441. A number that could represent almost anything in the world. For me, this number is the amount of days I’ve spent at Lake Bryn Mawr, my sleep away camp, or as I usually refer to it as, “my second home.” Bryn Mawr is the most unique place i’ve been in my life; I always feel as though I’m a part of something special when I’m at camp. Bryn Mawr is so completely different compared to other camps because of its core values that campers are taught: the Angel Code. The Angel Code is Bryn Mawr’s philosophy, which is built on four basic values: loyalty, beauty, merit, and comradeship. These four values may seem silly when looked at separately, but when put together they are so much more. The Angel Code to me is the definition of what Bryn Mawr is, and I have definitely seen every girl at camp embody these ideals at some point throughout their experiences.
Growing up as a girl in the 21st century has had its share of struggles, but I can definitely say that going to an all girls sleep away camp, specifically Bryn Mawr, has made such an impact. When I first began camp at eight years old, I was merely a child – I did not have control over my own decisions, nor did I understand why I was being sent to camp, rather than the most obvious reason being to have fun. I looked up to my counselors; they were the people who dressed, played, taught, and did everything with, or for me. As a child, I did not have a voice, and looking back, I was stepped on by girls who did; girls who used their voices for the wrong reasons. After the summer ended, my parents told me that they had signed me up for the following one. I couldn’t understand or realize it at the time, but my parents knew that I needed camp; I needed a place that would transform me into a young woman with a powerful voice, one who could make decisions for herself.
The summers following seemed like a blur. Camp went on as usual, the poplar trees swayed and the lake remained serene, but I wasn’t taking advantage of the summers. Then on the first night of one summer, I was laying down outside, admiring the stars, and a tear began to stream down my face. Someone came over to comfort me and asked what was wrong. I looked at her, confused, and said almost to myself, “Could it be possible, is this my last summer as a camper?” A million memories flashed through my mind, and so I just laid down and went back to my stargazing. I tried as hard as I could to block out reality, but it was at that point that I began to realize that although camp would always remain the same, I would not. I was not eight years old anymore, I was fifteen and in the blink of an eye, my time as a camper would be coming to an end. It hit me how lucky I was to be able to take advantage of this beautiful place I was lucky enough to consider my “home.”
My eyes instantly widened after that, and I started helping younger girls: girls who were homesick, girls who were self-conscious, any problem a girl had I could help with, knowing I had been in their shoes once. “You should be a counselor,” I turned around to see a staff member talking to me as I aided a crying girl. “Really?” I had responded in an astonished tone. Up until that point, I had always thought of camp as a road that came to an end. It was then that I realized that just because the path ended for me as a camper, didn’t mean I couldn’t continue to as a counselor. So that’s what I did, I created my own path; one with more dips in the road, a few more detours, decisions to be made, and things to be held responsible for. I was now the one who came home and enthusiastically applied to be a counselor, rather than my parents signing me up. I now used my voice to advocate for myself and vothers, and I was now the one dressing, and playing, and teaching my campers. I slowly began to realize that as much as I thought I needed Bryn Mawr in my life, I knew that they needed me equally, if not more. And now whenever I look at my campers it’s so incredibly hard, for I wish I could be in their shoes – but I can’t, and I wouldn’t ever go back, because I wouldn’t want any second of my experience at Bryn Mawr Camp to be different.
49. The number of days I have left at Bryn Mawr, for I know that after this tenth summer I have to leave my second home, my safe haven, and go into the real world to start a new journey.