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Lessons from camp: Confessions of a ‘nerd’ in denial

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Each year I went to camp, I would fully expect an excellent, 90s style Mary Kate and Ashley Olson movie camp experience, with fun friends, cute boys and adventures galore. But at 10 years old, I was in denial about a very important truth of my life. I am a nerd. The reality of my situation is that camp was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Most of the kids I met right off the bat were, in my mind, sports obsessed. There is no part of me that is good at sports. I didn’t grow into my feet until, well, never. And being a head taller than all the kids my age didn’t exactly win me tons of friends when they found out I couldn’t run half as fast as I could read.
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It always took me at least two or three days to find the nerds at camp. The ones who would rather read Harry Potter than play baseball and would gladly skip the big relay race for another couple of hours in the art cabin.

Once I found those kids, we had a great time, and I came home with a Lisa Frank notebook full of AOL addresses, inside jokes and promises to write.

I also came home with some important lessons.

First, I learned that you’re never as alone as you feel. When I didn’t get placed in a cabin with my best friend because she was older than me, I thought it was the end of the world.

It wasn’t.

I made friends my own age after a few days and learned to put myself out there.

Second, I learned to help others instead of feeling sorry for myself.

Not to guilt anyone more than a decade after the fact,but my parents didn’t make it to parents’ night any year that I went to camp.

Parents’ night without parents is the worst, because allof your friends are with their families, leaving you to have to fend for yourself.

But there were always a few other kids at camp whose parents couldn’t make it. After a couple of years of reserving that night for my own homesick self pity, I learned to look for those other kids who were alone and cheer them up.

Third, I learned to look for the positive in every experience. In every girls’ cabin at every summer camp in the history of summer camp there is at least one girl who loved to French braid hair. I learned to seek that girl out and let her do my hair as many days as she wanted.

Some of my best hair days happened when I was sharing a cabin bathroom with 15 other girls.

I found that looking for these good things helped combat the drama that comes with multiple, sleep-deprived tween girls in a confined space.

Finally, I learned that time away from home can make you appreciate what you have. I was never so glad to see my older brother than after a week sharing a room with a bunch of girls.

Every year I went to camp, it got easier to make friends and find something enjoyable to do. And every year, I was so glad to come home to the farm and be my lanky, awkward self.

But I always missed the fancy French braids.

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