Summer camps can be a safe haven -- a few precious weeks to live trouble-free and rapt in the activities at hand. Dagg228 was hoping that her time at the National High School Institute for Journalism at Northwestern University would be spent focused on reporting and writing.
But her thoughts were not on who, what, where, when and why. She was thinking about the war. For her, summer camp became a time to learn an entirely different lesson. All the worries of the world cannot easily be put out of our minds because they weigh so heavily on our hearts.
They say that in journalism, you have to get the story no matter the distance or the place or the time or the weather. Some stories may be worth your life and each one worth your effort. But being here, it's hard to get the story sometimes. It isn't because we have limited time and it isn't because I don't understand the assignment or because I can't write. Sometimes it's hard to get the story because I think about someone else.
One day toward the end of April, my sister called me late at night. I had spent the last year hating her and we barely ever talked. She asked about school, my friends, my day. Then she told me something that I never wanted to hear: "I'm deploying soon." My sister is 23. She just graduated college. She likes to sleep in on Sundays and she hates to read. She raised me when my parents couldn't or didn't want to. When she went away to college, my world fell apart. But now sometimes, it's almost completely broken.
Today is Sunday, the 13th of July. On Thursday, a plane will be taking my sister to the Middle East. She'll be home in November or December but the military may change their mind. She gets 2 weeks, "post-deployment" they call it, when she gets back. Then she goes away again for 8 months. She might miss my dad selling our house. She might miss my prom, graduation, my first acceptance letter to college and moving away.
I've heard all of the sympathy I need. I don't want anymore; I never did. I've heard far too many people say "I'm sure she'll be fine" or "It's Navy, not Army" or "She can take of herself". I know that. But what if there's an accident or she takes a wrong step or something else happens that she can't control? And she's with people she doesn't know who have no idea what makes her upset or what makes her happy or that she loves her golden lab that she had to leave behind. I can't call her when I want to or even at all. Letters take weeks to mail. And anything I do write gets torn open, my letter to my sister read by strangers for security reasons.
But I get that. I want to pray she'll be okay because that just seems like what you're supposed to do. But I'm too afraid that praying will do nothing. I feel like I give people a blank stare sometimes. But maybe that's just because I'm numb. And if I'm not numb, then I'm shaking. I can't fall asleep until I'm too tired to stand and then I just wake up in the middle of the night. In my dreams, people keep dying. But I do smile and I do laugh and they are real. I can handle more than I think and I keep living.
I just have to stop sometimes. Like when I walk around campus, I look at the trees and I think about how there are no trees where my sister will be. I eat dinner at the dining hall and think about how she'll be eating the ship's food that she always says is disgusting. I sleep in a bunk bed every night and I think about how she will too, but hers is much different from mine. I think about how I didn't get to be home this week to spend time with her, to spend her last week with her, to go to a movie with her late at night or just stay up until our eyes finally force us to sleep. I don't get to drop her off at the airport to tell her good-bye and to let her hug me and to say "Be good. Take care of Dad. I love you."
But instead I'm here. And I'm getting the story.
Share your stories with us on Tokoni, America's virtual front porch. www.tokoni.com
HuffPost Lifestyle is a daily newsletter that will make you happier and healthier — one email at a time. Learn more