A Home Away from Home

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A Home Away from Home

Embers crackled as smoke rose in a spiral past the campfire, through the rich green pine trees that walled us into our own separate world and up to the dark night sky, weaving and dancing among the bright stars. I looked across the fire to the glowing faces of so many young girls and women, reflecting the impact each one had on me. Warm, salty tears poured freely from my eyes, and yet I did not wipe them away. I let each one fall onto the warm sand beneath me, each single tear representing the new changes I had experienced over the past nine summers at Camp Lake Hubert for Girls in Minnesota. I grabbed my friend’s hand as we sang in melancholy harmony the songs that I had sung since I was nine. This was unlike any closing campfire I had experienced, for this would be my last one as a camper and a chosen member of the Leadership Training program. I remembered the first time I moved from my home in Oklahoma to California, and then later from California to Texas. Through all the turbulence of these drastic changes, new environments, and adaptation, I returned to this camp. Despite life bringing me many surprises and uprooting me from all that I knew during these times, camp remained a consistency in my life that offered stability. Now, as I looked around the campfire, I realized how much this place had impacted me. This was more than a summer camp to me. It was a life changing experience that led me on the journey of self-discovery. Camp was my rock. Camp was my home.

Being the only girl among six brothers has not only toughened me, but also has taught me how to relate well with boys. I knew their competitive and sometimes more aggressive nature. This was the main reason I chose an all girls camp—to have a separate experience from anything I had ever known. I knew I would make many close girl friends and experience something close to an all month slumber party. I did not know what a different environment it would be for me. It was not merely many young girls coexisting under cabin roofs, but an entire community that supported one another through every risk and obstacle. Unlike the competitive environment of my childhood, at camp we achieved goals through cooperation and collaboration. This camp was a place that nurtured girls as they transitioned from childhood to adulthood, the scariest time in a girl’s life when second-guessing becomes normal, and the question of who one’s future is on the forefront of every mind. I took risks I never imagined I could do because I was not afraid of being a failure. I knew that if I didn’t succeed the first time, I could keep trying with the encouragement of all my peers. By the time I turned fourteen, I had achieved my Expert award in Riflery, an activity which I had initially feared. Every day was a new opportunity for me to push myself to my limits, try something new, and experience personal growth.
Through these achievements, I discovered the person I truly am. I am no longer afraid to speak; I no longer force words, opinions, and expressions inside me by the prospect of being ridiculed. Life, I have realized, is not a zero sum game. Life offers more than enough for all people to succeed. I no longer need to conform to what society wants from me but instead carve my own path. As a result of this influential environment, I said what I wanted, did what I thought was right, and the friends I made at the end of each summer were the truest friends I could make, for they knew who I really was inside, beyond any superficial mask I may have worn at home.

As the camp fire began to die, the daunting realization that our second “home” was coming to an end crept into every girl’s mind. However, my tears were not ones of sadness, for I knew I would continue these enduring friendships and carry with me all the lessons I had learned at camp. The rock in my life of sudden changes, camp had taught me that I did not have to mimick these changes within myself. I could remain true to myself no matter where life took me.





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