As the weather gets nicer, dreams of summer begin. I start having dreams of lakes, boats, shorts, and the sun making my skin darker and my hair blonder. There is some magical quality contained in the hope of those six letters. SUMMER. It sounds restful and awaiting adventure at the same time.
Ah yes, sweet blissful summer how we pin for your freedom and warmth.
There was a time when summer meant packing my bags and heading to my second home. No it wasn’t a glamorous summer vacation home, it was a small cabin at a summer camp. I spent the most defining and memorable moments of my life there. So naturally whenever the hope of summer draws near I find myself thinking back to the summers I spent there.
Those summers were marked by a sense of freedom and carefree whimsy as I ran barefoot through the grass and snuck to the lake late at night. It was place where my soul felt at rest; the place where my soul felt at home. I could not imagine spending my summers anywhere else.
It is hard to explain in words how a place can mean so much to me. Camp is a special place but it is just that, a place. It is just land with poorly grown grass, a wasp infested storage facility, wooden cabins that are falling apart, trails overrun by bugs, and a lake so dirty you can’t see your hand when its six inches under water.
What makes the place so special to me is the memories that are so deeply ingrained in that place that they become inseparable.
The poorly grown grass is where I spent many hours playing rec games, getting tackled in the cone game and tackling others. The wasp infested storage facility is where I spent most of my second summer on staff painting a mural with all the campers. The wooden cabins that are falling apart is where I spent many summers counseling, and where I first learned to be comfortable in my own skin. The bug infested trails is where I drove the gator as fast as it would go as the wind whipped my hair around. The gross lake is where I spent every afternoon being the queen of dunking children, and trying to not get dunked by the hordes of angry children determined to get their revenge. The gross lake is also where I lost my favorite necklace and almost lost a sinking jet ski.
The horrible things become the beautiful things when we take them into our life and make them our own.
The director of the camp, Jerry, remains to this day one of my favorite people. I hope everyone has the chance to have a person like Jerry in your life. He is an intelligent, wise, and hard working man, with a quick wit and a childlike whimsy that made him the perfect person to be director a camp. He taught me a lot about what it meant to live a life with love and without fear. I have a lot of favorite Jerry quotes, but one of his most used one is, “Safety is overrated, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful.” Jerry was also a big believer in the impact that telling stories about our life would have for the people who listened to them.
I have many stories I could share from my summers at camp. Stories about midnight skunk hunts and sinking jet skis. Stories about catfish in toilets and giant rats in our staff lounge. Stories about learning to love and learning to be loved. As I said, my summers there were some of the most memorable and defining moments of my life, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. But for right now I want to share with you the story of the time I learned to sail.
One evening towards the beginning of my first year on staff, Jerry offered to teach us how to sailboat. I, in typical Lori fashion, quickly sprung on the opportunity and was undeterred by the fact that I was the only girl staffer who wanted to learn.
This was not the day that I learned how to sail. I wish it were, but then I wouldn’t have a story to tell.
The day I learned how to sail was terrifying. This is was about our reaction . . .
Just kidding that is actually from an improv skit we did, but I am sure that is about how we all felt.
Not long after we had the sailboat masked, a storm began to roll through. Jerry being Jerry was not going to let this stop him. It had a relentless pursuit of life that I always admired. Needless to say, Jerry ended up teaching us how to sail in 40 plus mph winds. 40 mph winds really doesn’t seem out of the ordinary for South Dakota, but it was the equivalent of driving 75 mph on the interstate the first time your hands were behind the wheel of a car. Like I said, terrifying. But also ridiculously fun.
For those of you who have never sailed before, the steering is introverted it. You have to turn the opposite way that feel natural. If you turned the wrong way into the wind, you could expect to be dumped into the water, and surface to find an upside down sailboat. This of course was not a frightening notion for someone who was just learning how to sail. Not at all. Although sometimes the best times in life are the ones when we are absolutely terrified and clueless.
Once I got the hang of things, I dared to go a little faster. Then I accidentally turned just a tiny bit too far into the wind and was abruptly yanked off of the sailboat by the power of the sails. One minute I was sailing along, and the next I was flying into the water. It was a good thing that Jerry was right there beside me (even if he was laughing), otherwise the sailboat would have surely tipped and I would have been a sitting duck. I could have quit right then. I could have decided that the sailing life was not for me and asked Jerry take me back to the safety of shore. But I didn’t. I have never been one for quitting. Jerry pulled me back into the sailboat and I handed me the ropes. I took the ropes and tried again. I didn’t let the fear of failing again stop me. I just grabbed the ropes and learned to sail.
We are often taught the mindset that failures define us. I don’t agree with that. What defines us is not the times we tried and failure, but rather what we did when we failed. Failure shows us what we are made of, it shows our grit. Do not define yourself by the moments that you splash in the water arms flailing, but rather by the moments when you pull yourself out of the water, grab the ropes, and try again.