I am from Dallas, but that’s not where I grew up. It’s where I went to school, and cheerleading practice, and sat down to family dinner. It’s where I learned to drive, but my road “home” lead somewhere else entirely. My hometown is Dallas, but my home was always Camp Olympia.
As a camper, I learned how to sail and how to share. I made friendship bracelets and lifelong friends. I spent three weeks a summer every summer in an East Texas fantasyland, where I worried more about fishing line than my waistline. It’s where I learned to compete and where I learned not to. It’s where I learned about rules, despite my (continuous) desire to disregard them. It’s where I learned that if you try to dye someone’s hair black to cover up their highlights, those highlights will turn purple. It’s where I learned how to apologize. It’s where I had my first kiss, hidden behind a tree after Fourth of July fireworks. It’s where I learned every word to Weezer’s Holiday, and where I accidentally swallowed a bunch of bugs.
As a counselor, I learned about responsibility. There was physical responsibility, like counting your campers and cleaning out horse stalls. But there’s also emotional responsibility, because when you’re living with 13 eleven year olds, you’re more than just the bedtime enforcer: you’re a role model, whether you like it or not. Camp Olympia taught me not to take myself too seriously, and to appreciate a good nap. As a counselor, I learned to wake up with a positive attitude, because you’ll never get your kids to breakfast on time if you’re frowning. It just won’t happen. It’s physics. I learned to believe in myself, because kids can smell fear. I don’t know how they do that.
I learned that working at a desk isn’t all that different than working at a camp. For every hour you spend shoveling horse tonk or paperwork, there’s an hour spent blobbing or creating something awesome. I’m just consistently pale now.
This summer, I’ll drive familiar roads through Houston to reunite with my old cabinmates to celebrate one’s wedding. We used to cheer her on as she held her breath during Dolphin Day, and now we’ll cheer her right down the aisle. We probably won’t be quite as rambunctious. Age does that.
Camp Olympia made me who I am, and I’ll never really outgrow it. But until the next time I can walk those dirt trails myself, I’m blocking all of you on Facebook because your camp photos make me super jealous.