I had no idea what I was getting myself into; I was in a place I’ve never been, with people I’ve never met, learning things I’ve never learned about.

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I was forced against my will.  “You’re going to leadership camp.” My mom said. God, i hated the sound of that . I ignored that I had to go for weeks on end, until the day came.

There were 28 of us. Girls and boys all fit into one dorm —girls on one side, boys on the other. The leader of the program, Cornelia, told us that we would make bonds so close that we might end up thinking we love people here and that we might end up actually doing so. I called B.S.

I was wrong. We continued the program, which begun at 8AM everyday with breakfast and the majority of the days ended at 9PM with not a lot of free time in between. Everyday, I was more exhausted than the day before, most of the time, it was emotionally, but sometimes physically too.

Each day consisted of sitting and standing in circles, learning about concepts like “seeking true north,”  “finding your true authentic self,” and “identity.” We would sit in circles with people we didn’t know and answer prompts like “When is a time you did or did not feel trust?” That was called “council” and it was terrifying, I can barely open up with my closest friends, let alone people I had just meet. I was wrong again. I found myself sharing things I had never said out loud in that foreign place with those same foreign people.

I bonded with people in ways that I never knew was even possible and experienced what it was like to be loved and supported in every way, shape, and form. Yes, I have friends at home, sure. But, I had never felt friendship in the way I felt it here. One of the most important things I learned: not all of your friends are meant to be the deep, emotional friends. You can and will have the friends you just have fun with and will never a day in your life get deep with and that’s ok too. But, for once, I thought it was nice to have both.

One of the scariest things for me has always been letting people in. I tend to guard myself. My logic used to be, “If I never let anyone get too close to me no one can ever hurt me.” It makes sense, yes. It’s also true. But, it’s lonely. I never knew just how lonely it was, until I felt the alternative.

While I was at Core Leadership California, I met a girl named Sedona. She is eighteen and lives about six hours away and is going to into her freshman year in college at a place which happens to be really close to where I live. It was the last day: everyone was listening to a classroom lesson, which pretty much means we are all sitting in a circle on the ground and the leader of the program talks to us about things she thinks we would grow from. The leader told us to write down someone in our book that we feel like we can talk to about deep things when we go back home and for them to be “our person.” I, being the awkward person I am didn’t write anyone down, not because I don’t have friends who would support me, but because I never did, or could, open up to my friends in that way. I think Sedona saw that I wrote no one down, or maybe she didn’t, but she was sitting right next to me, anyways.

Fast forward an hour or two and everyone was saying goodbye to each other. I think every single person out of the 28 of us cried. Most of us had cried before though, either in council or just along the trip, because it was such an open environment we felt we could do so and not have to hide it. Although, I was one of the few people who hadn’t. In the moment near the end, I cried way harder than I had in a long while, but I finally felt like I made the friends i had always wanted and it was so hard for me. I didn’t know when I was going to see them again.

The closest person to me lived 7 hours away.

It came my turn to say goodbye to Sedona. I was crying pretty hard, so we just hugged, maybe for thirty seconds… more or less. Which, is a pretty long time for a hug, if you think about it.

Thirty seconds just holding someone… it’s a while, but not when you’re both crying. I was never a big hugger until recently. Hugs feel like all the things you can never say.

We were hugging and she let go and just looked at me in the eye and I didn’t know what to do. So, I probably just looked at the ground and then she said, “Kiana, I’ll be your person if you let me.”

That meant everything in the world to me. Maybe it’s because no one had ever said anything like that before, maybe it’s something else.

I can’t put how a thing like that into words. Maybe it’s better unsaid, maybe i’m ruining it by writing about it, but,

in that moment, I realized that maybe, just maybe, platonic love could carry a person.

To say the least, I am eternally grateful for my mom for making me go against my will to the leadership program at a place I’ve never been, with people I’ve never met, learning things I’ve never learned about.

Four Letters

Love is just a four letter word thrown around like a feather.

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I used to throw it around without a care because, to me, it was just a word.  At least, that’s what I told myself.

Then, one day, I fell in love.

It was the strongest emotion I had ever felt.  It was like when you’re a kid and you got to sleepover at your best friend’s house on a school night.  I felt like I was flying.  Nothing could ever break me down.

Then, he ripped me to shreds.  He tore my heart out and stomped on it without ever looking back.

That four letter word lifted me higher than I had ever been.  Then, tore me down faster than I fell for his lies.  It was the strongest emotion I had ever felt.  Then, I felt the aftermath of it: heartbreak.

Now, I wonder how anyone could ever say that word in the first place.

Love is not just a four letter word.