A Hero’s Journey: Neil Allmark

Thanks Neil for the submission and for seeing the light at the end of your latest journey.

The Mundane World: Well where to begin? Mundane being very appropriate for the boring surroundings that I began my journey in. I can see myself (many years ago) a nineteen year old student, no confidence, no social skills a pretty sad individual now I look back on it all. I would like to say it was an alter ego, but I’d be lying…it was an early prototype if you will. I had two to four weeks left of my college course left to do and I would finally have some academic qualifications under my belt after an uninspiring four years of secondary school and constantly being picked on by bigger kids. Then as had happened many times before, success was snatched from my grasp. My father makes me quit the course because he’s old school and believes that a piece of paper with my name on it is not going to get me ahead in life. From that moment on I told myself that I was not going to let anyone hold me back and I began looking for an opportunity to prove myself. Three years later that opportunity came along.

The Call To Adventure: Twenty-two years old now and life had not produced anything spectacular except for the fact that I finally sprouted from a five foot nothing weakling from my school days, to a five foot eleven bloke with a rugby player’s body….lets just say no one picked a fight pretty much ever again! Still I was well and truly in my shell and couldnt break out. I saw an advertisment in a newspaper – “Camp America”. This was it, this was the opportunity I had been looking for. I had been coaching soccer in England for about a year by that time and at my interview I was told that I’d have no shortage of offers, something I’d not heard before! Hahaha! June 21st, 1997: Flight leaving Heathrow Airport to Newark NJ….USA here I come! This was the catalyst for my journey.

Crossing The Threshold: I arrived in Newark and stayed at a Ramada Hotel, got roomed with three Scots who were intent on crashing a graduation party downstairs, I tagged along…sorry got dragged along. American girls have a way of making you feel at ease with yourself. For a very shy kid it was a crack in that shell. My first summer in New York was unbeleivable and I felt as if a weight had been truly lifted from me. A threshold had indeed been crossed, the person that arrived back in the UK had changed and for the better; a bighter outlook on life and with a love for helping kids express themselves as I had learned to do. I had decided by the end of the summer that not only would I be returning next year, but I wanted to teach.

The Path of Trials: A significant date for me and countless others…September 11th, 2001, I’m flying back to the UK after another great summer. ‘Im going back to start university in London, thinking how much I’m going to enjoy student life. I flew out from JFK on 9/11 missing the highjackings by hours, only two days prior I had been in the WTC. The flight passed without incident until I arrived in Heathrow and they were closing it down. It was then I heard the news…

Life had changed once again, although no international flight was highjacked it still felt as though I had a lucky escape. My outlook on my studies and university life changed dramatically and I worked even harder to achieve my goals, because I had been so profoundly affected by the atrocities in New York, as had my friends who lived in the city. In my room I had pictures of the WTC which reminded me how lucky I was and it kept me focused. I had been hurt in a way that could not be described and the three years I spent at university became all important and had become more meaningful due to 9/11. I came out of University with a degree and an offer of a job in Michigan. I worked Outdoor Education to gain more teaching experience and to gain more confidence in my own abilities. The two most testing trials on my journey had been getting through my degree and learning about how to teach in a class environment. The catalyst for this came from a catastrophe in New York City on September 11th, 2001.

Master of Two Worlds: I could not ever call myself a “master” despite the subtitle. Being the eternal student I believe that I am always learning and to call myself a master feels a little egotistical. Maybe because halfway through my journey I was very egotistical. I have had the most profound life changing experience from working at camp. I have a beautiful wife and daughter and I now posess the skills and abilities to teach and give positive experiences to children in a world where negativity is much more prominent. Maybe I am seen as a master by some of the children who experienced a full blown “Titanic” skit, or from a hike I took them on once, only they, in my eyes, can bestow that title upon me. Where I can say upon returning home I “maybe” became the master of my world, returning a more confident but also more focused person and in the space of two years I have shared a love with my beautiful wife and child. I guess even though I have gained so much from my own personal journey, I also gained humility and do not realise the affect I have had on those around me.

One Response to A Hero’s Journey: Neil Allmark

  1. Erik January 11, 2007 at 9:53 am #

    It’s great to hear the entire journey after living with you for a year. I’m glad that you were a part of the staff while I was there. And I am positive that the Titantic skit among other things (such as the ease that you taught classes with) made you a master of your worlds in both the eyes of the kids and the staff. Your daughter is very lucky to have a father like yourself.