I believe in summer camp. I believe in camp as a tradition, as a home away from home, as an eight-week sleepaway vacation. I believe in camp as a place to make new friends and reunite with familiar, close ones. I believe in camp as a place where I can truly be myself.
There is an indescribable bond that grows between people who start out as strangers and become family in a few short weeks. We learn our bunkmates’ passions and fears, their habits and pet peeves. We battle homesickness, strict counselors, and not always edible camp food together. We play soccer and softball and tennis and make fools out of ourselves because none of us are very good at these. We worry about, and then pass, swim tests together and move from level one to two to three to four each year. Whoever drags herself out of bed first advises the others on what to wear (Shorts or pants? Sweatshirt or tee-shirt?) depending on whether the air is cool or warm and how the sky looks. We get into fights, as is bound to happen when living in such close quarters, and forgive each other the next day; we move on as if the dispute never occurred. Thus is the life of a camper.
At a summer camp, it is impossible to hide anything from my bunkmates. How can I, when we all eat at the same table, sleep in the same cabin, and spend almost every moment of the day together? This is why I can be myself at camp. I am surrounded by my best friends and don’t feel the need to veil or screen anything from them. We are all in the same boat, whether it is a broken shower or lost laundry. There is no embarrassment when somebody wipes out while waterskiing or spills the iced tea during lunch.
At camp, I can finally relax after ten months of stress, schoolwork, and chores. Except for the occasional summer work, I can forget about school and “real life.” I can immerse myself in simply living and existing day by day. There is nobody to impress or be self-conscious in front of.
I still talk to my bunkmates daily, even the ones I have not seen for two or three years. I will never forget any of them, ever, because of the experiences we have shared, both fun and painful. We can talk about annoying siblings, driving experiences, top college choices, hopes for the future.
Perhaps if real life were more like camp life, people would be less stressed all the time. People wouldn’t lie or hide things from one another, or feel pressure to change themselves to fit in. If camp life were a true microcosm for real life, people would be able to enjoy life to the fullest and truly live. Wouldn’t that be something?
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