Alright so Howdy y'all! Based on all of my social media accounts, I'd say it's no secret that I was a fish camp counselor this year. I was a part of session D, yellow, Camp Terry!!!!!!
Fish camp is a Texas A&M tradition that started in 1954, when A&M was still an all-male military school.
The story goes that it started when Sullivan Ross, aka Sully or Ol' Rock, the president of Texas A&M during the 1890s, took some Aggies into the woods to teach them what it means to be an Aggie as well as all the traditions. Or so I've been told. Texas A&M is a university rich with tradition, and it runs DEEP.
SO for those of you who aren't yet familiar, here's how fish camp works.
"DG" stands for "Discussion Group" at the institution that is fish camp. There are about 12-20 freshmen in each DG, and each DG has two counselors or as they're more familiarly known "DG parents."
Each camp has 12 pairs of counselors and two co-chairs, who are in charge of the camp as a whole...
I've always felt like the girl that could never catch a break.
Just as things start to go well, I'm rudely pulled back down to Earth. Whether it be joining a sorority, and it being too expensive and not working out. Or finding a major I thought may work and being told how little job security that major has. Or starting to feel more confident in my knowledge of the campus only to be violently thrown from my bike. I could go on and on.
My fish camp experience began to feel like just another one of these.
I was starting to come out of my shell, but then my partner and I didn't click, and then he got kicked out. I just kept feeling like I was getting knocked on my ass, and this feeling wasn't anything new. I was so, so nervous going into fish camp because I was afraid the trend would continue. I knew I had an incredible group of counselors around me who supported my every step.
They always encouraged me to be the badass boss woman I am.
But still, the odds were stacked against me.
I prayed for the sweaty palms, racing heartbeat, and generally overwhelmed feeling to go away. I just wanted to be able to be my authentic self without fear of judgment. I kept telling myself that I would be "the outsider" without a partner, coupled with my somewhat shy demeanor.
I've never felt super comfortable around a lot of outgoing people.
I tend to be quiet, even though I know I have something funny or interesting thing to say, I don't like to interject.
But above all else fish camp is for the freshmen. I wanted them to feel like they didn't have to worry about being judged, so I decided that at camp, I'd try my hardest to silence those fears in the freshmen that I am so familiar with.
But much to my chagrin, I didn't have to even try to do so. I can't put it into words but once we pulled into Lakeview I felt this wave of comfort and confidence. I felt like I was meant to be there, and had a good feeling about what was to come. When I got up on stage to perform my part in a skit, I didn't have my usual rapid heart rate and sweaty palms. I was actually excited to meet all of my DG kids. I was still nervous about them liking me, if they would be disappointed they only got one DG parent, etc.
But once I sat down in front of 12 freshmen, I finally understood what everyone meant when they said fish camp is life-changing.
They were great. No, they were much more than great. They were wonderful. They were all so funny and energetic and visibly excited to be there. Even the ones that seemed on the fence loosened up in a matter of hours. It took a day for them to begin to call me mom, laugh with everyone, make friends within the group, and most significantly, open up.
All 12 of them were so willingly open and accepting.
The stories they shared were amazing—all so personal and raw. I stumbled over my words the entire time, trying to thank them for sharing such deep thoughts and feelings, reassure them that they are loved and appreciated, and just try to comprehend how lucky I was. I was in awe of these incredible people that I had the distinct pleasure of meeting and guiding through their freshman year at A&M.
After that DG time, I had to take a minute to pause and soak in all of it. My heart was so full. I felt loved. I felt like I had made an impact on their lives. And in that moment I was 110 percent certain that this whole experience was meant to be. All of the bureaucratic nonsense, shyness, and all the other obstacles were meant to strengthen me, so I could serve these freshmen like none before me.
That feeling is indescribable.
To have people that you met around nine hours ago feel comfortable enough to share their journeys, worries, defining moments, and share laughs with is unlike anything I've ever experienced. Never in my life have I felt so comfortable and at home around people I've known for mere hours. I felt like I could tell them my life story including all of my struggles, and that they would really listen.
Most of all, I was confident. Me, confident? I may put on a good front but I'm always the one to be more reserved. I don't tell just anyone about the hardships I've been through. I don't bust a move and dance like no one is watching in any setting. I don't willingly initiate a conversation.
I don't just speak my mind when there are more outgoing people around. But I did all those things at Lakeview Methodist Center.
Fish camp made me that way.
Leading and connecting with a group of 12 and growing close with 24 perfect strangers isn't something that happens just anywhere. Breaking out of my shell and finally feeling comfortable in my own skin doesn't happen just anywhere. Not being afraid to be myself doesn't happen just anywhere. I left Lakeview a more confident, outgoing, funny, emotional, optimistic, and authentic Alaina. I now know what it means to make a connection with someone you never would've met otherwise.
I now know what makes fish camp so special, and what makes Texas A&M University the best damn university on this earth.