Here We Go Again: Zen ’11

Oh man, did this guy dive headfirst into camp mode this week. No better time than now to jumpstart the 2011 edition of the Summer of Zen!

I smelled the approaching summer yesterday. I had just stepped outside through the back entrance of Sharon High School — where I’ve been coaching baseball — reading my Blackberry and fishing in my pocket for my keys. When I caught a faint whiff of the fresh mulch surrounding the track area, my head shot up. Then I saw a large puff of smoke emerging from a farm house down the street. They were burning a pile of leaves. But that’s not what I sensed. I saw a fading bonfire. I smelled the last half of the Chip Ceremony. I smelled Camp Avoda.

It’s amazing how a seemingly random set of conditions outside a school can transfer me back to camp. It’s a testament to the lasting impact Avoda has on all of us, but it’s probably also just a sign that I’m looking for excuses to think about it. And why shouldn’t I? It’s already the second week of May, and the summer of 2011 is right around the corner.

I swore I’d never become one of those guys who spends an entire summer claiming that this one was my last, only to turn around a few months later and change my mind. Naturally, I’ve done it two years in a row. But luckily (is it?) for me, I’m going to mean it this year. I [finally] graduated from college this year, and I’m starting a master’s program in the fall. When I got accepted, I had to choose whether I wanted to start in the summer or the fall. It wasn’t a hard decision. By starting in September, I could easily fit in my student teaching in the spring and, more importantly, I could steal one more summer at Avoda. Unfortunately, it also means I’ll be in school next summer, which makes 2011 my irrevocable swan song.

I’ve always wanted my last summer to play out like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s retirement. I wanted to spend my final days on tour. Campers would shower me with gifts of appreciation. I’d be getting standing ovations after my last 4th period hoops, last Avoda Tournament, last Color War negotiation, last Songfest, and last banquet. And then when it was over, I’d ride off into the sunset, another counselor walking away at the right time.

But I tend to romanticize the camp experience, and I know it won’t be like that. Every day won’t be perfect. It won’t be sunny and 80 every morning. Campers will still show up late to my periods. Counselors will still delay every breakfast lineup. Ninety-eight percent of the League games will be poorly officiated. Shif will bombard us with letters and e-mails from concerned and angry parents. And in the end, we’ll all be sobbing like a bunch of girls at Songfest. I’ve made peace with all that. No summer is perfect. So how, then, do I go out the right way?

It’s simple, really. I just have to live in the moment. And not just the good ones. I have to relish every single second of this summer. I can’t live in the past. I can’t look to the future. I have to soak in as much as I can, because it’s going to have to last me the rest of my life. The most repeated (and clichéd) bonfire speech involves ten different versions of “Cherish your time at camp.” Well, I’m tired of that. I’ve spent 16 years cherishing. I don’t have time to reflect this year. By the time I’m done talking about the good old days when I was a Color War Captain and Avoda Tournament MVP, it will be September 1 and my career will be over. Kaput. Finito. I can’t afford to waste any time. There’s too much to do. When a moment has passed, it’s gone forever, and I refuse to miss anything because I was busy thinking about another lost moment. I’ll save all my venerating (that’s for you, Justin) for the offseason. After this year, my offseason won’t be up in ten months. I’ve got a lifetime of winters to look back on the past 16 summers. For this one, I’m going to stand still.

But what about the most important question of all: How will I be remembered? I’ve been racking my brain since I started at Avoda trying to answer that one. Luckily for me, I’ve got the whole summer to figure it out.

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