It's been three years and I am still in denial. I want to go back. Yes, I do sound like a drug addict or an alcoholic, but really I'm talking about camp, sleep away camp. In the summer of 2007, I stepped on the bus for the first time to go to a place I never in my wildest dreams thought would have such an impact on life. I was a scared eight year old who was leaving the nest for the first time and off on my first real adventure.

Camp Westmont, an eight week sleepaway camp, was my home away from home. Every summer for nine years I called that place home. I started as one of the youngest divisions in the camp and ended as a counselor. Throughout my nine years there I learned how to be a friend, how to be a decent human being, and most importantly to know if my head has lice. With each summer I learned more and more. I had most of my firsts at camp: my first kiss, my first swing on the trapeze, and scary enough, learning how to make my bed for the first time. With each of these experiences my character grew.

One of the most important things that I learned after going to camp that have taken me years to fully grasp is that your camp friends will be your forever friends. Every summer you are with each other 24/7 and you truly learn a lot about each other. When I say a lot, I really mean A LOT. You learn all their little kinks and nuances, how they deal with situations, if they snore etc. etc. etc. However, they get brutally ripped away from you on that last day of camp in which you have to leave your safe space and head back into the real world. Everyone goes to their respective homes and you see each other a very minimal amount throughout the year, if at all. Meaning, you treasure every day of those eight weeks you have together. However, that is what makes them the best friends you can have, you are used to living apart for so long that you appreciate the small moments you have together. Which is why now in college communicating with my camp friends is so easy and the one time of the year we get together it is all worth it.

Another huge lesson I learned was to go out of your comfort zone and not to care what others think. When I first began camp I was one of the quieter ones and had my certain set of skills. Camp really encouraged me to find new passions. Each day you are given a set of activities to do with your division and most of them are probably not your favorite, but you do them anyway and learn to have a good time. You might not like everything but you learn to make the most out of it. Most importantly when you have the chance to do something you love, do it with all of your heart. For me that came with my love of the trapeze. Most people outgrew their love for the circus after two summers, but for me I didn't care what others thought about it and pursued it all nine years. Finally, camp taught me that it is okay to let lose every once and a while. Whether it be dancing to country music in front of the entire camp or going crazy in the bunk's private fashion show. Don't take yourself too seriously and don't take what others think of you too seriously either.

Nothing in the world can replace the memories of the entire camp cheering for me during a game of basketball knockout or being embarrassed to the bone by having your entire division scream your crush across the dining hall. I wouldn't change a minute of it because those summers truly made me who I am today. "Our hearts still remain and that can't change. We must move on but we won't let go."

V'14 forever