I miss everything and everyone so much, it hurts.
This is the first post published from Atlanta in 7.5 weeks, as the rest have all been from Ann Arbor.
I woke up this morning-er, afternoon, after a heavy 15-hour sleep and all of this emotion and soon-to-be nostalgia came flooding towards me. It finally materialized into withdrawal. Today is Sunday, and on Saturday when I left in the morning, I was mainly in shock. It was hard to comprehend that I would no longer wake up in my small dorm room and focus on debate for the next 12 hours or so.
No more practice debates. No more flow paper. No more speaking drills. No more independence, and no more walking long distances between the labroom and the dorms. No more beautiful scenery each and every day, no more waking up to my beautiful roommate Sarah, or randomly seeing darling Connor in the hallways and giving him giant hugs, no more of that. There shall be no more lab nationalism, or dance parties on the girls’ floor, or walking around in a city that I’ve grown to know so well, each and every crevice. No more of my favorite restaurants, coffee shops, or ice cream parlors…
I’m past that lifestyle. No more summer camp for me, unless I’d like to be a counselor. This was the last summer. In years past, I’d always cheer myself with the prospect of going back in the future, but this is really it. Even if I end up going to college there, it won’t be the same as debate camp in the summer, which really made the whole experience.
But at the same time, no more repetitive cafeteria food, no more dirty, unwashed clothes, no more worrying about not having a room-key on me at all times, and no more flip-flops in the shower.
So, there are definitely some aspects of camp that I will not be missing.
I come home to my diverse wardrobe, my big and comfy bed, home-cooked Chinese food, and my loving family.
I’ll listen to music I discovered while there or that was recommended to me by people I met while I was there, and I’ll make sure to make the greatest effort ever to stay in touch with all of the wonderful people I met while I was there, as I will be seeing them many times through the year.
This camp withdrawal will no doubt stay with me for the next few weeks, and I won’t fight it. I’ll scroll through the pictures on my phone, all of the selfies and candid shots. I’ll look receipts and ticket stubs like the sentimental person I am.
If you went somewhere over the summer or just had an amazing experience, don’t forget to remember. These memories won’t change, even if the people might. Freeze these moments in time, the important ones. Chances are, I’m not going to remember that one debate where we lost or won (unless it was an epic upset debate or something…*wink), but rather, the people that I spent it with.
I am never stationary. I left debate camp much more experienced and learned than I was when I left, and I rode an emotional roller coaster. I can say with confidence that I did not expect things to turn out the way that they did, but hey, I regret nothing.
1. Living without my parents degrades my living standards
You never know who you have until they’re gone. I look around my filthy living quarters and miss my parents nagging me about picking up my clothes and not bringing food on my bed. There are empty wrappers everywhere and piles and piles of flow paper. Is it bad that I feel as though a poke would tip me over, as a result of a lack of sleep, exercise, and nourishing food? I crave avocados and fresh produce, and my sleep schedule is massively skewed.
2. I have no self control
There’s such a contrast between how I felt at the beginning of camp (wads of cash and a loaded card) and now (empty wallet and dearth of credit on my card). There was a massive sale towards the middle of camp that totally left me winded; as a result, I have more clothes than is possible to transport back home and I’ve become exponentially stingy about money. My parents probably role their eyes everytime I call home and ask them to put more money on my card. It is tough to be on your own and remember that you have to ration out your resources and allocate them wisely.
3. I can reinvent myself
Although I have been immersed in this community for the entirety of my high school career, I feel that it is much more socially acceptable to “update” yourself every summer. This is because the debate community sees you sporadically throughout the year; a couple times each month or so, and normally everyone’s heads are buried in their computer screen doing research. Here, you present yourself to a group of kids for several weeks straight, and you can come with a freshened up ‘tude.
4. It is possible to get better at something in a very short amount of time
Given that you are also improving during the year, you are also destined to progress if you dedicate 7 weeks of your summer to one activity, and one activity alone. Here, it is hard to envision someone and their skills as being static. Sure, we all improve at different rates, but it is improvement all the same.
5. It is impossible to tire of listening to music, if the music is good
I have spent hours and hours every single day for the past 6 weeks just sitting on my computer, reading files or articles, with really intense music playing in the background; I’m sure that I’ve played some song over 100 times, and yet I have not tired of any song. This is because it’s merely background music. There is certainly an argument to be made that this is not adequate music appreciation, but I honestly am someone who can focus on music and work AT THE SAME TIME. It passes the time and gives me a reason to bop my head and wiggle my legs.
6. Senior year is the peak
Compared to years past, I definitely exude the most confidence this year. It’s a bittersweet realization that this is my last year as a student. From now on, I can only be a counselor. No more rules, room check, or confines. But at the same time, no more guidance and no more intense drills or drive to debate. There’s something about being the kid that makes you feel instantly less worry free than ever before.
7. People really can look up to you
There are people here…that I don’t know but they somehow know me. It’s weird because I was the same way last year and the year before; I would know of people that probably didn’t know I existed. It’s a compelling concept to fathom, and it’s one of the perks of seniority. You are considered the top of camp; it’s intriguing to realize every year that not only are you better than you were the year before, but that a great majority of your most fierce competition has graduated.
8. Authority figures are not always rigid
I will no longer consider adults and teenagers complete opposites. I will no longer assign people to arbitrary sides of an Iron Curtain or cower in their presence or refuse to socialize with them because of their age. Here, there are no teachers, only guiders and leaders. Here, we don’t have homework and we don’t use grades as motivation to work. Here, we have naturally ambitious kids who want to have success during the year and use that as their only inspiration to work hard. Authority figures here are few and far between; once you let this rigid idea go, friendships are easy to construct.
9. If you find something you love, you can basically do it yer-round
Here’s my annual debate schedule, in a nutshell: school starts in August and prep starts. The first major tournaments take place at the beginning of September, and essentially do not stop until March or April. Of course, there’s a few weeks of break for the winter holidays, but we typically spend the break updating old files or brainstorming ideas, so there’s not really a “break.” Come May, it’s time for exams and debate sort of pauses until June, when summer camps begin for the next year’s topic. I so much prefer the rest of the year to the May season because a) exams are stressful b) I don’t debate. If you might imagine someone like me to tire of doing one activity so rigorously and so frequently, you imagined wrong.
10. Adjusting to college campuses is going to be tough
Hey, I’m Catherine. I’m geographically incompetent to the point that I don’t think I could drive from my house to my school, that I’ve been going to for 6 years now. It has taken me years and years of wandering this campus to find out where things are, and even now, I still get mixed up frequently. All college campuses are difficult to navigate and overwhelmingly confusing upon first glance, and now I know that I’ll be the one that suffers most. Don’t ever hand me a map; that just adds to the stress.
11. You can go back to a place and have it change everytime
Looking at pictures is completely different from actually being here on this campus. In 2011 (my first year at summer camp), this place was just a place. I was a stranger in a weird town, filled with mysterious restaurants and stores. I’d never heard of Potbelly’s or 7-Eleven prior to my first year here. I struggled to find my way around the campus. Come summer of 2012, I am starting to feel like I am in town visiting family; I’ve been here before and the building structures look familiar, but I’m still finding it hard to navigate the streets properly. By now, I’ve established hangout spots and coffee stores that have become all mine. Well…now we’re in the summer of 2013, and I feel like this place has actually become my home. I know every inch of the place, every brick and weathered stone, the closing time for every store, and all of the secret sales. I’m still wandering down streets and finding new ice cream shops and pizza stores, but I feel more welcome here than I ever have. I’ve settled into a comfortable groove, finally, after 18 total and 7 consecutive weeks.
Chatter. Lots of it pervades the muggy air of Ann Arbor as swarms of people wander the streets of the Art Fair.
At 6AM on a Wednesday morning, I walk past tent stations where vendors are preparing themselves mentally and physically for what is probably one of the most popular events of the summer.
My fatigued eyes graze over dozens of white tents but ultimately fix on the white tent that stands out from the others – the holy Urban Outfitters Sale.
ZOOM. My feet carry me over to racks and racks of discounted clothes. I see dresses of every length; my fingers brush past fabrics of every degree of softness and thickness, and rows of jeans in every cut and color. As I focus on the issue at hand – maximizing the amount of fabric I can manage with as little money spent – the cutting chatter fades in the background, a dull buzz now.
As I peruse the racks, I make my way past girls similar to myself: we’ve woken up at an unreasonable hour to justify a long-running tradition. Some have skipped makeup, some have just come in their sleep-clothes.
We come from all areas of campus life; some of us are campers at the debate camp, the math-and-summer camp, some of us are tourists visiting the Michigan campus, and some are actual college students studying here over the summer. Despite our different backgrounds, we all suffer together. Everyone endures the unbearingly long lines to the fitting rooms and then in the payment line; everyone quakes in excitement at the racks of clothes that are replenished every hour or so.
The way I see it, this Art Fair will be the center of attention for however long it is here. People will inevitably end up with the same clothes, and people will gratefully spend money that they have been scouring for weeks. New camp kids will learn the tricks of the trade – wake up early, go during breaks, and browse after lab. The golden oldies will rely on the tactics that have been used for years.
Thus concludes my narrative of the first morning of the Urban Outfitters Sale of the 2013 Ann Arbor Art Fair.
Oh, the things we do for high style.