I had a backpack on and watched from afar as our hiking group sang “The Circle of Life,” and the sun clambered over the Santa Cruz Mountains. The fresh scent of the redwood forest hinted my location. It was 6 a.m. and I had to rely on both my sense of smell and new friends to avoid falling into a ravine. I was at Camp Everytown, hiking, while the typical student would be at home, dozing quietly.
Before Camp Everytown began, it’d be hard to pry any sort of emotion from me, as I’m rather stoic.
A highly-opinionated person, I’d purposely withdraw my thoughts into my shell, excusing myself from debates that might expel emotion. I had become a reserved individual filled with opinions about everyone else.
When asked about myself, however, I was the young man who had denied myself the chance for self-reflection. I always saw myself in terms of only positive absolutes; whenever it came to my attention that other students were struggling, may need help or may not be as fortunate as myself, my pattern would be to shut them out. I would don my rose-tinted glasses.
I did this in a systematic fashion, similar to how those that suffer from more severe problems shut themselves out from the outside world. I had hidden away the problems I observed by focusing on my own beauty—a selfish approach.
I’d have never realized this had I not gone to Everytown.
I shed a layer of my narcissism over a bowl of pasta in the woods. The pasta was just typical bland noodles and the woods were just a standard grove of redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
It was the atmosphere, the openness, the degree of trust and the people at the camp.
I began to accept the truth, which in turn helped me take off my rose-tinted glasses. I was glad that I listened to my own curiostiy and didn’t just brush off the idea as being “silly on paper.”
Everytown emphasizes that you’re never alone; as it turns out, many people share my same mindset.
I realized that in the past I had become the frog on the bottom of the well whose view of the world was obscured by the rims of his own habitat. I grew to fear the outside world; it represented foreignness. I was detached, hiding from society around me.
Everytown makes it impossible to hide in your own well. Its open environment promotes new friendships and the exchange of ideas. It’s a different type of camp. It’d be a severe understatement to say going to Everytown is like going to a summer camp.
People go to Everytown to experience a change in perception. I didn’t just go to Everytown because of sheer curiosity; truth be told, I unknowingly craved an opportunity to discuss my pent-up emotions. Everyone who came to Everytown came to let go some of their burden, to see how others might have overcome similar hurdles and to open their eyes to the lives of others around them. Everyone let down their guard, broke down their emotional walls and sought to actively participate in the events. These people, who came for a different environment, were comfortable with breaking down their shells. They were willing to share the thoughts and emotions that they hadn’t ever discussed before. They found themselves around other people who had come to camp for the same reason.
As a camp that focuses on personal and truthful reflection of oneself and on the underlying issues of our society, it works on helping society by choosing to open up raw wounds like racism, sexism and discrimination. The camp covers topics that would normally be skirted over by society. It might sound cliché but the camp uses love and hope to close up most of the wounds.
“Societies these days don’t have an outlet for these sort of problems,” camp director Richard Valenzuela said. “Our schools and our world skips over these problems, applying liberal amounts of medicine to these deeply embedded problems.”
I learned from Everytown how narcissism clouds my judgement and keeps me from much of the campus. True friendship shouldn’t be premised on race, gender or perceived intelligence.
There’s hardly ever an opportunity to learn these things on campus. No matter where you’re from, or who you are, I suggest you traverse into those woods and try it out; even the most cynical of you will be enlightened. Even if pasta is not your thing, there’s something for everyone at Everytown.