My Camp Tanuga experience and final goodbye

After arriving at camp, and getting situated, everyone makes way to the dock. This is where the big swim test takes place. As we jumped in the lake, the shock of cold water sent goose bumps down my spine. This wouldn't stop me from passing the most anticipated swim test.

A handful of my friends wore distressed sweatshirts with a faded eagle emblem, and a dewey, camp stench radiated from them the spring of my 4th-grade year during recess. At the time, I did not know what the eagle symbolized, but I would later find out.

Story after story, I started to understand why this 7-week summer camp, Tanuga, was so meaningful to my friends. I also realized that I needed to join this journey.

I looked forward to the moment I would arrive at Camp Tanuga on July 13, 2016, the day I would start this journey.

But the first week of camp started rocky.

I had this great vision that I would be hanging out with my friends and without a lot of rules. The reality was that my friends got off the bus and immediately ran over to their friends to give them warm hugs.

This was when it all hit me.

Maybe I didn’t want to be here.

I would be alone if I didn’t make new friends. After a few minutes of feeling awkward, I found my cabin and started to get to know my way around camp. After three or four days, being away from home hit me hard. Maybe I was not meant to be a camper. Maybe I was not meant to be told I could only eat three meals and one small snack a day. Maybe I wasn’t meant to go without: no air conditioning, no electronics, no twin bed with a thick comforter. I was not so sure about showering with other boys, and, most importantly, I was not used to sleeping in a cabin the size of my bedroom with bugs and nine other boys in it.

One night, I decided I wanted nothing to do with camp. At this point of my journey, I just wanted to be home. My cabin mates and counselors saw my frustration with wanting to be home. My counselor detected my homesickness by seeing the forlorn look in my depleted eyes. They decided to get one of my family friends and cousin to comfort me. My cousin Josh arrived first and could feel my distress. It did not take Sherlock Holmes to see that I was done with camp. He started out rather casually, “ Hey what is going on?”

I replied, “ I am done with this place. I really can’t take it here anymore.”

Josh exclaimed, “ If you can endure some of the discomforts and live in the moment, I promise you at one point you will never want to leave.”

The biggest takeaway from that conversation was to live in the moment and the memories will take care of themselves. Just about two or three days later, I heard about this thing called Horseshoe, an old rivalry with a camp named Horseshoe. The two camps battled for the win in almost every competition.

As it turned out, the next two days started to get better as I made new friends until I found out I was not able to play in a hockey game that I had my heart set on playing. This shattered me. I was a top hockey player in my area, and I knew if I played I could have helped my camp , but I was not at the level required for play. I stood by and watched my team lose by a single goal. My attitude to camp was poor in the beginning, started to build up, and this just sent it back down.

Two weeks later, something called War Games was introduced. I was a huge fan of this game. The only thing that kept on stinging me repeatedly over and over during this year of camp was being on the younger side. War Games was a big Capture the Flag game with set positions for everyone around camp. One flag was placed on the farthest point left of the camp and the other on the right. I was told that I was playing defense. I was a younger camper and not many of the CITs knew that I could run fast. This was not the greatest experience to start off my journey of camp I wish they had known my abilities. On the bright side, I was actually growing as a person and I didn’t even realize it. Towards the end of the session, I started to realize that I now had many new friends, and hopefully more to come if I continued to come back to camp. I understood that if I stuck with camp another summer I would learn that the older side of camp is a place where all of my family friends and cousins' memories were made. I knew that I would get to play Camp Horseshoe, go on a camping trip, and even play a more important role in War Games. This made me give camp another shot.

The journey continued to the older side of camp. It was July 16, 2017, when I set foot on the campgrounds once again. The electric vibe throughout camp and the camp spirit was coming back. I am finally on the older side of camp. I was bound and determined to have a new attitude and grow as a person. Unlike last summer, the faces around camp were more familiar. I was not as nervous,and I was more excited to be back again. I was not as out of place as the year before, and I had a feeling this year was gonna be a good one. The first few days went by slowly and well. I was having fun and I was remembering to enjoy and stay in the moment. I soon realized that I was old enough to play in the Horseshoe hockey game. This made me very excited, a little too excited, until I heard the bad news of having to go on my camping trip to the Sleeping Bear Dunes at the same time of the game.

After a day or two, I finally came to the realization that it was just a little hockey game. I play it everyday at home, what makes this one so exciting? A couple of days later, my cabin and I had left to take a trip to the Sleeping Bear Dunes. It was a fun yet relaxing trip with all my buddies, sleeping in tents and having to find firewood in order to make our own food. I got to see shocking views of the dunes and learned that walking up a four hundred and fifty foot mountain of sand can be challenging. I also now know what life is like without everything handed to me. This experience became a special experience of sports on the dunes and knowing what living in the real world was like. Soon after, we arrived back to camp and heard about the loss to Camp Horseshoe in hockey, 7 - 5. I knew that, if I could have been there, it would have been a victory for Camp Tanuga. I was not there, and this was not the case. As camp slowly came to an end, the annual War Games was approaching. I began to realize how the placement of it at the end of camp was to make people excited and not think about going home. It was now a day before the games and I had been placed on a team. I was placed on offense for the Uprising. This shocked me because I was still a smaller part of camp. This made my summer a whole lot more interesting and exciting. The bugle rang and the war had begun. I was with two CITs and two 8’s. The war was neck and neck between our team, the Uprising vs their team, the Entitled. We had captured nine of their flags, two of them myself. They had captured nine and a half of our flags. Minutes were remaining and the score remained the same. With only one minute left, we decided to go for the win and send both our main and out post offense in to get the winning flag. It was a day I will never forget because not only did we come out with the winning flag to win ten to nine and a half with only ten seconds remaining, but we had finished by winning the whole day. I like to reflect on how I was a younger side of the team, but I was still able to have confidence to capture two of our ten flags. The final day of the session had begun. It was the first year I was sad to leave camp because I got a taste in my first camping trip, playing offense in war games, and most importantly, living in back boys and finally knowing what that place is all about. I made just as many memories this summer that my family friend and cousin told me I would. I knew that next year nothing was going to stop me from having the best summer possible.

cabin boys 7 summer was a summer to remember. I didn't get home sick once, and I was the closest I have ever been to my friends. We became a true brotherhood, and the younger campers started to look up to us. My journey continued and this summer starting off better than all the others. Some of the highlights I was looking forward to were playing competitively with Camp Horseshoe, going on a real camping trip with a purpose, and playing one of the highest roles of war games. A week into camp we started the training for Horseshoe. I was set and the team was practicing with me being the starting forward and playing most of the game. A few days before the game, I got a phone call from home telling me I had to leave the day before Horseshoe to go down to Chicago for a couple of days. This absolutely devastated me, afterall, this was my year and my time to play in these games. I finally convinced my parents to let me stay another day just to play this game. The game took place at 7:30pm in the camp hockey area. The build up and prep for the game was amazing. I was treated like a professional athlete along with the rest of the team. There was so much hype and such a good vibe around camp that I just couldn't wait to get out there. It seemed like nothing could go wrong this day. Little did we know, about an hour before the game it started pouring rain. The team was shocked, but we also had a little laugh because poor Camp Horseshoe was sitting in their tents getting soaked. About thirty minutes before the game, it started to clear up. We went and looked at the hockey area and saw it was soaked and we would not be able to play in it. We decided to dry it ourselves. We started off strong and then took a sharp left turn. We ended up losing the game 13 - 7. We got too excited in the beginning when we had a three-goal lead. Our defense seemed to just fall asleep, and we got pummeled. I ended with four of our seven goals. I soon realized that all this build-up was way better than the actual moment, and I also learned that I could not win by myself, I needed another player to help. Soon after I got back from Chicago, we left for our canoe camping trip. Not a single boy in our age group was remotely looking forward to the trip, but we realized that there was no way of getting out of it. The biggest lesson to be learned was do not judge a book by its cover. When we found out that we had a trip the first day was five hours of canoeing, the second was nine or ten and the third was six. We all got down on it but in the end and looking back on it, I made some of the best memories of my life during it and I wish I could go back and do it again. The summer concluded with hundreds of moments to remember and more to come now that War Games was approaching. This year had a better theme and I played a more important role. I helped make the starting lineups and positions. The war was a very close one as my team won 12 - 10, and I had four flags myself. In the end, we won the whole day. The final day had approached, and I was flooded with emotions. I was extremely happy that this summer happened but sad that I had to let it go. At this time, I still had two more summers left, and I committed to myself that I could make them both as good as this one.

One year later, I was back at my home away from home and continuing on my journey. I felt fortunate to come back for another year. I needed camp more than ever since I had just finished a busy season of hockey. While at camp, the month flew by extremely fast and was very relaxed. It was a different summer than the past few summers because I did not go on a camping trip, nor did I play in Horseshoe, and I did not participate in War Games. This summer was more of a learning experience. Since the boy CITs were on a camping trip for two weeks, they put us in charge of the boys’ side. I had to become more responsible and be a good role model for the younger campers. I had to mentor them, to show them what I knew and how to succeed. This summer might not have been as exciting as the one before but it meant just as much to me. The biggest challenge I overcame was not having as much excitement throughout the summer. However, I was actually ok with it, and I realized that I was maturing. The old Zach would not have wanted to take this summer as a learning experience and to show leadership. I now understood how I was maturing, and I attributed it to my summers at camp.

In this coming year, I will be a CIT (counselor in training). My goal coming into this season is to start a new beginning. I plan to be a mature and responsible young adult that still wants to have fun. Camp is an important part of my life. This journey has changed my life in so many ways. I wish I would never have to let it go. This year, 2020 is the new hello, and the final goodbye.

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