"Never before have three weeks felt so much like three days... and so much like three years."
--Manuel Garcia O'Kelly Davis


18 weeks. The equivalent of four and a half months, a third of a year. If my life was an hour, CTY would have lasted for less than a minute. And yet... and yet, what a minute.

Six sessions, five years, four sites. I've decided that, for me at least, CTY was an experience that built on itself. Each year was better than the last, and each year was made possible by the year before. And each year was important in it's own way.

Look back on it, 1992 was one of my least important years of CTY. I attended "Baby CTY" for one session, ant that session was sealed up in a box. Once it was over, it was over and gone. I kept in touch with no one. True, it was probably the best thing that had happened to me up to that point- I had made (and lost) my first true best friend and for some reason I cried every time I heard American Pie- but I didn't go back the next year. Had my other CTY sessions not happened, CTY would not hold such significance for me. Perhaps the most important thing about my '92 year was that in 1994 when the book came in the mail, I filled out the forms and went back.

My second year, at Hamilton 2nd session, I went in as a theater person. I took Writing 1 purely so that I could take playwriting two years later. After the three weeks, I was a writer. Before, writing was a chore, now it is a love. And that in itself has changed the course of my life. So it goes.

I got into another type of writing at Hamilton- letter writing. For the first time, I made it a point of keep up with my friends from CTY. Thus, I wrote snail-mail letters on and off for the next year. And then it was time for Saratoga.

I remember Skidmore as one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. There, I once again wrote; there I learned how to climb trees; there I made sculpture out of chairs; there I watched the sunrise with my best friends. There, I discovered my new second family.

My family expanded greatly the next year. I walked onto the campus at "Carlyle, home of our Hearts." If my previous years had been excellent, this year was magical. Most importantly, I met my quite wonderful first boyfriend, Jeff. Fireworks, Oreos, Frogs named Carmen and Walruses named John, Hats, Mentos, and Ug. I made countless new friends, a number of whom I've become rather close to. Through the wonders of technology, I have been able to exchange mass volumes of E-mail and run up huge phone bills. Because of this, my CTY friends are no longer just part of CTY, but part of my life in the real world too. And this makes life more enjoyable.

The thought had briefly crossed my mind to spend my last two sessions at Lancaster and Baltimore, so that I could say that I had been to every CTY site, but that idea was set aside in favor of returning to Carlisle for the 6 weeks. For the first time, I traveled to a familiar site and seeing faces I know well. Judging by my record, I figured that '97 should be better than anything that had come before. It was. It rocked my world. I can't even begin to describe it. Playwriting, Archeology, Couching. Rocky Horror, Quiz Bowl in my P.J.'s, "I am not offended". My first-last Passionfruit. SarahT, Guinevere, Heather-Rachel, and so many others. Aaron. But it was my NoMore year, and that gave CTY a bittersweetness never there before. After six weeks, I said goodbye with tears and promises, to return to CTY no more.

Now, CTY will exist, not in three weeks of summer, but in a box of old photos, letters, and loose paper. And it will exist in my mind, of lessons learned. And it will exist in my heart, where snapshots more precious than any from a camera will still live.

CTY taught me much more than how to write, much more than how to do math problems, much more than how to think. It taught me how to be myself without fear and how to deal with other people. It brought me out of my shell and taught me to have strength and courage in the face of misunderstanding and hate. And, in this world where ability is reason for persecution, it showed me that I am not- nor shall I ever be- Alone.

Someone once told me that CTY was a world with out problems. That isn't true. CTY has its problems. But CTY is a world where all the problems have solutions. And if tears should happen to fall, there will always be a shoulder for them to fall on.

I wrote that essay after my last session of CTY in 1997. Now it is 1999, and CTY is getting ready to start again, for those who are young enough to go.

Even though I have not attended CTY for two years, I am still highly involved in the CTY community. I maintain this web page. I keep in touch with friends I met at CTY. I subscribe to several CTY mailing lists and organize CTY reunions. I hassle JHU about CTY related issues. And yet, I find that my views on CTY have changed greatly in the past two years.

When I left CTY, it was like leaving a home, the only place where I had truly been happy. I cried, and didn't know what I would do without it. I couldn't imagine finding another place like CTY and I couldn't imagine a time when I wouldn't want to return to CTY. I was leaving Carlyle, as Robin Bose put it in his essay Stairway to CTY.

I no longer feel that way. If I were given the chance to go back to CTY, I would not. CTY is no longer Carlyle to me.

I have separated CTY into two separate things. The first is made up of my friends from CTY and the community of CTYers, and my memories. That I still love and wouldn't give up for the world. The second, which from this point forward I'll refer to as IAAY, is the institution itself, which I see as a very useful and important but very flawed program.

My current work with CTY- my webpage, my reunions, my list, my letters to IAAY, my attempts to get a decent Alumni Association- are divided into two categories. One, my insistence in keeping in touch with CTYers and my reunions, are devoted to my friends and memories and the CTY community. The other is my attempt to fix at least some of the flaws in the program for future generations of CTYers. And if I can't change IAAY, at least I can do some of the things they should be doing- holding reunions, maintaining a decent Alumni Page, etc. Working with IAAY and the Alumni Association is something I see as a cause within a cause within a cause. The largest cause is education in general, then gifted education, and so on until you get to the IAAY Alumni Association. I figure, if I start small, with something that I as an 18 year old college student can handle, than maybe one day I can eventually make a difference in the larger issues.

CTY has made me who I am, given me strength and taught me so many life lessons. But, except for my ties to my friends and the community which I maintain because I love you guys, CTY is in my past. IAAY has given me a goal to work towards- I want to by a psychologist who specializes in gifted youth and work with the issues of gifted youth. IAAY is in my future.

CTY has created an amazing community. Only with CTYers can I send out a message over the internet saying "show up at the Washington Monument at this time on this date," have a dozen people who don't know one another or me show up, spend the day with these people, and make a dozen new friends. The CTY community is like a family, and I want to make sure that IAAY is around and strong enough to create a new generation of CTYers to join the family and help a new generation of CTYers grow into strong individuals.

In 97, I made a tee-shirt which read "IAAY doesn't exist." Many CTYers change their IAAY tee-shirts to read "CTY." In doing that, they are recognizing the fundamental difference between IAAY and CTY. IAAY is the program that makes CTY possible. CTY is still within me and around me. I don't need to be at a college campus in central PA to have that. And so, in a sense. I have outgrown participation in the IAAY program, and so I will never go back to that college campus in central PA. But because of the importance of CTY to me, I will work to the best of my ability to make sure that IAAY is around for a long time.

Here is to CTY. May it live forever in our hearts. I love the passionfruit.

Read my Passionfruit Toast