You may have heard me say this before, but in many ways the Army reminds me of Summer camp. If you know me you know I grew up loving Summer camp…Camp Matollionequay. For eight Summers of my youth this camp shaped how I would grow. I learned a lot about self confidence, overcoming fears, getting along with others, spirituality, and embracing things I thought I wouldn’t like. There were many memorable people, I call them councilors, that donated immense time and effort into making this a reality for me and many children like me. As an adult, it becomes increasingly harder to continue to grow as a person, step outside boxes, fall, pick yourself back up, and laugh on to the next thing. I think grown-ups tend to feel less supported by others. They feel like the only person they can depend on and trust is themselves; and they are tired of being burned. You get set in your ways; and it works (well enough) so you stay there. To me, it seems like we start to care too much about too many things. This makes us feel busier, or more challenged than we really are, and so we shut down in order to simplify.
Army life, and it’s constant challenges, seem to take me back to my youth. I have grown more in the past three years that I have in the past 13. With each step I take toward embracing my community and lifestyle, the more I feel rewarded for it.
An Army community doesn’t stay the same for long. People are constantly coming and going. There is a lot I have learned about good bye’s and hello’s, their ups and their downs, since I have had to practice them more.
A good bye is, for sure, the worst. While there is plenty of time to build up a strong bond with someone, there is never enough time spent benefitting from the relationship. We drop into one another’s lives, make an impact, and then start packing. When a fellow friend, volunteer, leader, support system, enthusiast, mother leaves the community it is hard to imagine anyone else coming along that will be as fabulous. But someone always does; another person always comes and eventually fills the void in our hearts.
It’s exactly like when I was eleven… then thirteen…then sixteen…and nineteen. I always cried at the end of the camp session. You spend all of your time with someone for two-whole-weeks, and then you have to part ways. You loved, so much, how things were going yesterday that it’s impossible to imagine tomorrow having any potential. Eventually though, you live to see tomorrow, you stay in contact with your best friends even though you live far away, you carry with you forever the lessons you learned together, and next Summer the cycle will begin again.
There are a lot of good bye’s going on, in my general vicinity, right now. I’ve been to a few dinners, parties, and outings in the name of Señor Auf Wiedersehen. It’s wonderful to hear people talk, and make speeches, in homage to all that an individual has done for their community. It’s amusing to hear people talk about where they’re going next and anticipate how their lives are going to be so different. Those that are staying cast predictions on how empty, disorganized, or lifeless things will be for a while.
But secretly I think we are all looking forward to it. New members of our community will bring with them fresh air into our daily routines. We will have to work harder, stepping out of our boxes, maybe donating a bit more time and emotion, into helping them settle. We remember when someone did it for us. We will be forced to once again let our guards down as we work on new relationships…and the cycle begins again.
For me personally, I feel like I am in the third round of this cycle. I will try to not repeat any past mistakes. The most important things to remember are to keep an open heart and an open mind. I love meeting new people; continuing to do that’s the easy part. More challenging is to work hard to build a community that people can depend on and learn from. Then, once you’ve built it you can celebrate it. I feel fortunate for this rewarding aspect of being human. I just hope that after it’s built I’ve got time to enjoy it…and I’m not on my way out by that time.