I’ve been trying to consider what makes me happy. Happy. That’s a pretty big word; it’s the key to life! To be happy, that is. It’s scary to consider that I’ll be a senior next year, writing my applications to colleges complete with an essay, SAT scores, class ranking, and GPA. I have to make some pretty big decisions that will change my life, and hopefully for the better. That’s why I’ve been considering the word happy. If I’m going to spend 50,000 dollars a year paying for tuition to study at some university, I want to have a purpose, and I want to know that it’s just the first step to being what everyone longs to be. Happy.
Okay, so I’ve said the word “happy” quite a few times now that it’s starting to sound like a puddle of soup in a glorified pothole sitting alone with a couple noodles floating around with it. So essentially, it means nothing. But the feeling behind it does. And as I consider how to be that, and how to become it, I’ve realized a couple of things.
When people ask me when I am the happiest, I have to consider it for a while. It’s not that I’m never happy and just down all the time, but that happiness is something that comes and goes and I don’t know when it comes the most in a concentrated time. How can it? Happiness is spread through the day with laughter, smiles, and blue m&ms. Each one just adds on top of each other until you realize that it’s a beautiful day inside and out (just like you, you dashing person). But I’ve been able to come up with an answer: being at Camp Palawopec.
Of course, I don’t expect anyone to know what that means. I know what it means to me though, and I know what it means to everyone else who goes there. It means, simply, bliss. When you first walk through the shoddy wooden gates, you see a giant green pasture (and yeah it’s littered with horse poop but we can just ignore that part for now). You see a basketball court with faded red lines and two benches for the spectators. And next to that you see an open cabin with a ping pong table with plywood chipping from it, hand-painted checker boards with colored stones, creaking old rocking chairs, and a chained refrigerator with candy and soda (good thing it’s locked because otherwise some kids would be going crazy over it). The one thing you will continue to notice is the people. The smiles on their faces that distract you from the dirt on their faces and the mosquito bites all over their legs. That smile is happiness, because that is the type of healing power great people + the outdoors have.
And what glory the outdoors are. People immediately imagine serene beaches with white sand and sparkly seas, but I think they often overlook the simplest outdoor beauty: the woods. To be more specific, Indiana woods. I’m definitely more than a little bit biased on my view of these trees and the dead leaves and shrubbery that surround it since I grew up here, but I mean, come on. Head over to Brown County and those trees, dead leaves, and shrubbery become more than just that. They become and are the essence of simplicity and life. And Camp is surrounded by these woods, filled with recognizable mitten-hand leaves and orange sticks lying over the ground (aka Sassafras). Pick up a twig and snap it open and the scent is just slightly reminiscent of root beer. Stop worrying because this is all enough.
It’s not a worry to decide whether the moment is Instagram worthy or to figure out how much humor you can manage to fit into the 140 characters allowed on twitter. It’s not even a worry what people think about your current appearance, because chances are they look worse than you do. It is a worry when you have to decide at flagpole whether to go to the ultimate rope swing or to do the high ropes course, but really it doesn’t matter because you can just the other later anyway.
When I’m at camp, I don’t hear bustling people in the background talking on their phones about the market crash or annoying tweens consulting Kimye’s baby name. I hear the soft strums of guitar coming from all sides around me, and sweet voices singing along and people tapping their feet. In that moment, I know that all I need is that sound, the feeling of the sun toasting my skin, and smell of an Indiana forest. I can close my eyes and the world is simply perfect. It’s bliss. It’s happy.