Sweet Marie ... con't
They say that things that are meant for you will find you in the moment you are meant to learn the lesson. This isn't always apparent in the moment or even years later but soon enough you'll see that you're meant to be there.
Marie had filled out the application and was on her way to camp. Her parents had decided to take the six hour road trip to Waterton and see her off for her first away from home camp experience. Her nerves had set in and she still wasn't sure she had made the right decision - the thought of spending a week away from her family with a group of thirty strangers in a place with bears really wasn't appealing.
Marie's parents had tried to calm her nerves before entering the camp as they stopped for something to eat. They kept telling her what a great time she's going to have and all the wonderful people she's going to meet. Nothing they could say was helping this pit in the stomach feeling she was having as she picked at her burger. Just in the moment that she was taking the last sip of her soda, two people had approached the table.
They over heard them talking about camp and introduced themselves as some counselors. They heard how nervous Marie was, "you're going to have a great time! There's so many wonderful things planned - there's hiking, a boat ride and even a barn dance. The people running the leadership sessions are really nice too. Not to mention every kid coming to camp also won't know people." They tried so hard to calm her nerves and offered to lead the way into camp and help get Marie registered.
The road to the camp was as winding as Marie's guts felt, "surely it's not too late to turn back?" she thought was they parked the car in front of the main lodge. As her parents were signing her in she tried to use telepathy to reach her parents minds to make them have a change of heart and take her home, but there was no turning back. Her dad grabbed her bag and started up the steps to her cabin, she hugged them tight and watched them walk away. She was now alone with a bunch of kids she didn't know, in the mountains, with bears.
Marie sat on the step of her cabin, not moving or introducing herself to the kids laughing and playing basketball. She couldn't help but hear that boy's voice in the back of her mind, "you're a bitch, you're a bitch, you're a bitch!" Or think about the loser sticky note from so many years before or hear whispers in the wind from all the girls in the past who talked about her. When all of a sudden a basketball came hurling towards her face! Marie quickly ducked left to avoid the ball making contact with her nose, she picked it up once it had stopped bouncing around the deck of the cabin.
A girl came running towards her, "Hi, sorry! I missed the net and the ball bounced. I didn't mean for it to come flying at you like that. I'm Rihanna," she held out her hand as she introduced herself.
"Hi, I'm Marie," she replied in a soft, small, safe voice as she handed the ball back.
"Why don't you come and play with us? We have lots of time before anything starts." Rihanna waved her hand in a come along motion.
Marie froze, starting to panic.
Not really sure why she was hesitating, you're a bitch. Not really sure why she wasn't just jumping at the chance to shoot some hoops, you're a bitch. This girl seemed to be really nice, you're a bitch. Internally shaking her head from this boy's voice. "No!", she thought to herself, "no, I can't keep doing this to myself. I can't keep making myself small because other people have made up their minds about my without even knowing me! It's not fair to me. This girl doesn't even know me, no one here knows me. No one knows what the other kids think of me back home, no one knows that people think I'm bossy or a brown noser because I volunteer at the school. No one here thinks I'm a bitch. I can be me!"
Rihanna tilted her head with a quizzical look, "are you coming?"
The internal voice calmed inside Marie as she took her first step towards Rihanna and the basketball game. It was almost freeing in a sense - to leave behind the whispers and hear her own voice again.
Something changed in her, in that moment Marie vowed to herself that no wasn't an option that week. She was going to say yes to everything that week had to offer. It turned out to be one of the best weeks of her youth that she ever had! She went horseback riding, hiking, to a barn dance (just like those counselors promised) - but the most important thing that she learned that week was that she wasn't alone.
There were other kids just like her outside of the small town that she went home to. She learned that by participating and saying yes to yourself is really what matters most. She vowed for a second time as camp ended that she would keep saying yes and choosing to participate in whatever life has to offer. That she will make sure not to hide her voice anymore and that what other people think of her doesn't matter. In the end, what matters, is what you think of yourself.
She was excited to see her parents at the end of the week, but also sad to leave behind all the new friends she made. Marie also kind of dreaded going back to school but she had written herself a note to remind her of the vow she made to say yes and participate. Marie spent the first 30 minutes of the drive home telling her parents about camp and all the wonderful things that happened and she spent the rest of the time catching up on sleep.
Marie's final year of high school was filled with things she said yes to and not caring what other people thought. As President, she help get the school a mascot, plan some really fun activities and did things that she wanted to. Days before graduation, Marie and her best friend sat in the back of her bff's truck, holding sparklers vowing to be friends after high school - in that moment Marie also renewed her vow to herself to say yes and participate to whatever comes after that moment in life.
Years later I would return to camp as a volunteer during some of the hardest times in my adult life.
Every year I give myself the same introduction to the new campers:
1. I tell them my story of the first day when I went to camp and the basket ball game.
2. I preach about lightbulb moments and choosing to participate.
3. I let them know that they are only going to get as much
out of this camp as they were willing to put in.
And, every year at camp I make that speech I silently renew that vow to myself ,
"say yes and choose to participate."
Now I impart this speech on you. By choosing to participate, to be present in the moment that's when you'll find who you really can be. By choosing to participate you are choosing excitement, challenge and joy over comfort. We all know that new things are hard, that challenging things are hard and we as a humans tend to shy away from those things. We stick to what we know and comfort.
But, like Glennon Doyle famously promotes, "We can do hard things!" By choosing to participate you are choosing you.
Just a few pictures of my time spent at camp years after. I would have loved to have included more but I'm sure you really don't want to spend your time scrolling through hundreds of photos.