I never thought I’d be inspired by a quote from a military guy. I’m the least military that you can be. Order me to do something and I’ll do the opposite.
This goes as far back as I can remember. When my parents ordered me to go to the sleepaway camp they were about to register me for when I was 11 years old, I looked at them steely-eyed for a good long 10 seconds. Then I told them I’d run away and come home every single day I was there no matter how many times they brought me back. If they didn’t let me in, I’d find friends or relatives to stay with. If they wouldn’t have me, I’d sleep on the streets. And I would have had they not relented.
This was not merely because I was defiant. In actuality, I was a bit of a wuss considering I came of age in the sixties and seventies. I was scared to take drugs, never cut school or lied to my Mom AND didn’t figure out sex until I was out of my teenage years (Note: And, ahem, even beyond).
What I did have were good instincts. This has helped me through my entire life when facing big decisions. And when you’re 11 years old there is no bigger decision than sleepaway camp.
I knew that as an uncoordinated, sports-hating, mouthy, stubborn, sassy pants who was secretly attracted to boys but didn’t yet have a word for it, I would never survive what I even then considered the camps. They might be right for some kids but for me – no way. It wasn’t even on the table. I knew the difference between right and wrong deep down in my soul and this was definitely WRONG.
Here’s what Gen. Marty Dempsey, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tweeted out several days ago:
The art of decision-making. When making big decisions, block out the background noise, take stock in what you know, check your instincts, and then decide. It’s important to remember that just because something is loud and repetitious doesn’t mean it’s right… …more than any other feedback, in a world of intense scrutiny and super-charged emotion, how we make important choices tells us who we are and what we hold most important.
This might seem a strange way to get everyone to VOTE but I don’t think so. You are at the precipice faced by many 11 year olds. Sleepaway camp or NO sleep away camp.
Of course I realize that not every kid is fortunate or unfortunate enough to have the option. I also get that local charities raise money just so these kids can get away for a month or two in the summer and enjoy themselves.
Or be tortured.
The point is that in a perfect world, the one where EVERY KID has AN OPTION, there will be a significant number, likely more than you think, that would vote to reject the camps and instead choose the steamy city streets.
The world is composed of camp kids and CAMP(Y) kids, if you get the drift, and each one is entitled to some say in creating a life that reflects their reality.
When we’re 11 years old, we don’t always get this choice. But once we turn 18, we ALWAYS get a VOTE.
That is, unless we CHOOSE not to.
Sure, we live in a messy, turbulent world, particularly at the moment, where the choices available are not always the best.
You can have what’s in the box or what’s behind the curtain and they both feel like booby prizes, especially since once you accept one you also have to pay taxes on it. #NoDeal.
But, well, you don’t really think I wanted to stay home with my mother when I was 11 years old in the heat of NYC, do you? Still, it was way, way, wayyyyy better than being stuck up in the woods having to play baseball everyday. Or sleep in a barracks without being able to listen to my beloved movie soundtrack of Mary Poppins.
Not to mention, that summer I learned how to roller skate (Note: With a metal key), and made friends with a brother and sister who had just that summer moved into my neighborhood.
I even learned that contrary to the custom in my family, you don’t always call your adult friends’ mothers by their first names. In fact, I will never forget the expression on the face of that brother and sister’s Mom when I casually addressed her as Pat and she turned to ME steely-eyed and said, Call me, MRS. Marshall.
To this day I am very careful when addressing those older than myself to always err on the side of formality. At least, at first. And you’d be surprised how much it’s helped. Whenever I dated anyone, their parents ALWAYS loved me.
No one is saying that there are not moments to abstain from action or refrain from even voicing your opinion. But this is not one of them.
Some moments in your life it is best simply sit back and follow the lead of those older and more experienced than yourself.
Then there are other times, the ones where you are REQUIRED to speak up for own self-preservation.
Or risk being sent to a CAMP that is wrong for you. One that goes against EVERYTHING you innately are.