My Personal Narrative – English Essay
I opened the door and walked out of the Deseret Towers W-Hall lobby, where I was immediately welcomed by a powerful rush of heat. I suppose I had been told enough times about the scorching temperatures that day, but I must have conveniently forgotten to stick that fact in my realm of conscious thought. Oh, well. My cousin Jon apparently didn’t share the same apathy. “Why the crap is it so hot out here?”
I smiled, then chuckled inwardly. Stopping to check my bearings just four or five paces from the door, I gazed west, then east. I then pulled a folded, miniature yellow campus map out of my pocket and stared intently at it. Not looking up, I muttered to Jon, “What and where is the M-O-R-C?”
“I don’t know. Is that where we’re supposed to be?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I began, and then, discovering the black square on the map containing the abbreviation MORC, I announced, “Oh. It’s right over there. Ok—that’s cool. Let’s go.” After refolding my map I spun left on my heel and we began walking east to the Morris Center.
During my eighth grade year, my mother signed me up for a program known as Summer Scholars Academy. Apparently, she was impressed with my excellent grades at the end of my middle school career and wished to nurture my academic skills by sending me off to a learning camp. Originally reluctant, I agreed to give this “Academy” a try when I discovered my favorite cousin and good friend Jon was also attending. The program was to be held at BYU, “and so,” my mother told me, “almost all of the kids attending are going to be members of the Church. It’ll be kind of new for you.” New for me? I lived in Boise, Idaho, for goodness sake. Still, I supposed, half the kids in my grade weren’t members. I guess “almost all” would be a nice improvement.
We walked into the Morris Center and gave our blue temp cards to the hostesses at the food center entrance. After swiping mine, she smiled and gave it back. Initially straight-faced, I quickly managed a reflexive smile and continued into the cafeteria. I didn’t think of it much then, but that smile was my first glimpse of a new transcendental society with which I was yet to become acquainted.
My mom and her sister sent in our registration papers for Summer Scholars Academy in March. Apparently, they wanted to get them in quickly so we would have top positions in the entrance order—I don’t know. The deadline was June 15th, so they may have just had some sort of personal philosophy against procrastination. The entrance papers required academic records, test scores, teacher recommendations—the whole works. Jon and I were both students of merit, and we received word of acceptance into the program in April. Essentially, we had four months to prepare for our first time sleeping without our family far away from home for longer than a couple nights. It was definitely more than a couple nights, too—nine, to be precise. Still, “Scholar’s Academy?” It wasn’t quite the top socially accepted camp title among juveniles. Jon and I both refrained from referring to the program as anything other than “the thing this summer,” or “that camp we’re going to,” to avoid vain repetition and constant reminder of the fact we were going to leave our homes to become more enlightened nerds.
That and similar phrases popped into my mind as we stood in the cafeteria line listening to other “scholars’” conversations. I admit that I was skeptical about this camp—given its title, I conjured up a theory that everyone else there would lack either a personality or social skills or both. I didn’t consider myself to be a social butterfly or Don Juan or anything, but I did command a fair amount of social courage. Dwelling on that thought, I then determined to prove my theory and introduce myself to the Summer Scholar behind me in line. I turned, opened my mouth, and my theorem was shattered as that short brown-haired girl looked in my eye and said with confidence, “Hi. I’m Wendy. What’s your name?”
I raised my eyes in surprise. “I… I’m Howard. And, this is Jon,” I said, pointing to my cousin.
“Hi, Jon,” she said, cheerfully. He returned the greeting. “Where’re you from?” she continued.
“We’re both from Boise,” I answered.
“Cool. I’m from Rock Springs, Wyoming.”
And so, the camp began on that note. What I began witnessing over the next nine days was a society that produced a momentous transformation in my perspective on people. Before I came to Summer Scholar’s Academy, I was quite cynical of teenage society. How could one not be? I had just finished middle school—the embodiment of social competition. Middle school society is really the first worldly microcosm. Children come out of elementary school with an understanding of friendship, and quickly find that they now need to classify and quantify their friends so they may gain a position on a social scale. Such a society classes people and covets popularity, along with embracing an established dogma of “love not thy brother below thee.” It is testing to any child, and it takes a great amount of virtue to break out of such conformity, something that I never fully accomplished. I was a cheerful kid in elementary school, but I lost my smile after fifth grade.
One can only image my surprise, then, when I walked out of the Morris Center that day, and passing through the first set of double doors, discovered that another male member of the camp was holding the second set open for Jon and I. “Thanks…dude,” I began. What could I say? This had never happened to me before; the only people that ever held the door open for me were my parents, and even that stopped when I was about six.
Such random acts of kindness flourished throughout the next eight days. It soon became apparent that greeting people you didn’t know and holding the door open for anyone behind you were established doctrines. Additionally, the more specific principle of “open doors for all females,” a chivalrous tradition that I was sure had all but disappeared from this dispensation (except from the mind of my mother), was firmly implanted in my personal philosophy.
One of the cardinal sins in middle school is associating with an underclassman. If you are in eighth grade, you do not talk to a sixth grader, unless you are telling them to get out of your way or something with a similar topic. Within three days of Summer Scholars Academy, Jon and I were hanging out with seniors, juniors, sophomores, and a few freshmen. It was incredible; they were not just being nice—they were genuine friends, people with whom it was possible to keep in contact with regardless of great lengths of distance and time.
During the camp, we participated in a lot of academic activities, like a college bowl and various scholastic classes. We attended spiritual events—devotionals and a testimony meeting, along with several entertaining activities such as a water park, a barbecue, and three dances. In retrospect, I realize I learned a lot, built my testimony, and had a lot of fun. Yet, the personal results of the official schedule of the camp did not add anything. The activities were well planned, but they only sought to augment what I already possessed—for me, they did not add anything new. The aspect of the camp which changed my perspective forever was the people there—the transcendental society of Summer Scholars Academy. Almost all the people there, although all different in personality, lived by one guiding precept: “it’s cool to be nice.” This shaped and elevated the society; it made it higher than the one in which we now live.
Admittedly, at Brigham Young University, the Latter-day Saint society is somewhat transcendental—even with its sparse dishonesty and other moral faulting it is elevated from the world population in terms of kindness, respect, and general charity. However, the society of Summer Scholars was greater than all of these. With its low, near one hundred-student population, it could be self-governed almost entirely by these moral principles alone. I do not claim to have taken these moral principles with me entirely and used them all in my life, but it gave me a perspective of society that increased my happiness tenfold. I lost my cynicism and I lost my vision of a competitive society forever. I learned to find joy in people. I regained my smile I had lost so long ago.