Editor’s note: This week’s blog post comes to you courtesy of Eliza, a camper at YPI 2013.
It is a strange phenomenon that something that brings me such complete joy is the same thing at which I am utterly horrendous. Although my vocal skill is severely lacking, singing for me is breath, happiness, and bliss. There have been times when my life has been devoid of music, but luckily I’ve found a sanctuary that erases discontent from my life and replaces it with pure happiness. The Young Person’s Institute (YPI) is a summer camp for the arts that has made me feel loved and accepted through every stage of my self-discovery and has given me the strength to sing to my heart’s content.
When I started camp, I was a mere twelve years old. I had a tight-knit group of friends at school; we all loved Harry Potter, neon clothes, and straightening our hair. As I walked down the stone steps into the grassy quad that first day of YPI, I was unknowingly entering a place that I would come to call my second home.
From the first day, the people at YPI enveloped me in acceptance that I had never experienced in school; they appreciated individuality in a way I had never seen before. As a part of the dance program, I was encouraged to try my hand at choreography, and although I was not entirely brilliant, YPI was a place where I felt safe taking risks.
What I noticed most of all was how everyone was always singing. With or without instruments, it was filled with intense joy and unrestrained happiness. The music told stories; it brought everyone together, erased the boundaries between us, and made us one. I was moved by the music and the stories it told, and while I was once too shy, I found myself starting to sing along.
The two weeks each summer of YPI brought some of the happiest memories of my life, even when the other fifty weeks of the year were occasionally tainted with negativity and fear. In my freshman year of high school I drifted apart from my best friends. I was filled with an unfamiliar sense of solitude and was puzzled by what went wrong. The silliness that had previously defined me was diminished; my singing voice was quieted and replaced with insecurity and anxiety.
After a difficult year, I returned back to camp and was comforted by the acceptance that YPI offered. Building upon the past two summers, I began yet again to challenge myself in dance by using both my body and heart. I was taken back to the sweet music which could be heard while sitting outside in the quad, at meals, or on the way to classes, always filling me up with an ineffable sense of glee. In two weeks, YPI did a better job restoring my confidence than any amount of therapy could ever provide and blessed me with the opportunity to turn my high school experience around.
Having completed my final year at YPI, I can confidently attest to the healing powers of an accepting and love filled environment. The state of mind that I carry as a result of YPI has allowed me to make new friends in school and be a better and happier version of myself. I am not the same as I was when I was twelve, I prefer earth tones to neon and I keep my hair natural and curly. But my singing voice is just as bad and even louder than before because I have realized that nothing can silence me ever again.
The famously terrible opera singer Florence Foster Jenkins once said, “People may say that I can’t sing, but no one can ever say I didn’t sing.” And now that I have found confidence and the acceptance within myself, I will never stop singing again.