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As I sit down to write this column, I am overwhelmed with memories of Fourth of July at summer camp. During my high school years, I would travel to California to attend Hume San Diego or, as we called it, Hume SD. This wasn’t your average summer camp. It was a Christian camp with people from all over the country. Located on the Point Loma Nazarene University campus, Hume SD brought so much more than memories.

Fourth of July has been a bitter holiday for me. It rubs me the same way Father’s Day used to before I got a second chance at a father-daughter relationship. You see, my biological father’s birthday is July 2, and remembering that man has not been easy for me. He was someone who was so toxic in my life. I’m not telling you this in hopes you all will throw me a pity party. I tell you this because for all those years, when everything with him and the trauma my family faced was still fresh, I didn’t know how to celebrate or even act for the first week of July. But what I did know was that I wasn’t going to have to spend those days at home.

Every summer my youth pastor would pick what we called the best week to attend camp: the week of the Fourth. We knew going this week would mean a giant dance party on the main pedway of campus. We knew recreation that day would be completely epic because, let’s be honest, it’s the best day of the summer.

I spent those summers at camp not having to wonder what my biological dad was doing. Instead, I was praying that my voice would last through the next three days or hoping my costume for Patriotic Day was patriotic enough. I spent those years at camp forming the greatest friendships and the wildest memories. From playing tug o' war around trash cans to failing at paddle boarding to singing my heart out in chapel with my oldest friends at my side, there’s nothing I wouldn’t give to be able relive those summers.

Summer doesn’t have to be the time of year where we dread the heat or worry about what we’re going to do tomorrow to avoid being bored. It also doesn’t have to be the time of year where we take on so much extra work to the point where we feel like we’re going to collapse. Summer should be the time of year where we are seizing the free time in our lives. It should be the time of year when friendships grow stronger, when the relationship with yourself blossoms into something you never thought possible, when your mind is at ease.

A way to do this for yourself is to try something out of your comfort zone. Send your kid away to a summer camp—NAU has plenty of options. You could send them to the NAU Community Music and Dance Academy where they can participate in music or dance classes, or maybe you could go yourself and meet new people while you’re at it.

Maybe you have a friend that attends NAU. Have them grab a guest pass for you and go attend one of the group fitness classes together.

Go out and experience life. If you have kids, show them how to experience life as well. There are so many opportunities around Flagstaff. It would be a shame to let them pass by you. Utilize what’s left of the summer and fall in love with you. Form stronger friendships.

Create a summer that you want to relive over and over again. I hope this month  you have a groovy holiday and you get to partake in a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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Bailey Helton is the editor-in-chief at The Lumberjack, Northern Arizona University's student newspaper. College Chronicles aims to connect Flag Live! readers to various aspects of campus life.

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