This summer has been, in short, one of the most enlightening phenomenal summers of my life. Until this year, I have spent every summer for the past eight years at a homey little summer camp in East Texas. That camp was what I considered to be my livelihood, my second home, my family, and my peace and comfort. I grew in the weeks out there more than I grew any time during the rest of the year. We always said that camp wasn’t the real world, but it’s what the real world should be like: every takes care of one another, everyone is purely joyful without electronics, everyone is honestly the happiest they are all year. Nothing has ever made me feel more alive than being out there in this wonderful comfort zone where I was with everyone I knew and loved.
So it’s not really a surprise when I tell you how jarring it was to arrive in LA this summer… no sleepy secluded spot in the woods… but a big, vibrant, beautiful city with a million opportunities, but also harsh, unavoidable realities. I was excited, certainly, but I felt a hollow emptiness at my inability to be at, or even visit, the camp that I’d called home for so many years… for the first time since I first attended when I was 13. I was nervous. I didn’t know what this city would have to offer… would I be able to find a place here?
Day by day, week by week, moment by moment, I grew into this city. I learned my way around, I mastered LA traffic, I found a place at my job, and I fell in love with the busy life I was leading. There were some major pitfalls… project complications, fights, accidents, sadness… culminating with an awful family emergency that forced me to go home for a whole week at the end of the summer. This summer has had it’s ups and downs, and it’s been nothing short of an emotional rollercoaster. But every time I fell I stood up again. I learned how to make mistakes gracefully and learned where my strengths and weaknesses lie. I created some amazing things, and learned where I need to improve. And slowly, I fell in love with the city. Driving around with Kierstin, Chris, and Rachel one day, I believe I said something like, “I don’t know why anyone would want to live anywhere in the world but here.” I knew I would enjoy this experience, but I never knew how hard I’d fall for this dirty, broken, hopeful city of angels. Last night at the film screening I felt completely accomplished for what we’d pulled off this summer… everyone in the program. We are all super heroes, and I hope you guys don’t forget it. We came so incredibly far… and I couldn’t be prouder of all of us.
My heart is in Texas, my comfort is in North Carolina, and my peace is in a sleepy camp in Southeast Texas. But my drive, my passion, and my future are all out here. I’m excited beyond belief for my last, incredible senior year with my best friends in North Carolina… but I’m also excited to return with my new best friends out here. This summer is one I will never, ever be able to forget. And I’m so incredibly grateful for this experience.
Until next year…. LA, I love you. It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later.