Something Big: Part II

My previous post discussed some crazy timing in getting me to a camp I didn’t plan to attend. Well, after about 24 hours rest it was time to serve at the camp I had planned for. I received a room of 7th grade girls who I had never met. I was excited because I love middle school campers but nervous because I wanted to be an excellent leader for them.

Before campers arrived I was thrown another curveball.

One of my girls had some medical issues. Staff decided to place another leader in my room incase we ever had a situation where it would be easier with two adults.

I was hesitant because I had just come from having a small group to lead independently to having to figure out how to share leadership with an adult. I am a person who is rooted in my plans and hate change, so I was far more hesitant so I should have been.

The night before campers came I was with my new co-leader and we ended up having a really cool conversation. Both of us had been given opportunities to serve where we didn’t originally intend to. Our plans were turned upside down for better ones and we were put in perfect positions to meet needs that the camps had. I realized that we were in the same situation just trying to figure things out.

The girls in our cabin ended up being the most charismatic, sassy, lovable and caring girls we could ask for. They demonstrated what good friends look like and really leaned on each other during the week.

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The girls taught me a lot about being intentional with care and having honest conversations. They made me better at asking tough questions and pushing them out of their comfort zones. And they showed exponential growth through that.

Another cool component of serving at this camp was the amount of young adult and high school leaders that took on the challenge of camp counselor. There were younger students who I got to talk through how to handle challenges of camp. There were also many college kids who go to my school that I got to build deeper relationships with and can now continue those throughout the year.

 

I have a lot of admiration for the students I served with and their fearlessness that they approached the week with. The kids loved the young leaders so much and connected extremely well. The college students were also incredible at pouring into the high school students all the way through to the end of a tiring week. I am grateful for friends like those.

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My sister also amazed me during the week and I was so glad that I got to watch her be a leader to another group of 7th grade girls. She had some tough tasks, but handled them like the adult she is becoming. My sister amazes me with how grown up and wise she has become, and the week only made me more impressed.

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Something major I learned from my time at both camps was how to be flexible in order to serve others. I never planned on being in the situations I was, but they were perfect. I wouldn’t have been able to make the connections I did or experience the growth without my own plan being thrown away.

My heart was softened to plans greater than my own. I was placed perfectly to do work that needed to be done, and for that I am grateful beyond words.

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Something Big: Part I

A month ago I was in the middle of loving on some kiddos at church camp. No technology, no busy schedule and no distractions in general. Just eager kids, a lake with a million activities and a plan to demonstrate love to campers. Looking back, I am so lucky with how my time at camp worked out and how much I learned through camp and through my kiddos. Camp isn’t just for campers, and boy, do I miss it already.

Going into this summer I was really beaten down. I didn’t get any of the internships applied for. In fact, more than once I was beat out by someone I knew. I felt a little bit worthless for a while. Then I realized that no internship meant I had the availability to volunteer at my church’s camp and reconnect with girls I had been a counselor for a few times.

I signed up eagerly to attend the high school camp and hopefully get paired with the girls I had when they were 6th and 7th graders. I later heard there was a need for middle school leaders. I was amazed with the opportunities that were available and jumped on that one too. I felt I had found my purpose for the summer in loving on these kids.

Then the blow hit again. There were too many leaders signed up for the high school camp, so college volunteers were reasonably the first to go. I was crushed. I have been mentoring some of these girls for years. And I was eager to see my sister and her class take charge as seniors that I had invested in. I was again confused of my purpose, but still ready to serve the middle school girls.

I had finally come to peace with where I was at, though I was dissatisfied. Then I got a text. It was the middle of high school camp and a counselor had fallen ill. They needed someone to come assume her role for the rest of the week.

I was shocked. But I was excited. So I packed rapidly and headed down to my favorite place.

I showed up and was immediately overwhelmed. It was free time, so no one was around and I was at a loss for what to do. Luckily the adult counselors are amazing and helped me find my room and find my girls. My sister running at me screaming with excitement helped too.

I walked into a bit of a shock. Girls were dealing with things as high schoolers that I never had to. It was halfway through the week, so they were already forming friendships and experiencing growth. I tried to catch up and find ways to connect with them and help them organize all their thoughts.

I was there three days, but I felt like it was right where I should have been. It wasn’t my timing, but it was perfect.

The best part? My girls who signed up for camp in hopes of getting me as a counselor had priceless reactions when I showed up and I got to pour into them as well as my girls. I got the best of both worlds and I got to fill a need. I had a purpose that week.

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Blessed time with my sister was also important to the week. I got to be there for her and her friends who I have watched grow up. I got to watch her speak in front of camp and be a leader for her final year as a camper. She made me so proud that it moved me to tears.

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I also was surrounded with some incredible adults. Being the only college girl leader, I found adults who I had formed bonds with in previous years who I could count on for the week and some younger adults that took me in as part of their pack for the week. I was really grateful for all of the women who helped me catch my breath and gave me encouragement.

I had a weekend at the lake to try to find a little rest with some other leaders before the next round of campers came. The weekend was a blessing as I got to relax and further some relationships with some high schoolers that were staying over as student leaders, including my sister. I felt old for the weekend, but it was fun and even involved spa face masks.

 

For the half of camp that I was there (though it didn’t feel that short), I learned a lot about how to be flexible. I learned that my timing isn’t always perfect and that everything is put in place for a reason. I learned to love people where they are, even if I didn’t have a grip on the situation. You don’t need details to provide love and encouragement to anyone, you just have to do it. I gained some amazing role models and gained a new group of kiddos to watch grow into incredible young ladies. I was content, and I felt like I had a purpose for the first time in a long time.

The night before I got asked to come to camp early, I was trying to explain to someone why I was frustrated with how I was feeling. I told them that I felt crazy stuck, but at the same time I felt that something really big was about to happen.

Camp was that something big, and as usual, it didn’t disappoint.

 

Gucci Bars

So lately I have been missing Kanakuk dessert a LOT. When you work in the kitchen you have a love hate relationship with camp food. But never ever Gucci Bars. There could never be any dislike for them. This chocolate and caramel dessert was the highlight of my week and there was never enough to go around. So, I decided to give them a shot.

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. oats
  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 1/2 c. brown sugar
  •  1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 c. butter
  • 10 oz. caramel
  • 1 c. chocolate chips

The process:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Soften the butter
  3. Mix the oats, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, butter, and flour togetherimg_1453
  4. Spread 2/3 of the mixture in a 9×11 pan and press it down
  5. Spread the caramel over this “crust”IMG_1454.JPG
  6. Add a layer of chocolate chips
  7. Add the remaining 1/3 of the mixture to the topIMG_1455.JPG
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes
  9. Let stand in the refrigerator for about an hourIMG_1456.JPG
  10. Cut in and enjoy

These bars are SUPER rich and go best with a glass of milk. The company of a good friend is also suggested.

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Recipe courtesy of Kanakuk Kamps

My Happy Place

This past weekend my sorority took a trip down to Lake of the Ozarks for a sisterhood retreat. We got to our house at 5:15 am to take school buses to the retreat center. Everyone was a little tired, but spirits perked up once we saw the lake.

The weekend was full of some group activities, high/low ropes team building, and plenty of free time to build relationships and relax with friends. A lot of girls complained about no cell service and nothing to do (they weren’t nature fans). I, however, LOVED the weekend unplugged and outdoors. I had come off a crazy busy week and needed the break. I got to know a lot of my friends better and make some new friends as well. The lake was beautiful and peaceful. The hikes and walks were refreshing. It’s not often I get to sit on a dock and watch the sunset, enjoy the stars (all of them) around a campfire, and watch the sun rise the next morning. I got to just appreciate what life has given me and the people in it.

The really unique thing was that this is the camp where I have grown up. With my old church, we used to go down about every other year in elementary school for Girls in Action retreats. Then, starting in 8th grade, I have spent a week of every summer there with my current church’s youth group. This camp is the inspiration for a lot of my blog posts and the place where I would say I have done the most growing. Some of my happiest memories come from sunny days at the lodge on the lake with my best friends. Some of my most painful memories come from here too. Moments when I was convicted of where my life was and where it needed to go. I made my best friends here, got to know the three guys I’ve dated here, and watched my little sister do a lot of growing up here. This camp is like my sacred bubble where I learn about myself and how I fit in to the grand scheme of things.

It was really weird to be here with new people and not my church. So many memories flooded back, and it was hard not to want that experience of summer camp. I missed it this year to go to Kanakuk, and being back made me miss the people and the experience dearly. I finally shifted my mindset to realize this was an opportunity to make new memories and learn new things. I can’t be a kid forever, and the meaning of camp is going to evolve for me. It was really sad to have this realization.

However, it was amazing to capitalize on a weekend away and take time to appreciate the people who are in my life nowadays. I am truly blessed by the college chapter of my life. This was a helpful reminder to slow down in the chaos and take time to appreciate what I have and where I’m headed. It was also a time to remember where I came from and how grateful I should be for the journey.

So, below is a photo gallery of the weekend. There is a super cheesy video to accompany it. I hope it relays just how fun the people in my life are and how lucky I am to have them.

 

 

Retreat

It’s about that time of year that many college organizations start going on group retreats. These can be some of the best relationship building activities. Quality time not engaged with normal daily activities is the best way to work on connections.

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Veritas Fall Retreat 2015

My favorite thing about retreats is the fact that they often are in places where cell service and internet are out of reach. It forces you to unplug and remember what it’s like to just be you. I think society forces a lot of things on us. Technology encroaches on our lives to the point we feel like we can’t be away from our messages and email for more than an hour. I’ve even seen Snapchat streaks consume people’s lives. Society needs to practice being unplugged.

I think we need to spend more time away from technology. More time just appreciating life and the people in it. This can mean rearranging schedules and priorities, but I think our personal time should be priority. Quick messages are great, but can quickly consume.

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MASC Winter Energizer 2013

I am writing this post as I prepare to go on retreat in the morning. I get to go to my favorite camp with all of my sorority sisters, and I can’t wait to unplug. There’s no cell service, so it’s a forced unplug. I think spending time with these girls without our phones will be really rewarding.

Retreats are a way to rejuvenate yourself at a midpoint in the semester or the year. We lose stamina, and we have to build that back up. Taking a weekend break is often the best way to do that. It scares me to death to set all my school work and extracurriculars aside, but I’m also crazy excited. I am stressed, busy, and beaten down. This semester has been better than last in a lot of ways, but also worse in many. It kind of sounds like running away from your problems, but sometimes putting them on pause and reassessing is really the best way.

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Ignite Retreat 2014

So you can’t go on a retreat? That’s okay. Find another way to unplug. Take time for yourself and to spend time with the people around you. You may discover things about people that you never knew, and you may love them so much more for that.

Technology seems like an integral part of life, but it isn’t. People are.

 

Firm Foundations

They don’t tell you this when you’re little, but a lot of the purpose of camp is to help you build firm foundations for your life. The goal is to give you the tools to grow into a stellar person, and to have some people who will help you get there.

You can’t build any structure without a foundation. That’s common sense. The same goes for building yourself as a person. There must be solid ground that will last a long time in order for you to grow. This usually means good morals, goals for life, strong character, and many other tools.

Most of what adults do while you’re growing up is secretly shaping you into a better person, secretly preparing you to be an adult. It’s a hidden instinct humans have. We want to make each other better humans without even realizing it sometimes.

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Camps, retreats, clubs, and so many other activities are just more obvious ways to try to make other people into better humans. To give them firm foundations.

Something people don’t teach you is that along the way, you build other people into that foundation. It’s not always purposeful, but sometimes it is. Your family is usually purposefully in that foundation. Often a best friend or a few make the foundation as well. The question is, can you really allow yourself to build people into your foundation?

During my time at camp this summer, I had a friend talk to me about building people into foundations. She made me think about relationships in a way I never have, and probably should have before. She told me you can’t build people into your foundation. People aren’t as dependable.

Now in the context of Christianity, Christ should be the firm foundation. This is what she was reminding me of. Was Christ really my foundation? A tough question for anyone to answer.

But, I don’t think it’s totally true that people shouldn’t be built in our foundations. I have been reflecting on this for several months now. We have been given other people to do life with, so why shouldn’t we depend on them every now and then? People can push you to build better foundations.

There’s one thing that’s right though. It’s something I’ve learned the hard way. You have to be careful who you allow to be built into your foundation.

Family is always a good answer to who is right or wrong to build yourself up on. Family loves you relentlessly and won’t leave you. Family will push you to be a better person and help strengthen your foundation.

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Friends are harder to think about. Even best friends don’t stay best friends a lot of the time. Friends come and go as seasons of life change. This can be hard when looking for people to support you through life. But I think it’s important to have friends in your foundation. However, going along with the building metaphor, it’s important to decide how much weight you allow them to support. You have to judge which friends are in your life for a season, and which are there to walk the whole way.

We all make mistakes. We all put too much weight on certain people sometimes. We all get let down. We all let people down. Here’s the best thing though: we get to rebuild. It may be hard. Our foundations may have some cracks or holes for a while, but that can be fixed. Other people are there just waiting to help you fill it back in.

That’s where I’m at right now. Seasons of life are changing, and I’m growing up. There are several people who I have realized have worked their way out of my foundation. And that’s a hard realization. But it’s also incredible to see who has stuck around to hold me up. I am so very grateful for my family and the others who have stuck around.

In life, other people are going to give you the tools to build a stronger foundation for yourself. And it’s okay to build them in every once in a while too. Other people are placed in your life for a reason, so let them make you a better person, and help them out some too.

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Keeping Connections

When you’re put in situations like attending camp, it’s easy to make friends fast. Everyone comes ready to meet new people and find people to cling to for the short time you’re there. The relationships grow deep fast. The atmosphere is built for these quality friendships to happen.

The real trick to this is maintaining these friendships once you leave the camp atmosphere. Years of camp has taught me a lot about how to intentionally foster friendships, because once you let go they’re usually gone.

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A lot of times these relationships end up being with people who live nowhere near you. Long distance relationships stink. Friendships included. You meet spectacular people who you have a lot in common with. But, unless you take time to make an effort to maintain it, the distance drives that connection apart.

More often than not, my camp friendships turned into Facebook likes and comments rather than meaningful conversations over the phone or Skype. However, there are a few that I’ve kept close to my heart rather than on my social media.

The key, I’ve found, is remembering that it’s a two-way effort. You have to remember that it takes both people reaching out to initiate conversation. Take time out of the day to send a quick hello over text, set up a time to talk over the phone, or write a meaningful letter.

Keep up to date on what’s going on in their lives. Know what their triumphs and trials are, and walk with them through that. Sometimes distance makes it easier to be a good support because you’re removed and have a good perspective. It’s helpful when asked for advice.

Not knowing everyone in their life can also be a good way to get to know your friend better. Ask them about the people they’ve mentioned or the ones in their photos. The way they talk about the people in their lives says a lot about them.

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Find a time to hang out. This can be the hard one. Invite them to visit, or make the effort to go visit them. Get to know they place they call home. It’s important to take turns when you do this. Share the travel expenses. But make a point to do so to get some quality time in face to face.

I’ve seen successes and failures with this. Though, as many times as I have failed to maintain a truly solid friendship, I have been beyond blessed with the ones I have kept.

Sometimes your camp friends from across the state end up at the same school as you, and become your sorority sister and one of the best friends you’ll ever have.

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Beautiful Twists and Turns

I have been back from camp for a few weeks now. I spent about a month there serving some amazing kiddos and serving my God. I have so many things I could write about that I learned in my time there, but right now I want to talk about how sometimes the incredible things in life come when your plans don’t work the way you want.

I’m going to tell you about how I cleaned toilets for a few weeks and loved it.

I never planned to end up at the camp I did for a large portion of my summer. I had wanted an internship that I didn’t end up getting. It wasn’t even the first camp I applied to. I knew I wanted to serve kids and serve God in some capacity, and I have a heart for camp. I ended up choosing Kanakuk over others. However, I had my heart set on being a counselor. The position I was offered was that of a kitchie. Still, I would get to work with kids and it worked with my summer schedule better based off the terms I was offered.

So, what’s a kitchie? All I knew going into it was that they are girls that serve in the dining hall but are still assigned a cabin of campers to hang out with. No one told me what kind of crazy work it would end up being. Kitchie means early mornings prepping breakfast before the rest of camp is awake. It means prepping the dining hall for every meal, serving two meals at each meal time for 600 people, and cleaning up every meal and the entire dining hall. We were lucky to get a couple of hours off in the afternoon, and what time we were done at night depended how messy dinner dishes were. The kitchies are like a finely tuned army of cleaning girls. We didn’t cook, but oh did we clean. I learned really quickly to get over the gross things, work to keep a positive attitude, and rejoice in the little victories like a new shipment of peanut butter.

The kitchies are all college aged girls who live together and work together. That’s a lot of time together. Girls form cliques and have arguments. It’s expected when you spend so much time so close together. My first week or so at camp, I was not enjoying it. I am an introvert and wasn’t putting myself out there to build good relationships. My expectations for camp were not being met.

A few weeks in the job of mutt maid was handed out to four select kitchies. This job was given to girls with high integrity, good maturity, excellent work ethic, and a positive attitude. Sounds cool, right? I earned this title. What did it mean? It meant every other day I got to clean all the public toilets on camp. Camp toilets are disgusting.

I was disheartened at this point. I felt like I wasn’t much use at camp. I felt like I could be used in better ways. I wanted to spend more time with kids. I wanted to go home.

That’s when God blew my mind.

I was too caught up in my plans to see what God was doing in me. He had placed me as a kitchie at Kanakuk for a reason.

I fell in love with my cabin of 13 year olds (the youngest at camp) that I got to have discussion and prayer with every night. They loved to come find me at meals and talk to me during the day. I was blessed to be able to tuck them in and pray with them every night.

I got to be an influence on other kitchies who were experiencing tough times in their lives. The campers aren’t the only ones who come to camp needing some love and to find rest in God.

I also went to camp broken. I made some really good friends who helped me to heal and to work through big decisions in my life. They are friends I know I can rely on for a lifetime to point me towards Christ. We went on many adventures together that I will never forget.

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God humbled me. I struggle daily with pride. I believe I can do it on my own. I can’t. Giving me a kitchie and mutt maid position helped me to realize that work needs to be done to serve God and someone has to do the not so fun jobs too. Plus, it’s easy to find ways to have fun no matter what you’re doing at camp.

My favorite saying: Not all work is glorious, but all work glorifies God.

Camp also gave me space to heal and grow. It gave me goals to come home with and directions I need to move. It gave me clarity and peace. And it gave me a support system that really knows my heart, because you’re most honest and transparent at camp.

This is just the beginning of positive things that came out of my time at Kanakuk. I ended up loving my experience. Sure, work was physically and mentally challenging most days. I love a good challenge. God placed it there for me to embrace. Sometimes it takes some space to clear your mind and see what God is doing in your life and how you are being used to touch others.

Life isn’t going to go the way you want it to. Good. You learn and grow more when it goes God’s way. Be patient and thank Him for the twists and turns.

Proverbs 27:1, James 4:13-16

Preparing for Camp

One week from now I will be working at a Christian summer camp for about a month. I could not be more excited, but am also extremely nervous.

I know this camp does incredible things and changes kids’ lives. I am so ready to be a part of that. I love spending my time helping students grow as people and in their relationships with Christ. I am also ready to meet some other college kids who are passionate about serving and loving on some kiddos. I can’t wait to build some incredible friendships. I am also excited to grow in my own relationship with Christ. Some time disconnected from everything and focused on camp is much needed after the semester I had.

However, I am also apprehensive. This is a totally new experience. Many of the college students who staff the camps have been going since they were campers themselves. I am nervous about trying to learn everything and find my place. New experiences are always a bittersweet excitement. Being gone so long is also going to be new. I have never gone so long away at camp and unable to talk to my family and friends. I know it will be a good opportunity to re-center some of my priorities and thoughts, but I will miss them dearly.

In the end, the excitement outweighs the apprehension.

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As I am prepping for camp, I am praying a lot for the time to come. It’s important to be in the right mindset when my actions will be impacting young lives I will be spending time with. Here’s how I’ll be praying and how you can join me:

  • For the kids:
    • That they will come in with open hearts
    • That they will meet Jesus
    • That they will build friendships that last a lifetime
    • That they will find peace they may not find at home
    • That they will find rest and be ready to go back to busy lives at home
  • For the staff:
    • That we will be flexible
    • That we will allow God to speak through us
    • That we will pour into each other so we can pour into the campers
    • That we will also meet Jesus and grow in Him
    • That we will build relationships that push us toward Christ continuously
    • That we will overcome tiredness and serve with our full hearts

This is my last blog before camp, but I can’t wait to share what a month at camp is like and all of the incredible things I learn.

Hold On Tight

My favorite thing about going to camp is the relationships you either make there, or ones you came in with that you strengthen. Camp friends are the best kind of friends. They see you when you’re out of your element and have your guard down. You are the best version of yourself at camp, and so you get to know really incredible people.

The last night of Student Council camp was always hard emotionally. For some reason your council for the week became family. Everyone gathered around the pond and lit candles and shared stories and memories. Then we put arms around each other and sang camp songs like Stand By Me and Tiny Bubbles. The whole night was about reflecting on the week and how we grew. It was also about realizing that it’s people who make you grow, not camp.

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My last church camp as a camper was shortly after graduation. We had a senior class at our church that numbered close to 60 people, but we were all each others’ closest friends. We had been through several years of camp and community groups together. We had dated each other, gone on road trips with each other, and been there for each other on a daily basis. The last night of camp was the seniors’ gift to the kids below us. Every year they present the Gospel in a different way. We walked them through stations that resembled the last hours of Jesus’ life. This was really special because it was our final thing together.We all gathered together before hand to have communion as a class with the leaders who had been with us from the beginning. There were lots of tears. They were for joyful memories but also for the pain of splitting up. This was the last time we were all in the same place.

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As my school year is coming to an end I can’t help but compare it to the end of camp.This semester was the hardest semester I will have to go through they say. I had a class that took all of my time and energy. I got physically ill from how much stress this class put on me. I have always found success pretty easily in life, and this semester knocked all of that confidence right out of me.

Something spectacular did come out of the semester though. I gained some phenomenal friendships. I went through a very difficult class, and so did a lot of other amazing people. We saw each other at our most stressed out and messed up. We also celebrated together because though our victories seemed small to others, we understood how big they were. These are the people I am going to be with for the rest of my undergraduate career, and I don’t mind one bit.

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I also figured out what people in my life really care about me and are in it for the long haul. I was a disaster this semester, both physically and mentally. I struggled to find joy in every day. The people who were by my side through this and encouraged me are the people I want by my side through the rest of my life. I am incredibly thankful for my family and the friends that kept me from completely falling to pieces.

What I’ve learned from camp (some of my happiest and most victorious memories) and from this semester (some of my hardest and most discouraging memories) is that you’ve got to hold on tight to the people who were there. Hold on to the people who will celebrate with you and also the ones that will sit silently by you while you’re sad.

And if you’re lucky enough to have people who can do both, keep them around forever.

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