What It’s Like To Find Your People

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In the summer of 2012, I fell blissfully in love. It was the first time I had ever been so overwhelmingly happy that I had to share it with the world. I felt like sunlight radiated from my pores. It was the only thing I could talk about, the only thing I could think about. 

It was my first (and only) year as a counselor at SEP. I wasn’t in love with an individual, I was in love with a feeling. I was in love with the group of people who gave me that feeling. And like any first love, I didn’t realize what I had until it was almost over. 

Standing on a porch that was drowning in early morning sunlight, I felt something new in the pit of my stomach (and not just the pancakes my friend had made). Like I was a character in a magical realism novel, I began to feel a fire within my body – in the space where my ribs meet, a few inches above my belly button, I felt a warmth that spread through my body to my fingertips and beyond. It was a feeling so fulfilling that I have searched for it everyday since. It has become my goal to find happiness that infects my body the way it did that August morning. 

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Six weeks earlier, I filled a suitcase with summer clothes, towels and toiletries, and other essentials. Just minutes from my house, I was ready to go on the adventure of a lifetime. I thought I knew what to expect – accepting people, a fun time, a learning experience – I had no idea I would find my people.

Up to that point, I thought I already found my people – friends who knew me and understood me, teammates who cheered me on, and family who always had my back. But you can’t know what it’s like to find your people until you’ve truly found them. So in addition to gaining the things I expected to at camp that summer, I finally found my people. And they were nothing like what I expected; they ranged from a frat bro with an extensive shoe collection to a heavily-pierced camp newbie to a pair of sisters who had lived all over the world. They were people who initially intimidated me, people who were interesting and cool and intensely intelligent. But the way I just described those few people doesn’t do them justice; they were so much more than one description. Because the frat bro? He is also an incredible artist, a fiercely loyal friend, and a ridiculously funny storyteller with a talent for funny faces. And the heavily-pierced newbie? She is one of the most adaptable, supportive people I have ever met, who gave us all sentimental necklaces after only a week of knowing us. And the sisters? They are reliable and dependable and always willing to stand up for a friend. They are amazingly independent and perfectly unique and they taught me that love for a sibling can be the strongest kind. These people I just described are only 4 of the 13 people I fell in love with that summer. Some of the others became irreplaceable pillars of confidence in my life. One gave me the strength to push for what is right, no matter the consequences. Another taught me to love my body in all of its uniqueness. One showed me that redheads always have the most fun. And they all taught me to believe in myself, to fight for myself, and to love myself. 

This may all seem overly-emotional and corny, it may feel repetitive, or it may seem out of the blue. But there is method to my madness. Two nights ago, I learned that this summer, SEP will not take place. And while this shouldn’t (and logistically doesn’t) affect me, my heart broke. I thought about all the campers, counselors, and other staff members who, with one email, just lost the chance to find their people. SEP fosters friendships, relationships, and people-finding.

But if I know the children of SEP, the passionate, talented, and caring young adults I’ve come to know over the years, this won’t be the end. Camp will come back, stronger than ever, with people who have a renewed zest for connection. The SEP legacy is forever and I have no doubt that this is not the end. And to all my SEP babies, my junior counselors who are now leaders and my campers who are college-bound superheroes: don’t worry, you’ll find your people. You already have.

Never forget, “someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers, and me.”

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Looking Back: The Time I Was “The Other Girl”

As promised, here is a follow-up post about my thoughts now on my week with Chris.

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After our week together in Florida and our few weeks of chatting about how things were going with his girlfriend, Chris and I texted on an almost daily basis, and I grew way more emotionally attached than he probably realized. We Skyped each other and talked about our families and our life goals. After a year of this, I truly thought I knew his soul. I was basically waiting around for him to break up with his girlfriend, which is when we would finally be able to pick up where we left off. Which was where? A few thousand miles apart and a year after one night of kissing. We were nowhere. My pseudo-relationship with Chris made me completely uninterested in everyone else; in our one week together, I fell head over heels for a guy I had no chance with.

Eventually, I realized that I was getting the short end of the stick in our “relationship”: he and his girlfriend were still in a happy relationship, and I had fallen for someone who was emotionally and physically unavailable. I cried in my best friend’s car on a vacation to visit her in her new city, and I finally knew I was wasting my time. So I broke up with him. I know that seems ridiculous – how can you break up with someone you’re not dating? Well, I did. I told him I needed a break from him – from texting, from SnapChatting, from sharing our life stories and our daily nonsense.

A few months later, when I thought I was fully over him, I began talking to him again. But before I knew it, I was back in the same hole I had been in before – hoping that he’d realize how compatible we were, how we were supposed to be together, and every other thought hopeless romantics have. Once again, I ended things.

I’m not sure if that was the last time I talked to Chris, or if we talked again casually after that, but eventually it truly ended. I can’t remember the last time I spoke to him, but I’m glad I finally got myself out of it. I remember being brokenhearted over Chris more than once, but that was my own fault, not his. I had made our relationship out to be so much more than it was. In the end, we were just flirty friends who made out one time. 

Now, three years later, I still think about Chris once in a while, when he shows up on my Facebook feed or someone talks about Florida or spring break, but I’m happy to say I did eventually get over him. In the past year, I’ve considered reaching out to Chris a few times, but ultimately decided against it. Even though we had a truly wonderful friendship, it wasn’t worth the pain I caused myself crushing on him over and over again. Chris was a really flirty guy and for all I knew, he had the same relationship with me as he had with a million other girls. For a while, he meant the world to me, but I could have just been a blip on his radar.

Despite everything – the tears, the classes I didn’t pay attention in because I was texting Chris, and the missed chances I had with other guys – I still don’t regret any of it.

The Time I Was “The Other Girl”

(I wrote this post almost three years ago, before I even had a blog, and I wasn’t ready to share it with people until now. For the most part, I haven’t updated anything I wrote, aside from a few grammatical and syntactical errors. I hope you enjoy this peek back into my life – and my writing – three years ago. I’ll be writing a follow-up piece soon about my take on this pseudo-relationship now, so stay tuned for some “everything is clearer in hindsight” shit coming your way soon.)

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Original Title: I Should Probably Feel Worse Than I Do

Let me just preface this by saying that I do actually have morals, I promise. But I went on vacation for a week, and apparently so did my morals. The story begins spring break  my sophomore year of college. I had been planning a Habitat for Humanity trip for almost an entire year with another girl, and we were finally on our way to Florida. There were seven kids from my school and eight kids from another school staying in the same house.

Upon entering the house, I locked eyes with Chris (*name has been changed). I immediately thought he was cute, in a rugged kind of tall, dark, and handsome way. We flirted for a few days,  cuddling and watching movies all squished on the couch with our new friends, but I knew something was up. He was a total flirt, but for some reason he was holding back. Everyone could tell there was something going on between us, but for some reason Chris wasn’t making a move. Half way through the week I was totally invested in making something happen between us – I knew we were both attracted to one another, and it felt comfortable (for the first time ever). He didn’t make me feel awkward or self-conscious, and I could look into his eyes when we talked without feeling out of place. It just felt right, and it was the first time ever that something felt like that for me. Of course, once I had fully committed myself to the idea of putting myself out there, the truth came out.

He had a girlfriend at home. I was disappointed, but it didn’t make me want him any less. I decided at that point, all morals aside, that if I couldn’t have him, I would just tease him – after all, he had waited until we were in way too deep to tell me he was otherwise engaged. So, I dressed nicely, I flirted up a storm, and, needless to say, it didn’t make me feel any better. Teasing him didn’t help me feel any less teased to begin with. Shocker. The night after he told me about his girlfriend, we watched a movie with everyone. We cuddled, per usual, and if the sexual tension was butter-knife-ready before, it now could have been cut with a shoe, or something equally as dull. I had a hard time sitting next to him without jumping him. This was when I decided to pull the “is this as hard for you as it is for me?” card, figuring I was still just teasing him. His aggressive kiss on the cheek told me my teasing had gone a bit too far. We were screwed. It was all down-hill from there. Later that night we decided it was time to talk, and after admitting that he wanted to kiss me, we chose not to do anything – neither of us wanted to mess up his relationship with his girlfriend. I told him I thought we made the right decision; he told me he didn’t. I knew we were in over our heads.

Fast forward 24 hours to us making out on the couch. Clearly we lost our resolve. It wasn’t very strong to begin with. Our morals, along with our decision to “just be friends” went out the window. You’re probably thinking I’m a terrible person, or that he’s a terrible person. We are both better than our actions that week, and yet we still did what we did. Do I feel bad? Without a doubt. Do I think it was the wrong thing to do? Absolutely. Do I regret it? Not even a little bit.

Before you judge me too harshly, give me a chance to explain myself. Actually, feel free to judge me all you want, I deserve it, just don’t hold it against me, and don’t let it define your opinion of me. If you had asked me before that vacation if I would ever do something like this, my answer would have been no. Ask me now if I’d ever do it again, my answer is still no. Here’s the thing, though, when you’re a lonely college sophomore who has never been told you’re beautiful by a boy, and has never kissed someone you actually want to kiss, your morality line might become a bit blurry when these options present themselves to you. Chris made me feel wanted, and special, and important. He made me feel like I mattered. For someone who has never been told they’re wanted before, that feeling is intoxicating. Chris was charming and sweet and he cared about me. I needed that. I don’t regret doing what I did because it was an experience I’ll never forget. I don’t regret it because both Chris and I can learn from it. I don’t regret it because I won’t ever forgive myself for hurting not only his girlfriend, but also the two of us. And I don’t regret it because I learned a lot about myself.

(Follow-up: In case you’re wondering, Chris and I kept in contact after our time in Florida, and talked a lot about what to do in the following days. My friends disapproved of me talking to him, and they had a point – we couldn’t really keep the flirting to a minimum as we should have been able to. He decided to tell his girlfriend what happened. She forgave him. So while it might be easy to say, “well, I dodged that bullet” to becoming a home-wrecker, finding out her reaction really didn’t change my opinion of the event. It was still wrong what we did. I don’t know her motivation for letting Chris get away with cheating on her, but it doesn’t really make a difference. Whatever her reason, it doesn’t just let us off the hook – Chris and I have both agreed to never do this again. Hopefully we’ll both stick to our decision this time.)