Parents and Alumni,
Leave it to Andrew Herman to draw parallels between the Cubs saying goodbye to their World Series heroes and all of our eventual goodbyes to Kawaga. Fortunately, most of our campers have many summers yet to come during their Kawaga careers. But, as we know all too well, the summers fly by and, as Andrew compels us, to enjoy these special days to their fullest now, because they are so fleeting.
Enjoy the read and the insights.
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Andrew Herman. This is my 10th year on the Shores and 3rd on staff. I am from Chicago, and for the last 15ish years, I’ve been taking the short Red Line train ride to Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs play on a regular basis. And to my displeasure, just a handful of days ago, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javier Baez were all traded from the Cubs, and a key piece of my childhood was stripped from me. I know this may seem dramatic to some of you, but it’s true. Just 38 days ago, the Cubs were nine games over .500, had just no-hit the Dodgers, and were well on their way to making the playoffs again. And just over a month later, three of the guys I grew up admiring as Chicago sports heroes were gone. Just like that.
And it made me think of something Andy Bernard said in the series finale of “T\the Office”: “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” This led me to think about Camp, and the 10 years I’ve spent here. Because I know, in 50 years, when I think of the “good old days,” all signs will point to my time at Kawaga. Because that’s what Kawaga is. It is an experience unlike any other.
You have fun that you can’t have anywhere else. You make friends that you can’t make anywhere else. You make mistakes that you can’t make anywhere else, which leads to growth that you can’t go through anywhere else. You feel a sense of achievement that you can’t feel anywhere else when you set goals that you can’t set anywhere else. This place puts you through this journey, which can feel daunting or exciting, frustrating or satisfying, and at the end of the day, it is of the utmost importance to cherish every second of.
It has become clear to me that my time at Kawaga has been the “good old days,” in part due to many experiences I will never forget.
Like the times I’ve felt welcomed: On my first day of Rookie Camp in 2011, Sam Pacala being the first to greet me; Eli Schrayer being the first to show genuine interest in me; and Harrison Menaker being the first to go free swimming with me.
The times I’ve felt like I belonged: Alex Cohen randomly nicknaming me “Sauce,” and his brother Zach spread it like a wildfire until two years later when admin started addressing me as “Sauce” on a regular basis.
The times someone gave me the push I needed: Sam Karmin pushing me as an unathletic 14-year-old to complete the triathlon, and even though I finished dead last, I had never been more proud of myself for following through.
The times I’ve reflected: Watching the sunrise on the high dive on my final morning as a camper with Jonathan Levitan talking about our camping careers.
The times I’ve worked hard for something I care about: staying up way too late to write the Pineneedle with Jonathan until we physically couldn’t anymore.
The times that random and spontaneous activities have turned into some of the most fun ones: Voccer in the rain; Home Depot Ball; or being taken to run routes on D1 with Corey and Jared at 2am.
And many more times that have just made me happy to be here: watching campers sprint to the Mess Hall for Club signups. Coaching a League team with my long-time friend Benny Taxman. Hearing the P.A. call “all hounds and hares back to the Big Pine.” Listening to the roar of the final Sachem oath of the second session. Beating Menominee. Watching sunsets off Miracle Dock while lake-showering with my cabin. Enjoying the long evening Open As before powwows. Jumping up and down backstage to Brandeis’ Specky song last session, because I knew, win or lose, I had the best four days I’ve had at camp coaching with Jacob Klein, someone I’d hardly spoken to at the beginning of last summer.
If I had to explain these moments to someone who has never been here, they would struggle to understand what makes them so special. But I’m sure most of you understand the feeling that these moments have brought me, because I know most of you can list off many of your own special moments, and wouldn’t give them up for anything.
I am just now starting to realize that all of these moments, and the ones I had nini years ago, and the ones I’ll have next week, are the good old days.
But the thing about the good old days is that they don’t last forever. Part of what makes this place so amazing is that we’re only here for two months a year, and part of what makes this place the “good old days” is that at some point, everyone will — at some time — leave their camping days behind.
“Our years together by the bay where forest joins the tide, and then by manhood called away we’re scattered far and wide.”
The scariest part about Kawaga is that ingrained within it is the idea that at some point, manhood will call us away, and you and your friends will go working nine-to-five internships, leaving you with only the memories you had here and the persistent thought of how much you miss it. And that gives us all the more reason to embrace Camp to the fullest extent. All the clichés we use here: don’t sweat the small stuff; make the most of your time here; do what you can’t do at home; days go slow but weeks go fast; you name it. They’re all for a reason. It’s not just because we want you to get everything done that you came here to do this summer. It’s because we know from our own experience that time flies faster than you could even begin to imagine, and we wish someone would have let us know more directly.
So whether you’re a Chip, or a CIT, or a third-year counselor, or a full-grown adult, please realize that as long as you’re here, you’re experiencing the good old days, and there is no excuse not to savour every second of them, whether you’re happy or sad, working your hardest or hanging out with your friends.
Make sure to take a minute to step back and realize just how great every waking moment at this place is. Because just like Chicago’s beloved World Series winning trio, it could be gone in the blink of an eye, and you’ll be looking back wishing you could have just a little more time.