They tell us that high school is where we figure it all out. We discover what we are going to be, and who we want to become. That never made much sense to me... How are we supposed to discover all of that in 4 years?
The answer didn't come to me until the summer of 2015.
There was no “Ah-ha” moment that made me realize who I am. There was no wild tragedy that changed me completely. There was just Caitlin, Allison, Shannon and I. It was us against the world. That summer we were art critics, caregivers for the disabled, coffee enthusiasts, concert lovers, inseparably close and genuinely content. That summer, we were invincible.
The four of us had all been friends for years, but it wasn't until the morning of July 20th, that we became as close as we are now.
After a massive fight that split our group of friends into two-- Caitlin, Allison, Shannon and I were all we had. Until July 21st, when we became apart of an amazingly beautiful group of friends.
We were happy. We had our new friends, each other, and there wasn't much else we needed. The four of us spent more time together than we did with our own families, and we didn't mind. I think we were having too much fun to even notice. We worked together at a summer camp, ANCHOR, for the mentally and physically disabled. Every morning started with a 40 minute bus ride to Lido Beach, and most nights were spent sleeping on Caitlin’s basement floor. The burn we felt every morning from the carpet rubbing against our faces was a familiar feeling, it felt like home.
Every day was an adventure and we took every opportunity that came our way. My group at ANCHOR that summer became apart of me. My campers, my fellow volunteers, and my staff were incredibly close. Every relationship in my life was healthy. It felt like for the first time, in forever, I wasn't worried. I didn't think about whether people were talking about me. I wasn't paranoid that people secretly hated me. I was content.
My campers made me realize what I want to do with my life.
I went to a family party in August, and someone asked me what I wanted to be when I was out of college. My answer to that question was always, “I don't know.” I never knew what to say, I was always unsure. This time was different... I answered, “A behavioral therapist."
It came as a shock to me as soon as I said it. It was almost as if my subconscious was a loaded gun, and that answer was the bullet. All I needed was someone to ask the question, someone to help me pull the trigger. I guess part of me always knew that my heart belonged to my campers-- they were my whole life.
I live and breath ANCHOR, it was my first true love. The summer of 2015 was when I decided who I wanted to be, without even realizing it.
Dunkin' Donuts was a place that we went fairly often. We memorized each other's orders and you wouldn't dare show up to someone’s house without iced coffee in hand. We had a lot of traditions like that. Several places we considered our own.
On July 25th, we went to a free concert at Eisenhower park and made friends with some strangers. One year later, we met them again at another concert in the same park. Despite all of the amazing things we did, I think that the most influential part of the summer for me, was our trip to Manhattan.
On August 23rd, the four of us stayed overnight in a hotel in Midtown. We went to the Museum of Modern Art and pretended we knew what we were looking at, we went to Canal Street and attempted to bargain with the vendors, we walked to a café that we pretended to like and we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. Out of everything we did, everyone we saw and everywhere we went that weekend, the bridge was the one that impacted me the most. It put everything else in perspective. It was then that I realized that the world is so much bigger than I ever allowed myself to comprehend. Seeing the city from an entirely new point of view helped me discover how I felt about who I was.
Being on top of that bridge was a feeling of ineffable liberation. I’ve always searched for somewhere I belonged and was always paranoid that I’d never come across it. That day, I realized I’d found it.
My friends were the only home I needed. When I’m with Caitlin, Allison, and Shannon, I am whomever I want to be and they're okay with that. The level of comfort I feel with them is one I’ve never felt before. I had people that stuck with me through laughter, tears, fights and everything in-between. There wasn't much more I could've asked for. There isn't much else that I could ever want.
I would give anything to relive that summer. There was never another time in my life in which I felt such pure bliss.
Trying to explain exactly what it was like is almost as impossible as describing the taste of water. It was so refreshing to be happy so often. I’m lucky enough to still have my job at ANCHOR, and still have these wonderful friends. I may never feel exactly how I did the summer of 2015 again, but I have every reason in the world to be forever grateful for what its given me.
Because of those three months... I found myself, I found my friends, and I found my home.