One month and several friendships earlier, I sat in the same bus, but going the opposite way. Then, the Chicago skyline was trailing behind me, and I looked back at it with uncertainty. A whole month away from home and I was leaving my dog, my friends, and my family. Which back then, was all that really mattered. I sat alone, in my head trying to figure out where I was after we had long past the city’s tall buildings and Gary, Indiana’s oppressive pollution. It was not the time, place, or age for smartphones. My camp was unplugged, and I didn’t even have a phone yet. My internal compass was skewed and my only direction came from an older camp counselor shouting out the changing arrival times.
Finally, the large coach bus turned on to a secluded, barley in tact road, and then on to a dirt road, trees crowding the opening where the bus drove through. It was my first year at camp, and I didn’t know a soul, however, these girls were returning for their second year and they all were in a familiar environment. My butterfly ridden stomach and clammy hands evoked the opposite comfort. My bus was late, and all the girls had already loaded their belongings and bedding on to their bunks, all partnered up and talking about who was on top and who was on bottom. The only bed left was a small single bed, shoved in the corner by the screen door. They discussed their counselors from last year, the trips they had taken last year at camp, their favorite activities. They sang camp songs I didn’t know the words to, and followed camp etiquette I was unaware of. I felt so out of place, we were all at camp, but they were actually experiencing it and I was only half there. Sitting on the outside of the circle, I watched as an onlooker.
Now sitting on the bus back home, I thought of how the next day, the friendship of a lifetime had begun with two girls from Ohio. How only 24 hours later, through little dashes of extrovertive actions and learning some camp songs, I was no longer an outsider.