At six o'clock on Saturday morning, my friend Annaliese woke me up. I jumped down from the top bunk and pulled on my NASA sweatshirt and purple converse shoes. Annaliese handed me one of her coffee things and I grabbed my light blue blanket. We left the lodge and made our way outside into the cool, (very) early morning air.
This was the beginning of the only full day we had at the Junior/Senior Retreat I went to late last month. Annaliese has a tradition of walking to the wooden cross out in the fields of Leoni Meadows, and the day before she'd asked me if I wanted to join her in getting up early to watch the sunrise. Without hesitating, I said yes and found myself up before the crack of dawn. We were up about an hour and twenty minutes before sunrise, so we walked the short distance to a bridge and sat under the stars instead of going to the cross right away. We talked about a myriad of different things, from our excitement about college, to boys, to the things we're currently worried about. We sat criss crossed on the concrete with the blanket over us as the sun slowly started to rise.
As the sky began to turn into beautiful purplish blue, we got up and walked across the gravel that used to hold small train tracks. We opened the coffee containers, and sat on top of the blanket sipping it slowly. We talked about our future career choices, and why we love mornings like this. We talked about writing and friendships and our childhoods. The minutes were soaked with honesty and vulnerability, and that's what I loved about it. We were real with each other as we sat on the gravel sipping coffee. My toes were frozen and my hair was tangled, but I didn't care.
I love mornings like this. I love getting to connect with people and getting to know them better. This is the sort of thing that makes me excited to grow up, because I know I'll get to do more things like this. Annaliese and I made plans to stay in touch next year, and as we walked back to the lodge to get ready, I had another one of those moments where I felt totally at peace. Last year, the Junior/Senior retreat was the weekend when the whole year turned around for me. I had found my people, and they made my Junior year what it was for me. This year was no different, as I once again bonded with amazing people who I can tell will be incredibly important to me not only for this year, but for many more years after.