Today was supposed to be my second day of work as an Associate Consultant at Bain. My second morning of waking up to “real-world adult life.” My second time walking through my company’s office doors in Dallas, wondering how in the world I was grown-up enough to be working on multi-million dollar contracts with Fortune 500 giants, NASDAQ kings, and unicorn start-ups. My second evening stumbling back into my first-ever apartment after a 12-hour work day, dog-tired, yet teeming with excitement and ambition.
Instead, here I sit, not at my kitchen counter with a takeout container of chicken fried rice, but with a bottle of cold brew under the shade at the Vista Camps boys’ waterfront. Mind you, I am still dog-tired and teeming with excitement and ambition. I am also overwhelmingly grateful and humbled, empowered and content. Like everyone else, I felt like my world was crashing down back in mid-March. I faced loss after loss: a spring break trip to Cancun with my best friends, a mother-daughter bonding weekend in Montreal, the long-awaited “senior spring” memories I would make, a day (and loooong night) of shenanigans celebrating my 21st birthday in Boston, a week of endless “school’s out forever” festivities with all my classmates. Graduation. Walking across the stage in my cap and gown to receive a degree in Neuroscience from Harvard. Finding my parents in the crowd and thanking them for the countless sacrifices they made so that I could have the life that I desired.
It’s funny how despite all those losses, I still have the life that I desire. When I got an email from Bain at the beginning of June detailing yet another delay in my job’s start-date, I felt hopeless. I wondered how I could find meaning in my life when I had just received news that it was to be put on hold for five months. I was angry, sad, defeated, frustrated, confused, and disappointed. I was stuck. As a high-achieving, goal-driven, Type A planner, I questioned how my life could have become so directionless in such a short amount of time.
Two days later, Liz sent me a message that made it seem like this was the path my life was always meant to take. In short, it mentioned the last-minute opportunity to be a summer camp counselor with her at Sierra Vista. Now, this was actually the second time that she had mentioned Vista Camps to our swimming and diving team. The first had been nearly six months prior, when she volunteered to share a personal story during our weekly post-Saturday practice “Speaker Series.” In that speech, Liz mentioned her struggle to feel loved and accepted in her early teenage years. She discussed the way that her “friends” shut her out of their circle, criticizing her energetic, vivacious personality and labeling her as an attention-seeker. Then she spoke of a place that gave her love and compassion. A place that allowed her the freedom to be herself and explore her full potential, a place that celebrated her independence and positive spirit.
All I can say is, thank God I found my way to that place. In one of my darkest times, Vista Camps has given my life purpose. Like Liz, I have found that love, kindness, acceptance, positivity, encouragement, and strength lie at its core. Instead of apartment hunting, business prepping, and Excel cramming, I spent the summer roasting s’mores, slip ‘n sliding, and shaving cream fighting. I learned to make puppy chow, faced my fears on the Leap of Faith, and danced my heart out during flash mob. I have laughed until I couldn’t breathe at Ava A’s silly jokes, cheered until I couldn’t speak as a Chickasaw sponsor during Superthon, and belayed until my hands blistered and bled as a member of the ropes team. I went on sunrise runs and sunset hikes, stargazing missions and starlit kayak rides. I flipped and flopped my way off the butt buster, cartwheeled through chumble class, and log-rolled down the beach. I zipped through the air on our climbing course, paddled to rapids and waterfalls, and belted the words to “Sunshine Mountain” in the dining hall.
I learned how to live without fear of judgement or criticism. I embraced my inner kid, let my silly side show, and was rewarded with laughter and love. I found that I became a better person, friend, and mentor when I let my guard down. I discovered that the perfection of life lies in recognizing and celebrating its imperfections. I remembered how it felt to be spontaneous and do things simply because they sounded like fun. Above all, I realized that life has a funny way of working itself out, if only you take the time to step out of your comfort zone and exist in the moment.