Like many of you, I have finished up another year of school, and all things considered, it was been a good one. I've had plenty of adventures, enjoyed most of my classes (more or less), and even improved my mile time by over thirty seconds (it's still not that impressive). But if I'm being honest, the four weeks I spend at my beloved summer camp every year have been at least as valuable if not more than the nine months I spend in school each year. It's hard to put into words why that is the case because what I learn at camp is so different from the kinds of things we are taught in school. I guess the best way to demonstrate what I mean is to take you there myself, from the beginning.
After being crammed into a bus for several hours chatting it up with friends, as if we had seen each other just yesterday, we all squish toward to the windows. We are competing to see who can get the first glance of the wooden sign we all know will be standing tall at the start of the driveway. Most of us have been waiting all year to spot the symbol that signifies we have made it to our summer home -- Camp Kippewa for Girls, situated in the middle of Maine on the shores of stunning Lake Cobbosseecontee. Every girl feels the anticipation before putting her hands in the air and bursting into the Bubble song -- per tradition every time we pass the entrance to camp.
Towering trees, a glistening lake, and a green landscape dotted with log cabins and gravel paths comes into view. Excitement fills the bus as I itch to get off and finally have fresh air greet me. I cannot wait to race around the field called Fenway North, glide across the lake on a slalom ski weaving in and out of the wake, or scour the camp for hidden treasure on Gold Rush night. This is my home away from home and I can proudly say Camp Kippewa has taught me many life skills throughout the summers I have spent there.
First, it has helped me become independent. I have learned to take care of myself without having to be nagged by my parents. It has also pushed me to try new activities. For example, I can sail a boat, make a ceramic bowl, and perhaps most meaningfully, kick butt in the classic game of dodgeball. More importantly, I have friends literally all around the country and, in some cases, world. I have been exposed to a group of diverse people with different lifestyles. Together, we have built lasting, deep friendships, celebrating our differences while rejoicing in the experience that has brought us to this spit of a town in rural Maine.
Camp is a truly special and unique experience. I have heard that a little bit of summer is what the whole year is about. This may be an overstatement, but Kippewa is the only place I have been to where, after meals, it is normal to play music and for everyone to jump on the tables and start dancing. No one thinks twice about plunging into a chilly lake at 6:30 in the morning for a polar bear swim that results in the early morning air nipping at your skin, goosebumps all around. I am euphoric when I am huddled around a campfire swaying back and forth to a camp song watching the people I have grown to love with the largest smiles on their faces. All this proves that finding happiness can be as simple as living in a log cabin with leaky showers and floors that creak when you walk on them. Instead of going on an exotic and luxurious vacation, I am perhaps happier in the comfort of rural Maine than any other time of year. I am living with some of my best friends, not worrying what everyone thinks of me or feeling as though I am being judged. Camp is not like that. Everyone is accepted and valued for who they are because, while at Kippewa, no one cares where you are from or how popular you are. That is the absolute best feeling in the world, and one that has made me a better, more accepting human being.
I know a lot of my friends will be doing internships this summer, working odd jobs, going to summer school, or doing community service. They probably think I'm a little too old to be going away to summer camp to dress up in funny costumes and make friendship bracelets... again. But what they don't know is that I'm not just wasting my time in a log cabin, but I am learning things I can learn no where else and having a blast appreciating the simple things in life. And that is why it is completely essential to go to camp as long as possible and enjoy it while it lasts.