Jana: How’s everyone’s summer going? Good, yeah? Does everyone love summer?
That’s so great. Unfortunately, I really hate summer. Summer has always scared me because A) I’m anxious all the time, so the anxiety doubles when there’s no structure in my life and B) I’m not an adventurous, fun person, which becomes much more obvious to those around me during the summer. Any other time of year, it’s fine to suggest activities like going to the movies, reading next to each other at coffee shops, or staying inside to eat. But in the summer, people want to be outside! Every person in the facebook universe has spent the weekend at the beach! Everyone is tan and happy, while I am pale, scared, and sad. It’s a nightmare.
This is true now, but it was also true in my childhood. As a child, summer signified the coming of thunderstorms (definitely a sign from god that something terrible is about to happen, and yes I know most people find them cool and exciting), the end of sitting in class and feeling useful and interesting, and, of course, CAMPS. Ohhhh day camps. Ohhh you miserable organizations reeking of suntan lotion, spilled juice, and tears. Ohh god meeting new people. No no no no no. Please don’t make me go.
But, I did have to go. And sometimes I went to theater camps, which was ok. But one summer, for some reason that I CANNOT FATHOM, my parents signed me up for something called “Adventure Camp,” hosted by our town’s rec department. Why I agreed to this in the first place I really and truly cannot say. Why I did not start screaming at the mention of “adventure” makes absolutely no sense to me now. But, somehow, I was enrolled, and I attended. And it was hell.
I went with my best friend at the time, a similarly non-adventurous and awkward kid. Obviously, we were outcasts from the start. My main memory of this is arriving late, having almost forgotten my lunch or something, and desperately running across hot pavement in order to stand in line while attendance was called, all the while terrified that I’d forget my name or forget how to say “here” or that I’d just drop dead from all the pressure. Once I survived that, it was on to trust falls, in order to build up the group dynamic. This was, obviously, terrible. Nothing is worse than trust falls with a bunch of kids who definitely think you are very weird.
The two-week ordeal consisted of more trust falls, various physical drills, and then a full-on ropes course, including a zip line. I hated and feared every minute of it. But there was one redeeming factor: a sweet, cute, male counselor who took pity on me and joked around with me, making me feel like less of a total loser. One day, during lunch, this awesome counselor was getting everyone all riled up over some mind-game riddle thing he’d told us. It was one of those things where he was like, “I’m going on a trip, and I’m gonna bring a tree but not a forest,” and everyone had to be like, “well can you bring a monkey?” and he’d be like, “not a monkey but I will bring a carp,” and everyone was like “WHATTTT!” and he was like, figure it out. So, I could not figure it out, but I was having fun participating, which was rare. I got really into badgering him to tell me the secret answer, and he finally did on the condition that I promised not to tell anyone else. WE WERE BUDDIES. It was great.
After lunch, I told my one and only friend the secret riddle solution. And then, she must have told someone else! I don’t know what happened! All I know is that my buddy friend counselor cornered me later and was like, jokingly, “I thought I could trust you, kid!” And I thought: Oh My God, my life is over. I was mortified, and tried desperately to explain that I had really, really, really meant to keep the secret. In my desperation I believe that I almost cried, or potentially that I did actually cry.
Looking back, I can see that this counselor obviously did not give a fuck about this situation. But at the time, it felt very monumentally disappointing and upsetting and embarrassing.
Somehow, the weeks continued. I zip-lined and ropes-coursed and hated it, went to sleep in fear, and then woke up and did it again, until the damn camp was over. I don’t remember how I left things with counselor friend buddy, but I can assume that our relationship was very compromised by my severe overreaction to the weird game thing.
So there you have it. I do not like summer, or adventure, and I cry at inappropriate times. If anyone wants to do something fun, it would be best not to call.
Catherine: Poor, poor Jana. Jana, who hates the beach, but who cannot deny that she actually has fun while she is there as long as she is huddled beneath an umbrella with a beer and a book, and an equally pale me by her side.
Summer has been hard for you for awhile, it seems? Tragic. I can see that this particular camp played perfectly to your weaknesses and probably caused damage that we continue to see the effects of. I wish I could go back in time to your scared Janaself and tell you to CHILL OUT, but I imagine your Janaself would just blink in confusion and try to give me a bobby pin.