What I’ve Learned at Camp

 

This past summer, I spent my twelfth summer at Camp Alleghany for Girls in Lewisburg, WV. It’s hard to explain exactly what is so wonderful about living in tents for eight weeks with no electronics, no makeup, and a bunch of girls who sing songs about everything and never seem to have a negative attitude. I can say that after eight years as a camper and four as a counselor, I am a better person. Camp has certainly shaped me into who I am today.

 

Courtesy of Anna Morgan

 

Alleghany’s mission statement is, “Inspiring growth through honor, loyalty, and friendship.” I have acquired greater confidence and independence than I’d have ever thought possible.

 

Honor to me signifies respect and a desire to do what’s right. It is accepting and owning responsibility for my actions and striving to set an example for those around me. Honor is a camper losing a game graciously and winning humbly, always being a good sportsman; it is listening patiently and speaking clearly; it is waiting for the stranger who is lagging behind. I have learned that accountability is a true strength and to hold myself to a higher standard only furthers my growth.

 

Loyalty speaks to me of support and trust, of encouragement and consolation. Camp has taught me that loyalty can be to others but also to myself. I’ve learned to pursue my passions and believe in myself; I can make it to the next yardline in Archery, learn the whole routine in Dance, improve my backhand in Tennis. I also try to avoid jumping to conclusions about others, and withhold judgment. I stand by my friends and offer my assistance when it seems that is what’s right. To help others is to help and grow myself. Whether it’s returning to the dining hall for a forgotten raincoat or refusing to spread secrets shared in confidence, loyalty is a huge part of who I am.

 

Courtesy of Anna Morgan

 

Friendship is complex and difficult to put into words; I think honor and loyalty are both part of friendship, or at least bolster and uphold relationships. Friends are honest and loyal and well-intentioned. They inspire confidence and lift one another up, but are also there to let you know when it’s time for a break; they may set aside everything to be a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on, to offer advice or provide such long-awaited silliness and horseplay. That said, they know when a situation calls for seriousness and when humor and lightheartedness may suffice, balancing these two sides with grace (or a bit of clumsiness, because no one is perfect). At camp, everyone can be themselves unapologetically and without thinking. The environment is so welcoming and nonjudgmental, I would never strive for anything less than my true self. It is an ideal place for fostering friendships. Burgeoning relationships may commence uninhibited and develop so fully and enduringly that they last a lifetime. I return to camp year after year, often not seeing my friends that entire time, but it feels like no time at all has passed. We pick up right where we left off, swapping stories from the past few months and reminiscing over previous summers. That, to me, is friendship: running to one another and embracing, laughing, smiling, uncontrollably because the love we feel for our friends is so pure, so joyful.

 

Another aspect of camp that I love so much is the No Gossip Policy, made easier by the fact that there is no cell phone or electronic usage allowed. At camp, part of the nonjudgmental environment is not worrying about what others think or say because everyone is there, living in the moment, carefree and connected. We have real conversations, without hiding or lurking behind screens. No one is worried about what’s happening at home because camp is its own, magical place--our home away from home. I certainly try to carry these thoughts home with me, limiting my electronic usage and fostering stronger in-person relationships.

 

Courtesy of Anna Morgan

 

I think everyone should go to summer camp, even if they just try it once, because the benefits go beyond learning how to paddle a canoe or get a lovely farmer’s tan. Honor, loyalty, friendship, determination, confidence: these are just a few umbrella terms that attempt to describe what I’ve learned while living beside the Greenbrier River. As both a camper and counselor, I have constantly been growing and developing into a stronger, more independent woman, and I am so thankful to have ‘Ghany as a place I call home, all summer long.