• FierceBeckaBaka (LOL like I'd tell you my real name!)
    Journey Assignment, Draft 2
    Due: 9/30/08

    Beginning my Life at Summer’s End '06

    I did not even really want to go. I had heard it was some sort of hippie, Unitarian Universalist, anarchist, punk, Straight Edge convention, the whole thing was almost like a week long party, and way too good to be true. It sounded like a scam, or a cult. But my two best friends, Hannah and Sammy, were going, it was the last week of the summer, and since I had nothing better to do, I went. Since none of us could drive, Hannah convinced her father to take us. We were not looking forward to being stuck in a car for at least five hours with the crazy old man, but we brought books, music, and some other things to do, and dealt with it.

    When we got to the site, all I could see was an enormous old Maple tree with a tire swing, a few buildings, a tether ball poll, and the mountains in the background. It was at some kid’s camp, Camp Glenn Brook, in New Hampshire. About twenty college age people were sitting under or around the Maple. I decided to get it over with, and, with a swoosh of my unnaturally black, emo cut hair, I walked over and introduced myself to them. They were a rather colorful mix of individuals; mostly musicians and artists, with a few chefs, and chef specialties, a carpenter, and several students who did not know what they were yet, from all over the New England area, except for one man, Sebastian, who was living in Washington State, he was a keyboardist for a band there. A few others stood out. Martha was one; she was an amazing chef/cook, co-owned a bed and breakfast in New Hampshire, and had spent many years in the sex industry. Serena was another, originally from somewhere in the former Soviet Union, she was a carpenter/chef and super cool, and loved to cook with strong and strange spices. The official age range for the convention was fourteen to twenty-five, but I was the youngest one there, at sixteen. Mostly everyone was over eighteen.

    That night was the first big group meeting, they called it Worship; I said it sounded super cheesy, and that this really was a cult, but again, I was peer pressured into going. It was like a mix of a meditation, getting to know each other, introduction to Summer’s End, and party. We also painted a piece of canvas in the dark for some odd reason. I watched and listened in the corner, not offering much up, just observing that first night. Each night there was a different Worship, some better than others, but a couple stick out to me. There was this difficult one where we had to answer increasingly difficult questions on different topics, yes or no style, in front of everyone. The moderator would ask a question such as, do you believe in ghosts, and if the answer was yes we would move to one side of the room and if it was no, the other side. But the questions were not easy. Many were about sex, death, drugs and family issues. It was a painful Worship. Sammy had to leave in the middle of it, so did several other people. There was another, it was later than usual at night, when we were just asked to remember one perfect moment in our lives, and voice them if we felt like it. The best part of that was that I realized that I had two perfect moments, and one of them had happened at Summer’s End. I was sitting in the common room, reading a Sandman anthology, when Sebastian walked in and just started playing on the old piano. He kept repeating himself, and trying out new things, total improvisation, but it was beautiful. It sounds weird, but it felt like he was not playing at all, and it was by far a perfect moment. The second to last Worship they had was probably my favorite one. We would walk through a double line of people blindfolded, and they would do or say something nice to us as we passed them by. I got and gave lots of hugs and wishes to return the next year.

    At first, the food was a problem. I am a picky eater, but Martha is such a phenomenal cook and person that she was willing to take requests. And the kitchen was always open, except for a few hours before the meal, when Martha and Serena were cooking. I remember the first few days, they cooked vegetarian meals, and I picked at my food and was grumpy, and then suddenly, in the middle of the week, for breakfast there was sausage and eggs and fresh muffins, and lunch was bacon sandwiches, and dinner was amazing meatloaf burgers which I am still trying to replicate. That day, we realized that we were all being grumpy the day before, and it must have been from the lack of meat proteins, because after breakfast, everyone was super happy, and the next day as well.

    I guess before Summer's End, I was a stuck up, emo, self centered, shallow little mall rat of a kid. I was colorless, one dimension, a dot on a piece of paper. I was nice only to my friends, or friends of my friends, or people who looked pretty. But people who did not fit into my ideal group I ignored and or insulted. But Summer’s End changed me. Those people were cool, but they were people who I would have never hung out with before then. I honestly do not know why, but after Summer's End, I started being much more friendly and trusting. I started talking to everyone, even those who did not want me to talk to them. I even looked different when I got home. The cheap black dye had been sun bleached out, so my hair was almost back to my natural color, and I was smiling. The mostly vegetarian diet had made me lose weight, and it showed. I had a tan too, which was odd. I started wearing colors again, and wearing something other than just jeans and a tee shirt, even though I am now mostly back into my old dressing habits, with a few exceptions. I started having fun with life, not just letting it happen. I went to concerts, and a few Facebook events, instead of complaining about how mediocre my life was. I got into real music, with real meanings behind the words, instead of mindless poser pop/rock. I started cooking, remembering Martha's fabulous concoctions that week. And the best part about that is most of my experiments have worked out pretty well. Before Summer's End, I was always hiding inside my shell , not willing to break out even a little bit, but now, most of my life is about finding and pushing my own limits, be them physical, like hiking, mental, such as doing several weeks worth of math assignments in one day, or emotional, like trusting someone new.

    The whole thing about Summer's End is that it was a feel good place, and there was no room for negativity, and so all of my negative thoughts and feelings were just not welcome there. A week of positive being can truly change a person. Maybe that is the reason why I did not return last year. At that point, I did not need a booster shot of positive in the arm, but this year, if I am able to, I will go again. I will be able to open my own little Matroyshka doll, and see what wonderful, beautiful surprise is inside myself this time. I will drive myself, and hopefully as many of my friends as I can fit in my tiny car. We will blast a mix of Japanese pop music, unsigned punk bands, video game theme songs, and The Beatles through my speakers while having deep conversations that we most likely will not remember. We will all be happily and loudly greeted with hugs and smiles from our friends under the Maple tree. Maybe, I will be able to convince who ever is cooking to let me cook a meal or two. I will compete in a tether ball tournament, lose horribly, and then watch the video on YouTube when I get home. I will lead discussions, dance around like a crazy person, and terrify, but intrigue the new kids. I will pull an ingenious prank on the whole convention. I will lose the game. I will wear colorful, blowy skirts, and shirts that say something offensive, sparkle, or both. I will burst into random songs during meals. I will do all, none, or just a few of these things, but whatever I do, I promise that I will be myself the whole time. Summer's End is a place to be your whole and true self, whoever you are, and that is something that every human needs at least once in their lifetime.