I've gone to the same summer camp every summer for the past twelve years. Nine years as a camper, and three years as a counselor. This summer, the summer before my senior year of college, will be the first time I won't be able to go back. The first day of camp is in a few days, and I can't believe I'm not getting ready to load my trunk into my car and make the drive to the beautiful Texas hill country once again. I'll be spending my summer in internship-appropriate business casual instead of nike shorts and tshirts. The staff members at my camp have always said, “Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." As I try not to cry, here are some of the great things I will always miss about summer camp, as both a camper and a counselor:
1. The anticipation of getting to see all your best friends again. Because you only get to see them for one month out of the year, the time you do get to spend with them is just that much more special.
2. Wearing chacos everywhere. I know there's been some recent controversy over the chaco phenomenon, but I will always be a fervent supporter. These shoes are fantastic, though sadly not appropriate for wearing around everywhere you go. Unless you're at camp.
3. Writing and receiving handwritten letters. The exciting experience of receiving a "snail mail" letter at camp cannot be compared to anything else in the outside world.
4. Developing skills such as archery, canoeing, horseback riding, and riflery. And other important skills, such as learning how to roast a marshmallow to golden-brown perfection.
5. Sitting around a campfire and singing camp songs. “How did we come to meet pal, what caused our paths to blend…"
6. Being truly “unplugged." Leaving your phone and laptop behind for an entire month and barely noticing their absence. Only watching movies on Sunday nights under the stars with the entire camp, and not having to send any Facebook or text messages, because everyone you need to talk to is right nearby.
7. Camp traditions. Singing Slap-bang, participating in tribe shows, celebrating Merry Half Christmas, listening to the advise of Princess from The Land Beyond The Sun, dancing to “Summer Girls" at Carnival, watching Newsies under the stars; every camp has their own set of traditions that you can only understand if you were a part of them.
8. The ability to truly be yourself at camp. People won't judge you for not wearing makeup, making weird jokes about pudding, falling out of your canoe, or getting thirds on ice cream night.
9. Being able to just sit and talk with someone for a long time. No distractions, no checking your phone every few minutes, just real conversation.
10. Getting to wear giant tshirts with animals on them. The summer camp wardrobe is quite unlike any other wardrobe. Where else could you wear a size XL tie-dye tshirt with a picture of two wolves howling at the moon on it?
11. Sleeping in a bunk bed. The best sleep I've ever slept was in a wooden and spring top bunk in a cabin full of twelve other girls, listening to the soft whirring sound of my small, battery-powered fan.
12. Building a stronger sense of confidence and independence. From being a young camper learning how to make your own bed for the first time, to learning how to live in a cabin full of a bunch of other teenage girls, to being a counselor and helping other campers have the same amazing experience you had, summer camp is the best place to grow in self-assurance.
13. Eating camp food in the dining hall. Fishsticks, macaroni and cheese, and brownies for lunch on Fridays will forever be my all-time favorite meal.
14. Experiencing real, true friendship. There is no friend quite like a camp friend. No one else who has walked all the way from your cabin to the infirmary with you in the middle of the night, sat on the hammocks harmonizing to Beyonce's "Halo" with you, carried your sleeping bag all the way down the hill for you after an overnight, or lay on the grass under the stars and talked with you for hours about every topic imaginable.
15. Conquering fears. Whether it be encountering and destroying a giant spider in the cabin, going down the big red slide for the first time, or climbing to the top of the climbing wall, every day at summer camp offers the opportunity to try something new and face a fear.
16. Being in a place where you get to both be a role model for younger campers, and get to experience the leadership of the amazing staff members. One of my favorite things about my summer camp is the staff. They live their lives as a wonderful example of what it truly means to be selfless and love unconditionally, and I have learned so much from them.
17. The laughter. Having countless inside jokes that last from summer to summer that you will never forget.
18. The feeling of having a home-away-from-home. I've moved around a lot over the course of my life, but camp was always the one place that I knew would always be there to welcome me home.