Summer Camp And The Rites Of Passage

November 6, 2022

These past few days, my mind has been preoccupied with thoughts and memories of my time at summer camp. It was a time of firsts in my life; at summer camp was the first time I felt at home, where I had my first kiss, and eventually, when I held my first job. My first year at summer camp was 1991, and my last year was 2000.

Everyone who made it through camp signed their name on a door in the living room of the Heights Cabin after completing a summer in Wilderness. This was an important step because it showed you were part of something bigger than yourself. You had done your time, and it was time to move forward with life. I had mixed feelings about signing my name on that door because that summer marked so much change for me.

The door was installed when the summer camp started and contained decades of names. It was a rite of passage for campers to sign their name on the door before they left and it became a tradition to do so. In 2000, my last year at summer camp, I returned to see that the door was removed, erasing decades of names. I searched high and low, but found no trace of the door with all those names. Along with that door was lost many years of camp history, and I felt as if my own history at the camp had been erased, as well.

This moment was a precursor to the times I would return and not feel welcome. I didn’t belong. I had no idea what was going on, but I felt like it was my calling to return, if by some chance these people would one day welcome me, though they never did.

Summer camp was a rite of passage for me as a child, and now that I am older, it is one that has shaped the way in which I look at the world. I can recall vividly being lost in camp while everyone else knew where they were going and how they were getting there. Being the outsider looking in; hearing I don’t know instead of let’s find out together.

These moments are typically ones we push to the side, or write off as children being children—and yes, perhaps this is true—but these rites have taught me more about myself than any other time in my life thus far. In each new place I walk into, I’m meeting with others who don’t know their way around just yet, either. They’re walking around with a map and inquisitive eyes just like I was when I first arrived at camp years ago.

Unfortunately for all of us, sometimes history is lost forever to the world, and only exists in our memories. The camp I knew now only exists within the corners of my mind. While I will always cherish those good times, I know they won’t come again. Now, it is time to make good times for myself and Amelia, and create our own paradise in the middle of the growing wilderness that lays just outside of modern society.

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