An Open Letter to the Northeastern YMCA Leaders

An Open Letter to the Northeastern YMCA Leaders

You're still my family.
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Throughout high school, I was bullied pretty badly. I was never one who had many friends and was never one who really had a place to call my own, until my sophomore year. After a summer of being a CIT at Camp Combe YMCA I joined the YMCA Teen Leaders club that they held at the camp. Walking into this club was a big step for me to begin with, but continuing with it was one of the best things I have ever done for myself and my life. I have grown into the confident young women that I am today because of this club and the influences of the people that were in it.

Dear Northeastern YMCA Leaders,

From the moment I walked into the lodge door at Camp Combe, until the second I left Silver Bay YMCA on a Y bus the summer of 2013, you were my saving grace. Many people used to say that we were nothing short of a cult, and we may have very well been. Yes, we had our chants, songs, clothing and "rituals". We had the moments that only leaders know about and the things that everyone who was closest to us have seen plastered across facebook and other social media. Songs like "Lean on Me," "Leaving on a Jetplane" and "Come Sail Away" are still burned into my brain as leaders' songs and nothing less than that.

This club was so much more than Camp Combe. For those of you who don't know, there are regions of leaders' clubs. Within those regions there are individual clubs and once a season for 3 days and for a week in the summer we all get together and do team building and leadership exercises and build amazing friendships that turn these people into our family.

Graduating from leaders' is probably one of the hardest things that I ever had to deal with. I was already terrified of leaving my home town and my friends from high school, I was more scared of losing my family though. Going into the real world is nothing like leaders, no matter how badly you want it to be. No matter how long you have been out and what you are exposed to after leaders, you always go looking for something like it and you never quite get that feeling again. You find things that are almost as perfect, almost as amazing, and almost home, but sadly they are not. Nothing can compare to this group, or these people that I was able to grow up with and continue to have contact with.

I know there are leaders that will be at, and in, my wedding. There are ones that will be the aunts and uncles to my children and there are ones that no matter how much time passes, I will always be best friends with. This group of young adults became my family during a time where I felt so alone, and they will continue to be my family throughout life.

I guess the whole point of this letter is to say thank you. Thank you for being such a big impact on such a crucial part of my life. Thank you for being the amazing positive influence that so many teenagers need and don't take hold of.

Thank you for always being a group, and individuals, that I could lean on in my darkest hours and give me the opportunity to do the same for others. Thank you for showing me there are people out there that will love you just for being you. Thank you for showing me the true meaning of acceptance.

Thank you for teaching me that myself is the best and only person I should be. Thank you for teaching me to be confident in my decisions and for showing me that I need to be somebody. Thank you for encouraging me to be a better person than prior, to become unplugged and to always leave my baggage at the door.

Thank you for teaching me songs and cheers and chants that will forever be stuck in my head. Thank you for making my high school experience unforgettable.

Most importantly, thank you for giving me a family, and thank you for giving me a place to call home.

Forever a leader,

Me.

In Honor of Tessa Kenney

11/26/98- 07/09/16

You will always be in our hearts and our memory. You truly embraced mind, body and spirit in every sense. Lead on, beautiful. We love you.

Cover Image Credit: Michaela Macquignon

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To The Parent Who Chose Addiction

Thank you for giving me a stronger bond with our family.

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When I was younger I resented you, I hated every ounce of you, and I used to question why God would give me a parent like you. Not now. Now I see the beauty and the blessings behind having an addict for a parent. If you're reading this, it isn't meant to hurt you, but rather to thank you.

Thank you for choosing your addiction over me.

Throughout my life, you have always chosen the addiction over my programs, my swim meets or even a simple movie night. You joke about it now or act as if I never questioned if you would wake up the next morning from your pill and alcohol-induced sleep, but I thank you for this. I thank you because I gained a relationship with God. The amount of time I spent praying for you strengthened our relationship in ways I could never explain.

SEE ALSO: They're Not Junkies, You're Just Uneducated

Thank you for giving me a stronger bond with our family.

The amount of hurt and disappointment our family has gone through has brought us closer together. I have a relationship with Nanny and Pop that would never be as strong as it is today if you had been in the picture from day one. That in itself is a blessing.

Thank you for showing me how to love.

From your absence, I have learned how to love unconditionally. I want you to know that even though you weren't here, I love you most of all. No matter the amount of heartbreak, tears, and pain I've felt, you will always be my greatest love.

Thank you for making me strong.

Thank you for leaving and for showing me how to be independent. From you, I have learned that I do not need anyone else to prove to me that I am worthy of being loved. From you, I have learned that life is always hard, but you shouldn't give into the things that make you feel good for a short while, but should search for the real happiness in life.

Most of all, thank you for showing me how to turn my hurt into motivation.

I have learned that the cycle of addiction is not something that will continue into my life. You have hurt me more than anyone, but through that hurt, I have pushed myself to become the best version of myself.

Thank you for choosing the addiction over me because you've made me stronger, wiser, and loving than I ever could've been before.

Cover Image Credit: http://crashingintolove.tumblr.com/post/62246881826/pieffysessanta-tumblr-com

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5 Songs to Add to Your Playlist This Month

Spring into finals week (and the summer) by "cleaning up" your playlist

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Here are some fun, fresh new tracks to check out as you finish out the rest of the school year and help you get out of your "music comfort zone!"

“Patience” by Tame Impala 

Genre: Electronic/Alternative

Tame Impala FINALLY released new music (!!), and this track is absolutely stunning. With frontrunner Kevin Parker staying on brand with the band's psychedelic, seemingly ethereal style, it sounds like a combination of 70s soft rock and waves of modern-day electronica, with Parker's voice drifting in and out in a kind of otherworldly, mellowed-out manner.

“Harmony Hall” by Vampire Weekend 

Genre: Alternative/Indie Pop

Vampire Weekend is also releasing an album, entitled "Father of the Bride", on May 3rd. From the looks of it, this track relates to the theme of marriage/weddings present in the album's title, and it is a fun, upbeat song that I have been listening to a lot in the morning as I'm getting ready for class! Ezra Koenig's voice is so unique and can cover a broad range, and I highly recommend listening to some of the band's other work as well ("Step" from their 2013 release "Modern Vampires of the City" is one of my all-time favorite songs!).

“Ready to Let Go” by Cage the Elephant 

Genre: Alternative/Alternative Rock

So many great artists are (finally) releasing new albums this year, and Cage the Elephant falls into this category. This track is an absolute banger and doesn't stray much from the band's style in that it includes a lot of loud guitar and dynamic vocals. Like Vampire Weekend, Cage the Elephant has been around since the early 2000s, and I highly recommend checking out some of their earlier work as well (big fan of their most recent album, actually!)

“Apple Orchard” by Beach House 

Genre: Indie/Electronic

Beach House is one of my favorite bands of all time, as I find a kind of an ethereal, beautiful sadness in the dreamy style of instrumentalist Alex Scally and lucid vocals of singer Victoria Legrand. This track is from their 2006 self-titled debut and is probably one of my favorite songs they've ever released. The lyrics are poetic and perfect for the post-finals enjoyment of spring weather, in that they preach relaxation and restfulness, and the song's electronic rhythms echo the essence of spring as well. If you like this song, then I highly recommend checking out the band's other albums as well (Depression Cherry is one of my favorite albums of all time).

“April Come She Will” by Simon & Garfunkel 

Genre: 60s Pop

No spring playlist is complete without a little Simon & Garfunkel! This song is a classic, its timeless, poetic lyrics capturing the epitome of the coming of spring and all its glory. In fact, I consider the entire album (entitled Sound of Silence) to be perfect for the pleasantness and feelings of renewal/natural revitalization associated with the coming months, so be sure to give it a listen if you haven't heard it before!

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