Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Never Before

Last December, me, Jeremy, our friend Keri, and a few other friends, sat around on a Saturday afternoon. Snow covered the ground outside and the idea of snuggling in for hot cocoa and a nap sounded good to everyone.

“I’ve been changing my reaction to cold weather,” Keri announced after awhile. “I’ve realized that for the most part, I hate the cold weather. It makes me mad and whenever the weather changes to cold, I resist it.”

As we grinned and listened to her humorous story, she continued, “So you know I’ve just started telling myself, ‘Who cares if it’s ten degrees outside? The icy wind on my skin is a new experience. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing.’”

We all laughed and began thinking of other “new experiences” that don’t have to be bad things. It started with getting burned alive in volcanoes and actually got more silly from there. “Ahh, getting shot in the heart. This is a new experience. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing.”

Jeremy and I got a good laugh out of that conversation and seem to quote Keri regularly since then. We’ve had plenty of new experiences this summer, things I’ve never done or imagined doing before, but hey, “It doesn’t have to be a bad thing,” we tell each other, “It’s a new experience.”

I like curry. I like making curry. Geoff, the chef, discovered this and I found myself leading 6-7 kitchen staff through chopping onions, kneading dough for chipatis, and seasoning 4 huge, steaming pots of spicy deliciousness. Lunch was success. I took a nap.

I like kayaking. There are half a dozen kayaks down at the lake front and often during rest period or free time, I’ll take one out and paddle until I can’t go any further. The water is a great place to think and be reminded to ride the waves.

A trail winds around the tip of the point at camp. Though it is not a long run, it winds through trees, along the shore, and up some challenging hills. Sometimes I see deer in the brush and ticks on my legs, but trail running in the early morning, is one of my new favorite things to do. It’s not a treadmill. It’s not the sidewalk, traffic, and observers. It’s clear, open, clean, wild, unpredictable, and rejuvenating. I ran the first time without my ipod because I didn’t know if I would need to listen for animals. But since then I’ve tried to do without. Headphones have always been a distraction from my thoughts and motivation to keep running. But this summer, I’ve learned I don’t need them. I don’t need to hide from myself.

I’ve never worked with blind people. That week came with a treasure chest of experiences I’m so grateful for. Also, I’ve never inserted a tampon for another person. That was a new experience. It doesn’t have to be bad, it’s just…new.

I’ve never gone stargazing on a boat.

I’ve never gone stargazing on a barn roof.

I’ve never been to Waffle house. Everyone from the south is now shocked in amazement as to how this has happened, but let me explain. I’ve only seen one Waffle house in Colorado, ever. They just don’t make ‘em or staff ‘em the way they do out here. Some people take pride in going and quoting all the different ways to order has browns. It’s a cultural experience. And now everyone from the south is thinking, Cultural experience? What is she talking about?

Thought I’ve wanted to, I’ve never acted in a play. I’ve always thought I might be capable, but in high school, drama always fell during basketball practice, and well, basketball always won. I don’t have any big parts, but it’s been fun nonetheless.

I’ve never dressed up as Red fish before this summer. The teen banquet theme was Dr. Seuss. My friend Katie and I dressed up as Red fish and Blue fish. The gym was decorated with characters from the books and bright neon colors as we feasted on a buffet of weirdly colored food: green eggs and wham, roast beast, purple potato salad, green ice water, and Who pudding. Oh my.

I can’t possibly mention new experiences without mentioning Jeremy. I’ve never dated a boy for 7 months. I hadn’t ever had a fight with Jeremy. I hadn’t ever had a fight and then high-fived afterwards. New experience. I’ve never braided my boyfriends’ hair or been confused as two girls holding hands. I’ve never Nair-ed a guys back. Oh new experiences galore!

I’ve never contemplated so strongly never having kids.

I’ve never contemplated so strongly having kids

I’ve never adapted so well to change. I’m learning flexibility.

I’ve never felt community like this. I’ve always assumed I’m just not a “group” kind of person. I’m not a social butterfly who loves meeting new people and having lots of acquaintances. So while I appreciate having a few really close friends, let’s just say Saturday nights I don’t get tons of phone calls from all my friends wanting to hang out. It’s not that I have that now either, but it’s nice to be in a larger community where we work together and connect in different ways.

I’ve never shared my story with kids. Talking with adults is different. I didn’t want to somehow encourage destructive behavior in kids, but I didn’t want to avoid the topic either.

I’ve never taught sports to kids. I’ve always been coached. Watching them learn and grow and improve must be that “rewarding” feeling my coaches always talked about. Last week after playing competitive games of dodgeball, basketball, and football with teen boys, it felt good to be teaching them valuable skills, even as a girl. I might’ve also taught them how to lose to a girl, because let’s be honest, they needed humbling. But I paid the price for that as well. Every Saturday night the cabin with the best behavior and cleaning scores gets to choose a staff member and pie them. That’s right. Each week two staff members don swimsuits as campers and counselors toss banana crème or chocolate slop in their face. Again, not my favorite part of camp, but as a result of some apparent “schooling” that went on on the basketball court, my boys had their revenge. In all honesty, it was sweet revenge. Because I made them admit before the pie-ing began the “real” reason they chose me. Sweet victory, a quick run to the lake, and pudding in my ear the next morning. Wow.

Never before have I felt cool to kids. I’ve never felt so looked up to and admired. They watch me for sure and I don’t attempt to be anything I’m not. I’ve never felt so responsible for their safety, happiness, and well-being.

Being the youngest in my family, I haven’t had much exposure with kids who are younger than me. Camp has allowed me to work with a wide variety of ages and then gladly give them away at the end of the week. I’ve learned developmental traits I wouldn’t have noticed as easily because the weeks fall in succession by age. I’ve been able to see the differences in kids as they age, what they need, what they don’t need.

I’ve never felt so “old”. Much of the staff is 19, which is only two years younger than me, but they seem so surprised that I am, gasp, 21 years-old! Even more shocking is the campers reactions. To them I seem light years older than they are. One girl last week said, “That girl is such a ho. Oh, if you don’t know, a “ho” is someone who sleeps around.”

While I may feel older than some, I know I am wise. I continue on with what I’ve learned and how I’ve changed. Never before have I been so grateful to be out of high school. It’s a new experience; it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. And oh no, please believe me, it isn’t.

I gladly move on.


Mrsklbrown said...

I am so proud of you, friend. I love reading all of these new experiences and fun stories that you will never forget. I marvel at how awesome change can be. I'm glad you were able to work at camp. You can check that one off your bucket list! I love you and miss you, and am so, so proud of you.