I haven't been going to InterVarsity Christian Fellowship large group meetings very consistently. There always seems to be an excuse like having some other thing I need to be at or just being "too tired" to go. Because I don't see the girls at large group as often as they see each other, I feel like I don't know them very well, certainly not as well as they know each other. Sometimes I don't even know who to talk to, except for the leaders, and that's because it's their job to welcome me.
So I surprise myself when I sign up for Chapter Camp, an InterVarsity Christian retreat. The upperclassmen who had gone before raved about it. Many of them joined their sophomore year but wished they had done it their freshman year as well. I don't want to find myself in that position, so to heck with it! I sign up. What sold it for me were the pictures from previous retreats. I saw the lake, the zipline, the blob (see above)... It's like an actual camp! Not just some program on a college campus. I've never been to an actual camp before. Seems adventurous. And like there'd be many photo opps ;)
I put my fear aside and sign up for the retreat despite there being a bunch of things I don't have to be but am worried about, because I know that this will be good for me. Signing up is the easy part. Actually following through is the hard part. But by signing up, I have committed to going, committed to the people who will be organizing the retreat. So I will go. And I'll face fear when it finds me.
Sometimes (more like all the time) semi-knowing someone makes me more nervous that not knowing someone. Aren't those encounters the most awkward? Do I wave or don't I wave? Do they even know who I am? Or are they too cool to know who I am? It's an absolutely terrifying process of deduction. Back in high school I would usually quickly look away and pretend I didn't see them. Now that I'm in college and living around everyone, I'm trying to be more friendly, but the anxiety is still there.
The first object to hurdle is the long ride from Bryn Mawr to Lake Champion. I'm heading over with the first group in Ryan's car with Hazel and Hydiya. I don't know either of the girls very well, so I rush for shotgun because I don't want to separate them in case they know each other well and are friends or something, and also because I don't want it to be glaringly obvious that I'm the third-wheel of this platonic relationship. I then feel bad for taking the front seat because it's very cramped back there with all our luggage, so I offer to hold a few bags in the front with me. Hopefully they don't hate me.
As the person sitting shotgun, I feel like it's my responsibility to be a good travel companion and engage in conversation with the one driving. I'm thankful for all the questions Ryan is asking us so
that I don't need to come up with topics of conversation myself. I
assume none of us have met him before--I know that I haven't--so we have
many things about ourselves to familiarize each other with.
Ryan let's us hook up our music devices to his speakers, so Hazel plugs in her phone, music fills the car, and conversation is socially allowed to ebb away, immediately putting me at ease. Hazel shares some of her favorite Zimbabwean songs, and then out of nowhere some chipmunk version of One Direction starts playing. Ryan and I aren't sure we're hearing things correctly in the front and ask Hazel what we're listening to. She insists it's One Direction and I ask why it sounds like that. "It's One Direction fast," she says matter-of-factly. Oh, my bad, shoulda known. Ryan starts singing along.
Somewhere in the midst of all this, Hydiya and I manage to fall asleep, but we're woken by a lurch as the car stops. Hazel announces our arrival and is strangely amused in her attempts to get us out of the car, but Hydiya knows what's up. We stay firmly sat in the car and wait for Ryan to pull us out of the pit stop. And soon enough, we finally do arrive. For real this time :P
After dropping our things off in our room, we head straight for dinner. The cookie cake is the best part.
With no time to lose, the retreat is underway as we are separated into tracks and herded into our assigned rooms. I can't see very far in the dark, so I tail the group to the track room, which is shared amongst the Mark 1 track of Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore, and Ursinus. Rounding a corner, I make eye contact with a girl and we hold it for a few confused seconds.
It's Molly! We met each other at summer camp six years ago and hadn't heard from each other since, but I remember that she was the best new friend I made at the program. A flurry of words pass between us. What were the chances we'd reunite here of all places? God sure works in mysterious ways.
During a break we take a few selfies that I send to my dear friend Poonie, who Molly met at camp. The three of us hung out quite a bit back then, so I knew Poonie would be as excited as I. And a bit jealous ;) Anyways, Molly also took this time to introduce me to her Swattie friends. Lamoni asked if we knew each other before or something because she saw that we had taken selfies and was impressed that we were being so quick to socialize and make friends. LOL I wish I made friends that quickly and easily.
In the late evening, I steal into the worship room with Molly and my new Swattie friends. Well, we don't "steal" into it. It's dark, deserted, and unlocked, so it's really a free-for-all. There are some instruments lying around, so what are we to do but have an impromptu worship/jam session?
And I feel right at home with these people on a dimly lit stage. It's like I'm back in Beijing, back at the 798 Art District, hidden in one of the art galleries with the Shawnligood Fan Club, our eyes closed, instruments in hand, voices echoing, soon to be kicked out seeing as it's almost midnight.
The next day there's an announcement at breakfast addressed to everyone
saying how we shouldn't go on stage or touch any of the instruments at
any time. Oops. Well, I guess it'll just have to be our little secret.
Something about it being a secret makes the memory of that night all the
I'm glad I took a chance and a leap of faith, literally of faith.
It reminds me of the advice Mariah gave as a guest on Jen's Make It Happen podcast. On making money with your blog without relying on traffic but by selling a product, she says to first come up with an idea for the product and then create a sales page with a "buy now" button. Actually having the product ready is not key, but obviously make sure you can deliver on it. As a testimonial, she says that when she launched her first product, it was literally just an idea on a page with a "buy now" button. The product did not yet exist. She figured that if it sold, she'd be able to finish it.
I signed up for Chapter Camp, unsure of what would be in store, but good or bad, I knew that it would be a growing experience. All I needed to do was take that first step, no matter how ill-prepared I felt, because there's never a perfect moment, so why wait? If you keep waiting for the perfect moment, you'll never get started. It's the perfectionist's greatest predicament.
So jump the ledge,
ride the swing,
take a step,
make a leap.
Maybe you'll stumble,
maybe you'll fall,
but pick yourself back up.
And maybe you'll land on two feet,
planted firmly on the ground,
taking the next steps
safe and sound.
It's been two months since I've been back from Chapter Camp, where my spiritual journey was revived. The real world has quite a few distractions that I've been more than quite susceptible to. Coming back to this event and writing about it again has refocused me. It still isn't second nature for me to go to church every Sunday or pray before I go to sleep, but... I'll get there. Knowing myself, I know that it'll be difficult to achieve on my own--I make excuses left and right. But the good news is that I won't have to, because I have a community and am blessed to be surrounded by so many silly, strong, beautiful souls.
PS: Chapter Camp, pt. 1 +vlog, more Chapter Camp photos