I discovered the poster in my basement when I was six years old. The framed broadside from 1915 advertising a performance by The Gautier Family Circus, the 200-year-old circus family from which I am descended.
I wanted to learn more about my family’s past, although I never thought I’d have the opportunity to experience first hand what a real circus was like.
The summer of 2009, my family drove up a dirt road to drop my sister and me off at Camp Lohikan, a sleepaway camp that offered typical activities and circus training. On my third day, I walked into a colorful building filled with stars on the walls and circus equipment in every corner. I watched campers juggling, flipping on bars, and flying on the trapeze and immediately knew I wanted to be a part of the community I saw around me.
Encouraged by the staff to try trapeze, I would first have to climb an intimidating ladder and pull myself onto a thin rickety board before getting to fly. My body shook with every step I took, but I made it to the top. I stared at the trapeze bar that hung in front of me; knowing the only way down was to grip the bar and jump. I told myself I would be okay, whether I failed or flew.
In the circus, the employee manning the ropes at the bottom of the net yells, “Ready to fly? Fly away!” To them, it means swinging through the air, but to me, it has always meant leaving safe ground and facing fears. I couldn’t do tricks on the bar that other kids could on my first try, but I came back every day after that to learn how to.
The summer between my sophomore and junior year I no longer attended camp Lohikan as a camper, but a counselor in training. As a performer, I continued to train independently, but without aid, I struggled. Not born to be an acrobat, I was challenged to step outside my comfort zone with different aerial acts and harder skills. I hiked up the same dirt road with determination to do better than the day before.
Eventually, I could do routines on different aerial skills with ease, but I would not have been able to without falling over and over again first.
I chose to teach trapeze as a focus because I wanted to teach kids to face their fears just like I had been taught eight years before. On my first day assigned to working the trapeze board alone, I climbed up the same ladder with no harness around my waist and no one to help me climb onto the board when I reached the top. I overcame so many obstacles from the first day I flew to the day I first helped someone else learn how.
Over the past eight years, I learned that I will fall, make mistakes, and struggle, but I have to stand back up and try again to flourish. Because at a young age I grasped the idea that failure happens, I willingly took risks, tried new things, and did not fear mistakes, in the circus but also in my life.
Trying out for the volleyball team, joining new clubs, and interviewing for jobs would have been so much more difficult if I did not learn the lesson Camp Lohikan taught me: Failing is okay, giving up is not.
I will always cherish my time as an acrobat, but I’ve outgrown the desire to become one. I want to be a communication major and have a career in public relations. Because of Camp Lohikan, I have the capacity to persevere and appreciate what comes next in my life and accepted that in the future I will fall, but stand back up, and eventually fly.
Tips for Writing:
Write slow, but don’t think hard. Let your first draft flow, you’ll have so much time to edit and revise, your first draft does not need to be perfect. It is so important to end with an essay you love, but your first draft will not be that. You will have help from teachers, parents, advisors, and other students when writing your essay but ultimately it will be yours. Make it unique. Make it powerful. Make it different than everyone else’s, because you are different than everyone else.