When My Time Comes by Dawes is the kind of song that hits you in the gut, awakens all those emotions that previously sat on the back of your tongue. It’s the kind of song that will have you ugly crying on your small twin sized bed inside an empty cabin where the eclectic belongings of thirteen year old girls are sprawled across the ever dusty floor.
I keep telling myself that the brightness of the future outshines broken fragments of the present – that the way my heart aches over nostalgia will somehow stop once I reach that next place. I think that’s a fairly naive belief. I’m a big day dreamer; I can paint the past in the most vivid of colors; my memory is sharper than my wits; my past will always be imprinted somewhere in this busy mind of mine.
Eleven years seems like a really long time, over half my life in fact (some bad math would estimate about 58% of it). I grew up going to this wonderful summer camp that sat at the top of a mountain in Roaring Gap, North Carolina. It’s tucked somewhere between Elkin and Sparta, but feels like a completely different world of its own. At some point, I found myself as a last-year-camper, a fifteen year old girl who was naive as all get out, but somehow thought she was so mature. She was an anxious extrovert who played original songs on the floor of her cabin hoping the other girls wouldn’t think she was a show-off or just plain annoying. And boy oh boy did she cry on her last night – it was her first goodbye there.
Then one day that girl woke up as a sixteen year-old rushing around a dining hall picking up various bowls of leftover food and pitchers filled with the absolute worst of concoctions. The words “I’m here to get a job, not to make friends” were very much a cover up to hide the fact that she felt pretty lonely in this new environment, but would do absolutely anything for the bright eyes that looked at her like she was the world. This girl who had absolutely nothing in her life figured out couldn’t understand why anyone would look up to her.
But then she was seventeen, somehow more naive than before. Falling in love while her hands dunked into a second sink scrubbing at bowls and utensils, listening to a funky soundtrack provided by the first guy friends she’d ever had. She finally felt a part of something, really truly a part of something, for the first time in her life. She felt wanted, valued, and loved. The transition to being a counselor for real this time felt natural; even as a camper she’d acted like a counselor, it felt right. And she’d sit and play more of her heart songs, but this time they’d all sing along. Every week she cried when she had to say goodbye to the girls she’d given her heart too, all the while worrying about them when they got home. But she was a part of something, she was loved, nothing could go wrong. The end of the summer brought her second round of goodbyes.
And eighteen shouldn’t have felt any different, at least that’s what she desperately wanted to believe. But college was around the corner, and she knew everything would change, so naturally she clung – and clung – and clung – until her grip was tighter than the coil in her chest and everything she held onto started to slip. It was a whole new set of goodbyes, and it ripped her to shreds. The switch from a twin to a twin XL bed was one of the hardest things she’d ever had to do. The extra few inches felt lonely, her little corner of a dorm room suddenly empty with the lack of photos.
Nineteen was the hardest. What an awkward age, too old to really be a teenager, but too young to really be an adult. And wow did it hurt, walking on gravel that stung when it crunched, laying on concrete holding back every scream and thought, blocking off every single emotion that would make her seem weak. She tried so hard to be strong, keep the guard up, don’t let anyone see that you’re hurting. But the girls loved her, and loved her, and loved her until she remembered her purpose. She remembered the privilege of loving and being loved. She fell in love in a different way, as fourteen year olds left their mark of glitter and beaded bracelets permanently on her heart (but mostly the floor).
And here I am, sitting, knowing that this is the final goodbye. Quite possibly the hardest one yet, but I think we all know when it’s time to leave. There are times where life has given you all it can from a place, every lesson it could bring has been brought. It’s just the stump of the giving tree now, where a glorious tree once sat. I always thought that everyone misunderstood that story; how could it be healthy for someone to give everything they’ve got until nothing was left? Pretty ironic for me to say that, I have a horrible habit of giving my all until I’m drained. I think that’s how I’m feeling right now. Eleven years of my everything has amounted to this final goodbye. Yesterday, I felt as if it had all been for nothing. After all, who would remember me? Who would see all the love I poured into this place?
But how could it possibly be for nothing?
There are thirteen guitars, eight ukuleles, and a whole lot of lost picks that have my fingerprints on them forever. Thirteen guitars that I restrung by hand for two summers. A thousand some lanyards that I started so others could create something beautiful. My name will stay on that first layer of wood, even if others decide that painting over it is a beneficial use of their time. I remember all 168 girls who have sat on the floors of my cabins. The 168 girls who watched me grow up just as I watched them. And every single smile along the way will still bring me joy.
Goodbyes are hard, but I know my mark is here, hidden on hiking trails, painted on walls, signed on the back of ukuleles. When My Time Comes, remember me.
Cheerio camp 🙂