Monday, May 30, 2011

Summer Camp 1965

In a few weeks, schools will be closing for summer break and many children will be heading off to summer camp. This thought brought back memories of the summer of 1965 - the war in Vietnam worsened while the anti-war movement grew, kids were crazy about skateboards, women’s skirts got shorter while men’s hair grew longer, gasoline per gallon was 0.31, the average income per year was $6,450, Cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov took the first steps into space and I stepped onto a bus with my friend Lynn for my first visit to summer camp.

I had just turned 9 and while I was looking forward to a week at Camp River Ranch, I was also sad because I would miss a family wedding. Lynn and I were shy but were determined to make the best of it as we headed out for our first week away from home. We were assigned to the same canvas tent along with four other girls. On our first visit to the lake we were divided into groups by swimming ability. There were three of us who knew nothing about swimming. Lynn and I fell into that very small group. Instead of receiving lessons or guidance, we were asked to sit on the rocky beach during lessons and during free swim we were allowed to stand up to our knees and splash each other⎯fun times! After “swimming” each day, we would hang our wet swimsuits on the supporting ropes outside the tent to dry. Upon our return, Lynn and I always found our swimsuits in the mud below the ropes. We were continuously teased and tormented by those who thought they were better than anyone else. I became homesick but tried to make the best of it.

At the end of camp, the first thing out of my mouth when seeing my parents’ was, “I want to learn to swim.” I began taking lessons and didn’t stop. Along the way I joined a swim team, became a lifeguard and a water safety instructor⎯all by the time I was 16. Two years after my stay at Camp River Ranch I attended Camp Don Boscoe, which had a complex of outdoor swimming pools. Once again, I was not given swim lessons. This time I could outswim everyone including the instructors, so I helped out around the pool. The fact I could swim did not graduate me to the realm of most popular. It had quite the opposite affect, but I didn’t care.

While I missed being at my uncle and aunt’s wedding, I gained so much more⎯the human experience. I began to learn my own way in this world. I learned what it was like to be an outcast. I learned the meaning of focus and drive and setting goals. Two summers and endless hours in the pool later, I learned what it was like to achieve one's goal, and that it was okay to stand outside the crowd⎯for ME to be ME. It was my first major personal triumph.

I could have just gone on about my shy way in this world and may not have even learned to swim. I might be a very different person today if it wasn’t for the experience I gained in 1965. We may not always know the impact we make on our lives with the choices we make along the way, but one thing I know⎯you will not be happy unless you are BE-ing who you are. Take a look at your life today, are you making the right choices? If not, today can be a new day for you, set your goal, focus and drive even if you are driving outside the crowd. Take the first step⎯you may just make a splash!

Photo courtesy of AlexanderY
© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark