The last time I went to camp it was 1978. I was 11 years old and I wrote an essay and earned a scholarship for the tuition. I planned my outfits carefully, one for each of the seven days. I also had to plan my hair styles for each outfit, taking into consideration the camp activities and the southern Iowa humidity. There's proof of one of these carefully planned outfits I landed on: a kelly green gingham tube top, with straps (my mother insisted), navy blue shorts, some awesome white, knee high tube socks with navy blue stripes to match my shorts, and white tennis shoes. I wore my hair in a ponytail, and topped it off with a green yarn ribbon to match my top.
I was a pretty reserved kid, so I was nervous about going. But also so determined to go. I was full of hope about camp, but hope for what? I couldn't tell you.
Now I'm 54 years old, and I am heading to camp once again. I wrote a short essay this time, too, and again received a scholarship. I haven't thought twice about my hair, but I have put a great deal of time into my outfits, better known as gear this time around.
I am going to running camp.
I've been so excited about this camp until last week when the reality set in: the travel, the Ubers, the new city, the new people, the running...what was I thinking?! The excitement turned to panic, the panic subsided, and now I'm back to excitement. Well, apprehensive excitement.
But something else also happened in the last week. I have been putting myself, without fail, in front of my computer to write. I already do write everyday. I work on blog posts like this. I work on ideas for articles. And I write what I call snippets, or chunks of memories, among other things. It's very much like work--work that I like a lot, but work in the sense that I have an agenda.
But I can feel I have so much more than that in me to say, and it's kind of clogged up. Every writer that I've come across in books and interviews all say the same thing in response to this: you just have to sit down at your keyboard, every day, preferrably at the same time and make yourself available to the story. You don't have to have an outline, or even an inkling as to what will happen or what you want to say. You don't have to know how it's going to turn out, or even how it's going to start. You just have to show up and prove to yourself or the muses or creative spirit that you want it, you are available, and you mean business. So, I did that. I sat down at my computer without an agenda and asked what I should write about, and it just started to flow. All I did was put myself in the place for things to happen, and the story is pouring out.
And then it occurred to me this morning: that's all running camp requires, too. Just show up and make yourself available to the experience. I don't have to know what's going to happen; I don't have to know what to say. And I don't have to know how it's going to turn out. Or even how it's going to start. I just have to put on my running shoes and show up, and things will start to flow.
Come to think of it, this whole experience that led me to where I am today started with me just showing up to the gym, broken open and asking what should I do? Maybe all movement starts there. They say life begins at the end of your comfort zone; well maybe the end of our comfort zone is the place where we are broken open and asking questions...
I guess I'm feeling as vulnerable and excited and as nervous as I did on the eve of camp in 1978. Not much really changes in 45 years: I hope they like me. I hope I like them. I hope the food isn't weird. And I hope the bugs aren't scary. I hope there is someone to walk back to the cabin (air bnb!) with when it's dark. And this time around: I hope my legs hold up. I hope I bring the right gear. And I hope I'm not too far behind. And if I am, I hope I remember that you miss 100% of the shots you don't take, but if you show up, something is bound to flow.