My senior year of high school I had not a clue where I was going to spend my collegiate career. I will say looking back, that 18 is such an awkward age to decide what you are going to do for the rest of your life. Thank goodness we are just complete morons at this age, and so the task ends up not being so daunting. If I were having to make this decision now there would be lists, in depth studies, interviews, anxiety attacks...all the things that come along with making an adult decision. However, for me, at 18, I was like, 'Adventure!! Leave Home!! Independence!!! Sign me up!!!'
Into the end of the winter of my senior year I was pretty decided on PBU, but I wasn't too thrilled about being so close to home, remember; Adventure!! Leave Home!! Independence!!' I was told about an extension of PBU, a campus in Wisconsin. It's again at 18 where you don't really hear all the details you just hear what you want to hear which was distance for me. Listen, go big or go home.
PBU's campus in Wisconsin happened to be a Wilderness Campus. That's right. Me and the Wilderness. You are thinking oil and water...this I know. Again, 18 = moron. At the time, backpacking, foraging, cross country skiing, hiking, surviving, mountain biking, were minute details to the facts that involved me getting out on my own. Wisconsin required more then just a ride down Almshouse Rd. to the other side of Newtown and I was all over that.
At the time I was there, the campus was limited to about 30 to 35 students. They try to make the male/female ratio somewhat even. You needed to apply early and then sit on a waiting list. I took a gamble, knowing I was way late. Got a phone call from one of the admissions peeps there for a phone interview stating that they were looking for another girl. And then I was accepted. My wit and charm take over every time...or perhaps just a number that needed to be filled.
When I got there I had no idea as I looked around at the other 28 faces that were there with me that this year is one that would change my life. You know me, I was looking around sizing everyone up wondering at that point what in the world I had signed up for. But by the time my parents were leaving to trek home without me at the end of the first weekend there I honestly didn't look back, my mom can attest to this.
If you have ever watched an American Pie Movie, you are aware of the one character that loves to reminisce about stories from band camp...'this one time at band camp...' If you attended WWC you get where I am going, you will probably always say throughout life...'this one time at WWC...' I am also fairly certain people surrounding you are like, 'oh great here we go again, will it be the story about her freezing her rear off camping in the dead of winter and thinking she was going to die...or about the time when Ken fell off a cliff.'
Sadly, no more then sadly, the Wisconsin Campus is just ending its last year. You know I'm not even aware of the details. I know that PCB, or PBU, or Cairn, or whatever you refer to it as, is offering an adventure campus out of the campus in Langhorne, which I am sure will be awesome. But I am a sentimentalist and can't help but be a little disappointed, listen, I'm allowed, I am an alumni. There is a similar current that runs through everyone who went there, even on a different year, and its a little sad that it won't go on.
So what was I thinking?
I am here to tell you. You put 28 people in pretty much the middle of nowhere for almost a year, some crazy stuff goes on. I almost kind of get how easy it would be to be involved in some cult. No, now hear me out. I would never be in a cult, that's just silly, but the co-dependency and roles formed within a group like that makes group dynamic theorists hungry. If reality shows were huge then, we would have been top rated. The co-dependency was so rampant that we were sobbing like we were losing limbs when we had to go our separate ways at the end of the year. Like, how could we possibly survive without the others? Even those we spat with or who irritated us to no end, we were sad to be apart from. My grandmother was with me on the drive home, she tells me I was pretty much silent until we reached Ohio. This is not normal. Most of us were going to see each other within a few weeks.I lived 5 minutes away from two of the people who went there with me. Beyond that, most of us were going to school together the following fall. But we had been with each other daily,all.day.long. living in this little bubble, we in fact had become a little crazy.
I was totally cool with that.
What I experienced there was things people can probably write a 300 page book about.
And for the sake of what was WWC, and for its memory...here are some of my favorite band camp stories.
The jobs. Similar to work release. We were told to off set the cost of tuition that daily we were to engage in some sort of work around the campus. This could be working in the kitchen, helping in the office, babysitting the directors kids, oh...little Benny Jalovick..., work outside, chopping wood. That's right, chopping wood. Your duties at first would rotate until you found an area you liked, and then you were pretty much assigned to that. Typically most of these jobs were in the afternoon, after class. Here's me, the moron, not wanting to work in the kitchen, so I was occasionally assigned to chopping wood. Half way through the year, I was 'encouraged,' to maybe think of a job in the kitchen. I was even told that if I did dishwashing at dinner time it left the entire afternoon free. Naps galore!! (no one naps like a college student) I pretty much was being told I sucked at chopping wood. I don't even think I chopped wood, I think I just stood by the trailer we were loading looking pretty and called it a job.
I did in fact go camping in the dead of winter in Wisconsin. The point was to make an igloo to sleep in. Supposedly these things would keep you so warm you could pretty much sleep naked, due to body heat being trapped. It all seemed really kind of gross to me, sweat, keeping you and someone else of the same sex warm... o.k. even with the opposite sex... I really didn't know what I was saying until I thought about it, and either way, its gross. So Jessica had a broken ankle from playing broom ball...listen don't ask...some game they play up there with a broom on ice, running, to me, broken bones are inevitable. So this left her unable to sleep in an igloo, really I don't know why, people who live in igloos all the time certainly break bones. But whatever, a few of us girls opted to sleep in a tent. Let me tell you something. People that say sleeping in tents is fun are crazy. People who do this in the dead of winter are just plain dumb. We did not sleep that night. In fact we froze our asses off. I even wept thinking that I was going to die and that this was just the most ridiculous place to do it. Jessica had it even worse with a cast encasing the cold onto her leg. I contemplated climbing into an igloo but wasn't up for barfing from seeing naked bodies in an igloo. I would have rather froze, and so I did. Close to dawn we heard some rustling around outside. I cried out, 'who is that!?!?' ok, so maybe I screamed, 'HELP US!!!!!!!!!!!!!!' The voice that replied was that of Matt Goodman. 'I'm going pee, go back to sleep.' Really!?!?! No way!!! It was up to me to save the lives of my girls, I took full advantage of Jessica's condition and yelled, 'no, please make a fire, Jessica is frozen solid and needs help.' Listen I don't know why we didn't make a fire ourselves. We were probably scared of those crazy mountain people you hear about...we had no sleep...hallucinations is an offset of that...who knows. All I know is that Matt Goodman made us girls a fire, and although he sat miserably by it, probably wishing he was naked in an igloo, he saved our lives.
O.k. so for gym credits...this was college, we had to complete certain activities. Like mountain biking ten thousand miles or cross country skiing forever and ever. We had to complete a certain amount of mileage or time each week. So for some reason or another we would procrastinate and on a Thursday we would all be scrambling to complete our quota. In the winter, this involved a course in cross country skiing. I really don't know how many miles needed to be completed, all I know is that it was a lot. So much in fact that one time we were just cruising along on an afternoon on a back trail and Cortney just sat herself down. And Cortney was not a quitter, so I thought she needed to rewind her tape or something...I did say rewind her tape. I almost flipped over her. It was then realized she was freaking out , arms flailing, and when I turned to look and she was throwing her equipment in an absolute rage. 'THIS IS SOOOOOO STUPID!!! I AM JUST SO SICK OF SKIING!!! WHY ARE WE DOING THIS, NO ONE IS WATCHING!!!' Which was completely true. This was the final turn of our sweet Cortney who realized that hey, not everything is always enjoyable or that you need to pretend it is, some things just need to be cursed about. We all came into our own a little bit that year. And I really think that is what the first year of college should be. You should be thrown out into the wilderness to see what you've got. OO was a lit trail,and we would go to this little trail night after night significantly late, and ski back and forth, and back and forth until we reached our mileage. We made mix tapes to pass the time, and I would be singing aloud going back and forth to keep my sanity. However, it was at these moments out there in the middle of nowhere, where we were lost in our thoughts, pushing limits, and holding our own. Independent.
Of course, of course there was intermingling amongst the ranks. I mean seriously we were a bunch of teenagers thrown to live together. It's like the Real World on MTV, with morals. There was of course slim pickings and many boys would vie for the same girl, it was pretty much always Laurie. She was the quiet one. I was bossy and loud and hard to please...ok so maybe not much has changed. I do think that at some point almost every boy had a crush on every girl, and vice versa. It was totally to be expected. It was like a commune. It was also extremely confusing, but if you sat back and watched it,really hilarious. Hormones are inevitable. There I said it. I will share this one story, but leave out the name of the boy, who about in mid march of that year, just called me on the phone in my dorm and told me to get down to the end of the drive because he needed to make out with someone or he was going to go crazy. Now that's how to treat a lady. I didn't go, but just the same this is how much of it went down...climbing through windows, sneaking off into the woods...it's the secret chapter in the WWC book. There were some pretty legitimate relations to come out of that year, and one has now been married for 14 years. Meggan told us girls pretty early on in the year that she was going to marry Eric, we all thought she had just about lost her mind, sure he was cute, but marriage!?!?! They were married a year later...that girl don't play.
For the most part, except for three girls, which each had our own areas as our rooms. Mine was a big open space, but there was a half wall and a pretty definite separation between my space and the other space in the room. In reality, my room was an off shoot to many of the other rooms and had a door that led right outside in it...silly directors...but it became the thoroughfare. I liked it this way, it gave me social interaction with all the girls I was there with regularly. Me? Social? Stop. I did at times wish I had a roommate, but then would end up being thankful I had my own space. Remember messy room from last post? You got it. I instantly clicked with a girl named Cortney who I swear was put there just to be my friend. I know, it is so terribly selfish of me to say that, but I clicked right on into her. We were so very alike and so very different all at the same time. I loosened her up and she straightened me up. I would run to her room to escape and she would run to me to be crass and crazy. For a few weeks, I did crash on her bottom bunk because my room had started to stink. I cleaned the crap out of it thinking that something was just rotting in some secret corner. Nothing. We were then told that yes, it was something rotting, and probably just a dead animal in the wall and the smell would go away after it stopped decaying. Real awesome. Just. A dead animal. This was the wilderness people.
I honestly could probably co author the book. Memories can come flooding in when you let them...my long term memory is still in tact, phew. I have a video I had sent home to friends that year and I just watched it the other night. First off. I am old. Secondly, I reaffirmed that yes, this probably was a top year in my life. And lastly, I hate my voice.
So to all of you that had your year at WWC with or without me how fortunate were we. To those heading up the new outdoor program...well, you have some big shoes to fill.