Editor’s note: This week’s blog post comes to you courtesy of Tessa, a camper at YPI 2013.
When people say “YPI is not just a place, it’s a state of mind” it may sound cheesy at first. Really cheesy — like roll-your-eyes-at cheesy — but it’s not. And it’s not cheesy to believe in it, because I do.
And when I say YPI changed my life, I’m not exaggerating.
My first year at YPI, I was 14, about to be a freshman in high school, and terrified to be completely surrounded by new people for the first time in my life since second grade. I was really afraid of the people I thought I’d meet. Tall, thin, blonde girls who whispered behind your back and smiled to your face.
Don’t get me wrong, I met tall, thin, blonde girls, but I didn’t meet a single person who treated me like that. I instead met people who changed my life.
I remember so vividly my first Purge and Burn. I remember just writing words and feelings onto the stick, because I didn’t know what else to do. I’d stood up to throw my piece of wood in the fire and I came to sit back down, I was crying more than I had before.
I remember sitting down next to a girl who I’d only noticed, never spoke to, she was maybe 4 years older than me, and had obviously been to the camp before, she was always surrounded by a crowd of older kids. I sat down next to her, and she put her arms around me, and held onto me while I cried. And I think that’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me.
And I didn’t speak to her at all, I hope I said thank you at least, but I’m not sure. And the next day, we didn’t say anything, and I didn’t tell anyone about it. It was a secret, something special between me and a girl whose name I didn’t know.
She left after that year, she got too old, but two years later she was my counselor. I never brought it up with her. A girl who held a complete stranger in her arms, and I never forgot that. Those are the kinds of people you meet at YPI: people who ache and feel for others, people who will hold a 14 year old girl while they cry, and never get thanked for it.