When I pass a corn field, I find myself passing by a quiet neighborhood where houses are a good distance apart. Eventually, I am going up a mountain. If I look out the window, the rocks are being held in place by something. However, the car goes by so quickly that I barely notice it. Eventually, I will enter a thin dirt road behind a sign with a rainbow.
When I was in fourth grade, I had a little brochure that brought me to a camp that was at least half an hour or so away from my home. I was so excited about it that I went straight on the computer and explored the site for hours each day. To this point, I think I knew way too much about what the first time being away from home was and away from the people who I am used to being around. I had a friend with me, but it was still a new situation. I ditched the comforts of air conditioning and the daily hugs from my family and went on a journey past some corn fields and eventually, up a mountain. I did not realize this drive would continue for the next eight summers. There was always some worry that I would feel homesick, but eventually, that worry was transferred to the last day where I found myself crying when I had to leave. Packs of tissues were needed every year for a multitude of reasons.
Our activities consisted of a lot of team building foundations. We were always in groups, and I enjoyed seeing how the group got closer together as the days passed by. It was interesting how we all came from different backgrounds and different schools, but we felt almost like a family. I never knew their whole story, but I knew them the way they were at camp. I met some of the strongest individuals I know. I met close friends who I truly consider to be my long-lost siblings. Even if my group struggled, I still had the support system of the people who I was in a cabin with. Every night was fun and full of laughter and giggles past lights out. Every time I went to camp, it taught me a lot about patience with others and how to be more understanding. I cannot uphold them to the same values that I have. We all had something that we were struggling with internally. But I learned how to come out of my shell little by little when I was around them. It surprised me though. How did these friends that I only spent a week in a space that lacks air conditioning know me more than the people I am always with at home?
For some reason, this camp brought out the best in me. I am not perfect, and camp never expected that from me. There was a renewal in my life as soon as I stepped out of the car and touched the pavement of the camp’s parking lot. I felt so much of the person I was outside of camp shed away. It was amazing to embrace who I am on the inside a little more. There were so many values I learned that I kept relearning in more depth each year. Respect is such an easy concept, but it is not always seen. I can admit that it is something I still am working on. We had a “Full Value Contract,” which were essentially the rules for the week. However, they were life lessons to consider. I felt myself take a bit more time to think things through. And I learned one of the hardest lessons: “Let it go.” The 2013 Disney animated film, Frozen, ruined that phrase for me, but nevertheless, it is a vital lesson. It helped me and all my other friends release some of the things holding us back. And for that, I am very grateful for the “Full Value Contract.”
I love being at this camp (and yes, “love” is in present tense for a reason). I love the people there because they are supportive, and they help me grow each year. Every year, I met new people. I learned how we all have different backgrounds and how there was so much more to us than just our appearances. I met some of my best friends who I still keep in touch with, especially because we ended up working at this camp. Originally, I thought that once I stopped being a camper, that would be that. Somehow, I had a moment when I was crying during my second to last day of being a camper. I realized that it was going to be hard to let go of a place that has been a huge part of my upbringing. And part of me wanted to help with keeping camp a place where kids are able to find themselves and grow.
However, the world outside of camp was different. I am glad to say that I had a chance to be one of the few individuals that learned something after camp ended. It is not the change of scenery that made a difference. It was a change in the environment. The ideas I learned at camp did not appear much. Sometimes, I really wonder who else was able to see what I saw. My values of authenticity that I learned at camp faltered as soon as I stepped out. There was a new mask again. Yet, I tried my best to just let it go. Let go of the mask that was holding me back and be the best “me” I can be in any situation. It was hard. I was so used to hiding that I had moments where I did not know who I was. It felt like I was building something new, but it was just something I had and hid. There are times when I am frustrated. I see things that I know would not be right, which made me think about why I learned these lessons. I learn it because hopefully, I can one day pass it onto someone else. Rather than standing by, waiting for someone else to find the solution, what can I do to help?
As I grew up, I realized that I found a rainbow after the storm. Over time, I found myself struggling more with various things. It happens. There are more complications when it comes to growing up in the world. You know more things, and you are taught to find out who you are meant to be without enough time to discover. But once I found the rainbow, I realized that there will be moments when it will be okay again. My rainbow is not this camp, but it is the idea of positivity that the camp helped me develop. The camp was one of my many stripes of colors of the rainbow, and I will keep waking up in search of the others.