From the moment I was brought into this world, I began camping. My earliest memories include my father pitching a tent, my mother making campfire oatmeal, and my brother pretending to be a pirate with a stick as his sword. I would sit on my sister’s lap, cuddled with a horde of blankets covering my legs, and we would watch the combination of family, forest, and beach join together in a Taylor family camp-out. From the first time I went camping with my family I was hooked. I would beg my family to make coastal camping a must each summer, and we did. That is until we got older.
The summer schedules became busier, my mom worked longer hours, my dad was deployed, and there was barely any time to breathe, let alone go camping as a family. It was then, when I was six years old, I went to my first summer camp. My first time away from home, my parents, and the security of knowing those around me. I was scared to go away, but excited to continue my camping experience.
As my mother and grandmother kissed my forehead goodbye, my bunk at Camp Robinswold in Lilliwaup, Washington, seemed lonesome compared to the family filled tent. My mother reassured me that my sister was a couple meters away, and if I needed anything I could go to her. Then again my sister was confident, and could make friends on a dime, while I was sheepish of new people. Uncomfortable, introverted, and hesitant I dawdled outside the platform tent into a circle of name games and icebreakers. I shuddered as a preppy voice came from behind me. The counselor introduced herself, and while I wish I could remember her name, I remember the impact she had on me. She encouraged me to join the group and participate. Doing as she instructed, I very quietly introduced myself to the group. It was the first time outside of school and my family where I spoke on behalf of myself instead of hiding behind my mom. I was nervous, but after I finished speaking, a round of applause occurred, and I felt a little better. As a small smile appeared, the week nestled in northwestern Washington started to look up.
As each day passed, my hopes were lifted and I was genuinely enjoying myself, even without my parents camping besides me. Making friends, bracelets, and fires, camp allowed me to break out of shell I didn’t know I was held captive in. I was forming who I was meant to be, and surprisingly developing a personality. When my mom and grandma came to pick me up, tears shed from my eyes because I never wanted leave the beautiful camp I now called home. I placed roots into a temporary home, and until the summer of 2007, I would think of my time at Camp Robinswold every minute of everyday.
I returned to Camp Robinswold for three more years until my family relocated to East Lyme. The camp gave me a sense of who I am, and each year I returned I became more outgoing than the previous summer. By the time I step foot in my first camp in Connecticut, Camp Laurel, I knew the experience would replicate the memories I made in Washington. While the transition from west to east coast was extremely difficult for me, the feeling of home was replicated in my camp experiences. I moved from Laurel to the New London County 4H Camp my freshman year, and haven’t looked back since. This camp nestled in Bozrah, CT, truly became my home, my safe haven, and the mountain of memories is incomprehensible. When summer came, I knew my home was at the 4H camp. This past summer, I worked as part of the “Operations Crew”, a group of ten seniors and juniors who cleaned bathrooms, kitchens, and around the camp. Despite its un-glamorous appeal, I was happy to be at camp, even if it meant unclogging a few toilets. Because when you truly love something, you’ll do anything to continue doing it.
As we grow older, we tend to leave behind our elementry passions behind, even if it made us happy. Whether you wanted to be an astronaut, the President of the United States, or a ballerina, we leave behind these dreams to settle for practicality. While my childhood dream was a small goal of being a camp counselor, there’s no reason why others have to give up theirs. It is possible to be an astronaut or commander in chief, but you have to be passionate and willing to take risks to achieve dreams you may have forgotten.
What I’m trying to say is; don’t settle for ordinary, find something you’re passionate about, and pursue it. Let your love for something never die, and keep dreaming East Lyme.