Navy could. I signed the dotted line in April but I needed something to fill the gap till I shipped out in November. I wanted to be done with burgers and I wanted out of my surrogate family’s home. That’s when I answered a want add for camp counselors. I thought, “hey that would be a fun way to kill some time”. I applied and got hired. I worked all summer and stayed on to work the outdoor education program that they had there the rest of the year. I agreed to work until I had to ship out.

The Call To Adventure: November came and I had a very hard time leaving camp. Just before thanksgiving I shipped out to basic in Orlando, Florida. I remember sitting in my barracks thinking that I did not want to be there, camp was where I wanted to be. It seemed to be the first place that fit me in a long time. As fortune would have it, fate stepped in and lent a hand. Some of my un-heroic behavior from my past came to the attention of the Navy. They were unimpressed. A chief petty officer and I came to an agreement that the Navy might not be for me and I was give an honorable discharge after two weeks. I returned home, spent Christmas with my folks, told everyone I knew a made up story about what happened, and then shortly after Christmas I placed a call to camp. They had a place for me and I returned. The irony is that rather than answering the call to adventure, I placed one.

Crossing The Threshold: Crossing the threshold was easy for me. I had already experienced camp life to a certain degree, first with scouts then with the “Y”. For a geeky, overweight, and unpopular youth, camp was a tonic. There I could be one part mentor, one part parent, one part leader and one part rock star. What I did not see and was not prepared for was how profoundly camp would affect me. The changes it would start and the length of time I would be entwined with it. So with blinders on I returned to the camp world, a world where a depressed and suicidal nobody could be somebody to someone.

The Path of Trials: The path of trials hit me like a ton of bricks. I originally showed up at camp in June of 1991. My path, however, started when I returned in January of 1992. The path would in the end take me all the way to May of 1998. During that time I had many successes and many failures. I was both a hero and an anti-hero. I helped develop an outstanding outdoor education program. I told stories and enriched young minds. I made friends, some still very close. I treated some staff very poorly, abused some friendships and privileges. I paid the consequences and learned from those mistakes. In April of 1994 I left camp and got married to a girl I met on staff. I didn’t understand the responsibilities that went with that decision and lost that relationship after two years. During that time I experienced work in the professional world. I experienced armed robbery and our legal system. I tried my hand unsuccessfully at higher education. After my divorce I was unsure of myself and my abilities, I returned to the place where I was confident and my self-esteem thrived. I returned to camp in August of 1996. While there I honed my skills by running activities like high and low ropes. I taught and developed classes. I still made mistakes and had failures. I also let some people down, however I learned and improved from these set backs. I made an un-heroic choice; in the fall of 1997 I called out another staff member in front of school group in during lunch. I was loud and inappropriate. The camp director fired me about 10 minutes later. About an hour later he rehired me. Many on the staff came to bat for me and explained my side of the altercation. It was a humbling experience. I stayed at camp until May of 1998. The same camp director had told me in February the there would be no place for me come summer, the consequence of my actions in the fall. I was okay with that, I met another staff member in the summer of 1997 and had developed a serious relationship with her. It was time to leave and return to the mundane world.

Master of Two Worlds: So here I am nine years after ending that journey. Am I a hero? Was that journey heroic? I think that if you talk to people I led through low and high ropes or to teachers and students that I taught you would find some who would say yes. You also, without digging too hard, find some staff who would say I was un-heroic, perhaps even mean, abusive and evil. So that is my legacy, mixed reviews and that doesn’t bother me to much. I’m now the master of two worlds confident and secure in the lessons of that journey. What did I get out of the experience? I got confidence, self-esteem, a greater world view, a broader body of knowledge, a global network of friends and a wife and three children. I also understand that John Lennon was wrong. Life is not what happens while you are making plans. It is not some hand of fate that reaches down to toy with us; rather it is the product of the choices we make in response to fate and to the consequences of our previous actions. Life is a “choose you own adventure” book in which the pages disappear as we make the choices. There is no going back, no do-overs. This journey has been just one journey; there have been others for me. Added together, the sum of my journeys equals the larger journey of my life that started with my birth. I have made many mistakes and will make more; my successes will be defined by my failures. I will continue to try to make the right choices and all I’m looking for in the end is an epitaph the reads ‘Charles D. Leibrand, Loving Husband, Good Father, True Friend, Hero.”

3 Responses to A Hero’s Journey: Charles D. Leibrand

  1. Lisa January 7, 2007 at 2:33 pm #

    Also shows that you can be with someone for 9 years, married for 5 and STILL not know absolutely everything. I’m proud of you babe.

  2. Kit February 27, 2008 at 9:50 am #

    I can’t believe I have only just read this, what a great story and refreshingly honest.

  3. Chrales D. leibrand February 27, 2008 at 12:00 pm #

    Thanks Kit.