Parents are actively posting pictures of their kids all over the interwebs (really, just on Facebook in my world), as they leave for stints at overnight camp. Admittedly, most of the pictures I’ve seen are of kids of my friends, many of whom I know from camp, either in my days as a camper or as a counselor.
In recent years, I’ve thought a lot about the experiences that have shaped me. Not my choice of college or career path, but when you strip away the holey (not holy, although…) Michigan State t-shirt and I speak in an impassioned way about fixing the healthcare system, what has really made me, me?
The answer is three adolescent experiences. First, my family. So far they’ve appeared in 100% of my posts here (I know three posts doesn’t qualify as a lot) and they’ll likely be referred to in many more. I believe our families shape us, for better or for worse, but as an adult I’m leaning a lot toward the ‘for better.’ My love of travel is because I grew up with parents who believed seeing new places was more important than having cable TV (never mind that they have a killer cable package now that there aren’t any kids around). My large community of friends was modeled by my parents who have always been surrounded by many close friends. My generous nature stems from understanding that even the smallest act of kindness can improve someone’s day and maybe even their life.
And sure, there are the other lessons I learned, sometimes the hard way, from my family that I’d like to unlearn or ‘fix’ or change or simply divorce myself of.
But there are two other experiences that had a deep impact on who I am today. My participation in a Jewish youth group in high school, The B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO) and attending and subsequently working at Camp Tamarack.
My experience in BBYO will likely make it into a future blog. But suffice it to say that some of my earliest lessons in leadership, in organized social action and in the idea that I could actually make a living at speaking (you know, if people are willing to listen) were all formed through my participation in BBYO.
But it is the third experience, that lies at the forefront of my mind because it’s where I learned to live with others (who weren’t related to me), where I experienced community in the truest sense, where I pushed my boundaries physically and where as a counselor, I could help shape kids during that delicate pubescent time.
One cannot really have boundaries or shirk vulnerability at camp when you find yourself sitting in an outhouse called “Ye Olde Three Seater” next to two of your friends doing what you have to do. Or looking forward to a weekly(!) shower while camping in the Grand Tetons or cramped in a tent in Southern Ontario in the middle of a rainstorm, playing Euchre for hours on end.
It is not just the physical closeness that opened me up, it was the depth of conversation, the work that was accomplished together, the exchange of ideas in a land where kids really do have a voice and their opinion matters.
The relevance to today and I do mean literally today, is that I am about to embark on a 10-day journey with two of my closest friends, both of whom I met at camp.
Adina and I like to laugh about how she saved my finger after a ‘widdling accident.’ I found myself with a knife (unless it’s cutting steak, please confiscate any sharp object from me), a piece of wood and a cut finger. Adina provided first aid to what I’m certain was little more than a paper cut, but I desperately sought her assistance. I was trying something new, I failed, I needed help, she was able to help me, a friendship was formed. What if I didn’t have the courage to try something new and what if she didn’t have an opportunity to try out her new skills? At the time we were both former campers trying to fit into our big kid cargo shorts of being counselors, which requires trying new things. And that resulted in a lifelong friendship that extended into college and to today.
My first memory of Mo is when she visited my outpost camp in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with many of my friends (from BBYO!) on their journey back from a camp-sponsored trip to Alaska. Don’t ask me for the details except that I’m pretty sure I just assumed we were friends after that and when college brought us the opportunity to climb into each other’s lives, I did so with no hesitation.
Adina and Mo are not just two of my close friends, they are the sisters I never had, my conscience, my sanity, my cheerleaders, my belly laughter. Adina is one of two friends who I see virtually every single time I return to Michigan. My parents consider Adina and her daughter Bella an extension of our family. We were together when Princess Diana died–ain’t that something. Mo is the friend who lives over 1000 miles away who I see more often than even some of my local friends. She and her husband Jason ready the guest room for my visits and cater to my every whim as if I’m an occasional visitor, not one who shows up every few months. When I am wrestling with an idea or a challenge she is the first person I call to help me further shape my thought or validate my sanity.
So today we don’t climb onto an iconic (to some) green Tamarack bus together “On the Road…to Anywhere…With Never a Heart Ache…And Never a Care…” as our camp bus song declares. Instead, we each climb aboard separate planes from different cities and descend upon Paris. Not just three friends on some almost-mid-life-journey, but three women shaped by different childhoods, yet raised in the same home every summer. A place that taught us how to laugh until we cry, a place that taught us how to co-habitate in close quarters and a place that taught us the magic of lengthening a 24 hour day into eternity.
I can’t wait to spend eternity with my sisters. See you in Paris. eatplaylouvre.wordpress.com