Since the age of ten I’ve been traveling to Camp Kieve with an overarching goal of completing the final summer’s wilderness adventure. As a 16 year old I would backpack one hundred miles of the Appalachian Trail through the rugged wilderness of northern Maine ending at the summit of Mt. Katahdin. I would stand on top of this mighty, barren mountain, having overcome all sorts of challenges and triumphed in my goal.
Kieve is a Celtic verb meaning to strive in emulation of. With admiration, emulation, and an affinity, I looked up to the dynamic college students, our counselors, who possessed the unique “Kieve identity”. They embodied the core values of the camp-courage, perseverance, and loyalty- and were natural leaders. Along with the counselors, boys who completed their final year at camp, the month-long odyssey of “Maine Trails,” returned not only bearded, beat-up men, but possessed that enigmatic Kieve identity.
I believed that completing the trip would give me this identity and I was motivated to be a leader amongst my group. Year after year I returned to camp. One year I tore up my feet hiking Doubletop; the next I canoed the rivers and lakes surrounding the massive Katahdin. With my cabin mates, I rubbed my shoulders raw “soloing” canoe portages through knee-deep mud and had my tent flooded and my sleeping bag soaked, and yet I always knew there was a demanding challenge still awaiting me.
The summer of ’10 was my last at Kieve. I can say now that it was my best, although not for the reasons I expected. Yes, I did stand on top of Katahdin after a long journey. Yes, I grew close to my cabin mates. I became bearded and beat-up, just as expected. But when I summited Katahdin, I did not feel the overwhelming sense of accomplishment I had expected. Instead, I was overcome with a realization that an epoch in my life had come to a close. Never again would my cabin mates and I have as strong a camaraderie, no longer could I strive in emulation of counselors and older campers, no longer could I look forward to Kieve every summer. As I stood on Katahdin’s rocky, windswept summit, I realized that it was the journey that mattered. Every single moment I spent at Kieve became infinitely more important than the moment in which I reached my goal.
When I returned to camp I had the coveted “Kieve identity”: courage, perseverance, loyalty, and leadership. However, I also knew that I had had it all along. I now see that having goals directs my energies and shapes who I become, but has to be balanced with being fully present and savoring each moment. Year after year I had not fully recognized the unique value of each experience. I realized that appreciating the moment is vastly more important than completely diminishing that moment in pursuit of a goal.
by Noah Rickerich