Living at local camp shaped my life
The place you grew up goes a long way toward defining you, for better or worse.
Over the past few months, I’ve come to realize this myself. From the age of six until I graduated from high school, I lived on a campground right outside Magnetic Springs called Camp Christian.
It’s done a good job of hiding itself from the rest of the county. Several locals I’ve spoken to over the years had never even heard of the camp. During the active summer months, the camp only gets groups from out of the county. Union County is the kind of place where everyone knows where everything is.
Union County people use weird, local landmarks when giving directions. This is the kind of place where most folks would know what you’re talking about when you tell them the gas station is, “right past that old building a few miles east of York Center that used to be a Mexican restaurant.” Or when you say something is, “right across from that weird-shaped tree.”
But there we were, a collection of buildings nestled in a wooded area on Maple Dell Road. It felt isolated, even though there are parts of the camp where you can throw a football and reach Magnetic Springs. The tree line was the divider between me and the rest of the world. In reality, it was just the divider between me and miles of farmland. Still, when I was younger, walking beyond those trees felt like jumping off a cliff.
The older I get, the more I’m realizing the isolation got to me. I’m the type of person who sticks with what’s comfortable, and I think spending my childhood at that camp contributed to that. Just like when I was a kid, being in a familiar place makes me happy. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gotten to the point where I love going to new places and seeing new sites, but I can still just sit in my apartment and never get antsy. I’ve only recently begun experiencing bouts of wanderlust.
This realization made me think about how else the camp has influenced me. It certainly bolstered my imagination. When I was a kid, I’d go outside and take walks or pace around the camp. I’d tell my parents I was going outside to “think.” I don’t really know why that’s the word I chose, but I guess it was true in some way.
I’d pretend all the squirrels and birds got into a war with each other, and play out these grand narratives focusing on individual animals. I’d look at specific parts of the woods and consider what strategic importance they’d have to the advancing raccoon army. When I was outside, I rarely played with toys. I just let my mind wander and followed wherever it went.
My upbringing at Camp Christian has left me with mixed feelings. It was a pleasant place to live, and in the summer it was usually a consistent bustle of campers and counselors. I grew to like that, and I still prefer to live where there’s regular activity outside my door, even if I don’t go out. But sometimes I also think it made me more withdrawn than I would have been.
I’m grateful for growing up at the camp. It was, and still is, a beautiful place. But it also might have shaped me in more ways than I thought.
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