8 Things I Learned from Being a Reality TV Kid

In case you're new around these parts and missed my first post on this topic (or you're new in my life and I haven't had that awkward "so, there's this thing I did..." talk with you yet), I was on a Survivor-like reality TV show when I was 15. It was called Endurance, and today marks the eighth anniversary of our first day of filming.

EIGHT. YEARS. I still can't really wrap my head around it.

And on this day eight years ago, JD Roth (the host) told us that from that point forward, our lives would forever be broken into "before Endurance" and "after Endurance." Obviously, in that moment, I was like, "OF COURSE it will!!!!! This is the coolest thing ever!!!!! My life will never be the same!!!!!!!!!!"

Now that I've gotten a little perspective, I think JD was right, just not exactly in the way I expected. Does Endurance play into my everyday life? No. Do I think about it often? No. I do, however, think that my experience on the show helped shape who I am as a person. (I know, we're getting real deep about reality TV here.)

So in honor of my Endurance anniversary being old enough to start third grade, I compiled a list of things I learned from my week in a treehouse in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

1. Other people don't have your best interests at heart. Ha, this was not a fun lesson to learn, but it's certainly one that smacked me upside the face. I assumed that, because I would never think of doing the backstabbing thing, that it would never be done to me. LOL. How wrong I was! It was a hard and fast lesson: just because someone's your friend doesn't mean they're looking out for you. I'm like 99% sure I have some trust issues because of Endurance. Nowadays, my trust is hard earned.

2. ...But that doesn't necessarily mean they're bad people. The people that broke my trust (read: everyone) didn't do it because they were evil or malicious. People just operate on different standards. That doesn't mean they're, well, mean. I was still able to get along with all of them perfectly well. I couldn't trust 'em anymore, but hugs were still plentiful. I'm still occasionally in contact with some of them. They're all completely nice human beings!

3. Reality TV is incredibly real. I'm not talking about whether or not it's scripted -- I can't vouch for other shows, but I can tell you that Endurance was 100% unscripted. But I mean that, when you're in that bubble, the show is your entire life. We didn't have any technology or contact with the outside world. All we had was our reality of getting mic'ed up every morning, regular interviews with the story producers, and daily challenges. And, of course, all the teen drama and angst you get when you keep 20 young teenagers in close quarters for an extended period of time. You're not thinking about your friends from home, or your MySpace (hey hey, 2006!), or school, or anything other than the game. So if you're ever watching a reality competition show and wonder why the contestants get so freaking worked up about everything... that's why. It becomes your life. However...

4. Adults aren't always more mature than teenagers. Have you ever watched The Biggest Loser? It's produced by the same company that produced Endurance, and will sometimes use the same challenges and similar twists. When handed a bad twist on Endurance, us children might've cried a little bit, but we'd toughen up and try to make the best of the situation. On The Biggest Loser? Hoooo boy. Those grown-ups will throw tantrums, they'll rage, they'll walk off the show in protest. It's equal parts infuriating and, quite frankly, embarrassing. If you're signing up for a reality show, prepare to have the rug pulled from under your feet, stop acting like a privileged princess and get over yourself. (I'll stop here before this post turns into an enraged rant, because honestly.)

Fans of the show made these edits, way back in the day. So of course I saved them, because when the hell else in my life am I going to have fans?!

5. Sometimes things don't work out the way you wanted them to. And that's okay. In my years of Endurance fandom, whenever I dreamed of getting on the show, those dreams involved me being on the strongest team, being in a great alliance, and winning the grand prize. HAHAHA, absolutely none of this happened to me. Quite the opposite, actually. And you know what? There's no gaping hole in my life. I don't constantly wish things could've happened differently. Would I have liked that trip to Hawaii? Well, sure, but I'm perfectly happy with my experience and everything I took away from it. Life's a journey, people.

6. You will never regret doing the right thing. When filming began, I wasn't thinking of the people I'd be meeting five, six, seven years down the line who would find out about my reality TV past and immediately hit up YouTube and watch every episode. In the moment, I did what felt right and stuck to my morals. I didn't regret it then and I don't regret it now, especially because I don't have to be embarrassed by people watching the questionable decisions I made! Instead, I have friends getting completely indignantly angry on my behalf. When I studied abroad in London I met up with one of my fellow cast mates who also happened to be there, and Amanda threatened that she'd beat him up. (Have I ever told anyone that story? If not, whoops! True story, sorry Connor!) Also, I feel like I can't make this list and not mention karma. It's a bitch. Just be nice.

7. Attitude is everything. E V E R Y T H I N G. One day, as my elimination was looming, one of the show's producers arrived at the treehouses after spending some time with the parents. Since we were all minors, we each had a parent/guardian staying in a town nearby, and every day they were briefed on what was happening. Things were pretty bleak for me at this point, so my mom told this producer to make sure I was okay. So he called up to me, "Your mom wants to know if you're okay." And I shrugged and said -- honestly, I'll never forget this -- "I'm okay because I have to be." Well, ain't that the truth! Sure, I may've wanted to climb into bed and cry and spend my days sulking by myself, but that would've just made things worse. So I slapped a smile on my face, pretended I wasn't miserable, and flat-out forced myself to have fun. And it worked! I may not've been happy-go-lucky, but I was able to enjoy my last few days out there even when everyone wanted my head on a platter (so to speak). I'm still pretty proud of myself for that.

8. Give your off-the-wall, out-of-the-box, slightly crazy, impossible dreams a chance. Because you never know! They might not be all that impossible after all. ;)

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  1. Oh my gosh! I remember Endurance!! I was probably about the same age as you and I dreamed of participating!!! I think what you learned from it is quite authentic and great! I mean it will take longer (much longer) for someone people to learn those lessons!!

    1. Omg did you really?! Haha that's awesome! I'm always blown away when people I meet tell me they used to watch it! :D Yeah Endurance definitely taught me a lot of grown-up lessons at a very young age, and for that I'm extremely grateful!

  2. WHAT?! Why are you so cool!?!? I swear, if for some reason life takes me back to America, I WILL be on Big Brother - totally a dream of mine. And thanks, because now I know it's possible! This is so awesome hahaha .... oh, and totally going to YouTube it right now.... :D

    1. HAHA awww shucks, thank you! :D I was just informed that it's all been taken off of YouTube, and I'm so sad! So I don't know if it exists out there in cyberspace anymore, so you might just have to take my word for it, lol. And YES, it's totally possible! Get it girl!

  3. I LOVED THAT SHOW! I probably watched you! haha
    (Yes, I'm totally YouTube-ing it now...)
    Great list, though. I love your perspective on the experience!

    ♥Emma, of It's Emma Elise