Every summer growing up, I escaped to camp in the woods, where my world transformed into a sky of glitter, aromas of marshmallows, and sun-kissed days of carefree fun. Camp was the one time I could forget about the stresses of “reality;” where I looked forward to waking up at 7AM, where I could belt silly songs and dress in costume every day with a community of others who did the same. Most of all, camp was where I met some of my lifelong friends, because truly, nothing bonds people more than spending every single waking hour for weeks in the woods together.
I knew last summer would be my final year of camp. I would be a college student, and it would be time for the “real world” of stiff blazers and serious bosses to take over. The final campfire was on a warm August night, when the entire camp gathered on the beach to stargaze together. My bunk of little girls were wonderfully caught in the beauty of the night and each other’s presence. My fellow counselors and I were acutely aware that another perfect summer would soon be over, and we would have to wait another ten months to return—or in my case, I would have a lifetime to fondly, but nostalgically look back. We were all transfixed in a state of happiness we all desperately wanted to clutch onto forever.
To keep with the night’s theme of “endings,” I posed the question: If tomorrow was the last day of the world, what would you spend it doing?
I got the classic answers: I wanna go bungee jumping, and swimming with dolphins! Travel to Europe, Africa, Antarctica! The tweens, without hesitation, shouted: go to a One Direction concert! My little girls giggled: eat all the ice cream in the world!
I thought for a moment about all the things on my own bucket list. I’ve always dreamed of visiting London, going sky diving, meeting a long list of writers and actors I admired.
Then, one of the youngest, quietest girls said: But if you’re doing whatever you want before the world ends, then that means everyone else is too. So who’s going to tie your bungee cord? Or fly the plane to England or China for you? And 1D is not gonna be there to put on a concert for you.
I thought about all of us, everyone in the entire world, going off to do the things our hearts always desired on the final day of existence. Who would be working the necessary services our bucket list adventures required? At the very end of the world, all we will have are the people in our lives who want to be with us. We have our family, if they live close to us, and we have our friends, if they deem us important enough to visit.
In that moment, I realized how fortunate I was that camp introduced me to world of new people, how boundlessly happy I was to be laying there, hand-in-hand, with friends I loved so dearly. I spent every day of nine weeks with people I understood in and out, people who knew all my imperfections and idiosyncrasies. Year after year, what terrified me after each summer was the thought of never seeing those people ever again—that our seemingly unbreakable, diamond-encrusted friendship was merely temporary, a fleeting moment of the heart before moving onto other endeavors. Last summer, I knew that nightmare would have to become a reality—that life, as it moves forward, would make it increasingly difficult to see these people I felt closest to. Camp has taught me so many lifelong lessons: it has taught me the patience in saying “see you in ten months,” and now, it has taught me the strength required in saying goodbye.
As I’ve now left camp, gone to college, moved onto other chapters, I’ve seen firsthand how life implants distance between people. As we all go off to our respective corners to pursue our own dreams, it is increasingly difficult to sustain old relationships. However, it is our duty now to decide which connections are worth keeping. At the end of the day and the end of the world, it’s the people who matter. It’s the people who make camp, and every experience so much more valuable.
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