Straight Talk: Taking a step back

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I may have turned 17 in June, but I definitely had a 7-year-old’s summer.

Unlike many of my classmates, I wasn’t in a lab and I wasn’t taking courses for college credit. I was at summer camp.

Granted, I was on the counselor side of things, but I still had the full camp experience. Playing board games and making crafts became part of my daily routine, and the biggest conflicts arose when there weren’t enough puppets to go around.

It sounds trivial, year after year being a camp counselor is a highlight of my summer. It may be my job to have a positive impact on the kids’ lives, but they impact mine just as much.

Going home after camp wasn’t exactly relaxing because there was another (shorter, younger, and a bit furrier) ball of energy waiting for me at my front door every day. On June 21, my family adopted a three-month-old poodle-shih tzu puppy named Riley.

Even though he’s now a full six months old, he’s still a puppy. He thinks it’s fun to run behind our couch and play keep-away with socks, doesn’t always remember that fingers aren’t chew toys, and will roll over for a belly rub the minute anyone walks in the room. Puppy training is time and energy consuming, but for every scratch or bite, I’ve gotten more than my fair share of kisses and cuddles.

While mine may not have been a traditional rising-senior-at-a-college-prep-school summer, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Of course, there were plenty of lessons in leadership, responsibility, and compassion, but beyond those was a long overdue reminder to take a step back.

It’s so easy to get caught up in college apps and grades and everything that comes with them, that it’s hard to remember that while they’re important, these external measures of success are not everything.

There’s nothing like little kids and puppies to remind you that there’s no such thing as showing loved ones too much affection, that play should be on every day’s schedule, and that being really, really excited about the little things is totally justifiable.

Now, as I’m starting my senior year refreshed and relaxed (although not totally ready to be back), I’ll keep the summer’s reminders in the back of my mind. Regardless of how hectic this year may get, I can find solace in knowing that making friendship bracelets will always be a stress reliever and that unconditional puppy love will always make me feel better.

This piece was originally published in the pages of the Winged Post on August 29, 2014.