The summer of 1996 was drawing to a close. School started again in two weeks. I was suffering from CTY withdraw and checking my mail, hoping to get some messages from my CTY friends. I got one.

Robin's message was addressed to every CTYer he knew of with E-mail. It was about 8 pages long. It was excellent. More than one CTYer shed a tear over it. It put into words what we had never been able to put into words.

Stairway to CTY has been forwarded to many CTYers since it was written. Somehow, it found its way into the hands of Kate, the Carlisle Site Director, who read part of it at 97 second session closing ceremonies. Now it finds a home here. For all CTYers, past, present, and future, I humbly present Robin Bose's

Stairway to CTY

Hello to all you CTYers out there.

I've been sorely out of touch, for reasons of lack of Email, feelings of loneliness, and a sadness in my heart--- symptoms of CTY Withdrawal. This year was especially bad; CAR.1 has been my best session.

But I needed this time alone to sort myself out. And I've changed... I've found myself. Let me explain.

Everyone has an irrevocable turning point in Life's span. It's not Realization, or Awakening: I'll leave that stuff to the gurus. But that point is when they root out all of the facades they've put on, for others and themselves. Some have the point early on, some find it later. It's not a matter of when you find it.... or where, or even how; just as long as you know why.

Ever see the movie City Slickers? In it, Billy Crystal finds out from Charleton Heston that the only thing in life is this: G. (one thing). When you find it, everything else just goes away.

I gave up my facade for Cherry Hill the day I walked onto the rolling green lawns of Homewood Campus, Baltimore MD, in the summer of '94. Funny how the number three is auspicious (the Odyssey). Three letters, that stand for three amazing weeks.

I loved CTY. It was a haven for me. My first 6 years of grade school was a nightmare out of a Stephen King TV Movie. I lived through a Hell that battered my Self more than any mythical Hell could. But don't feel sorry for me... it made the leap of CTY ever more spectacular to me.

During the course of the past three summers, I've put it behind me, and with the past session, and the past month and a half, I've firmly shut the door on it. But that course of the story will come later.

I loved CTY. I loved everything about it; from mandatory fun, criticizing the rain policy, reveling in my writing, and having freedom of free time, to eating strange concoctions of salad, fooling around on others' laptops, recording Darth Vader voices, and even doing laundry. I danced my first slow dance with a friend named Terri (the rumors are true: you CAN learn on the spot. It's probably an instinct or something.), my first social circle numbering more than five friends. Sad, but nevertheless, the truth. I had a wonderful first girlfriend there; Jen Batisti. I truly loved her, with all my heart and soul.

But, having zero experience with social groups, I mimicked what I observed from Cherry Hill, NJ. I thought of everything in terms of Cherry Hill. Something that I'll regret forever, but still something that had an indirect hand in helping my find myself.

I lied. Like hell, to the best friends I'd ever had. About my social life, about my love life, about my past. Which didn't seem so bad at the time. I knew it was wrong, but I did it, not knowing the tangle I'd have to undo may be a complete severing.

I realize that to live Life, I have to come clean before I lose the chance. Sure, it may mean severing bonds that will throw me away from those friends that I love so dearly; I may even lob off a piece of my heart in the process. But better to lose the limb than the whole. And I can't keep lying, I can't let the lies of afore go on.

I lied to all those friends. About having a girlfriend back home; never happened. I thought I needed a foundation, even if it was illusory, to stand as tall as all of you. A prop up. But it teetered, and I've been falling ever since. I can't find the words to tell you the remorse, and guilt, and self-loathing I've felt for the past three years, and that I still feel to this day. I should have known that you'd accept me nevertheless. I love Yoshi, Ben, yes -Drew, Mike, Dan, Pat, William, Ameet,... Terri, and especially, Jen. Jen, I love you, and I drove me crazy that what we had was based on my stupid lies. Now I know it wasn't based on that, but it was tainted, on my mind.

It was all my fault. The blame goes nowhere but right here. I deserve no sympathy, but loathing for what I've done. Look down on me... I am deserving of nothing but that. I've ended the inner conflict, but the solution is costly. It was part of the reason I stayed mono-relationship throughout the year in between the first two sessions, Jen. I thought it would be penance. But nothing can make up for it. It was part of the reason I knew it had to end the second session at Hopkins.

I didn't know how to live without you, Jen, but I still didn't know how I could live with the guilt. So, by breaking up at the end of JHU.1 in '95, I thought I was getting rid of the guilt, though I was paying the price of losing you. Well, I lost you, but I still lived with the guilt. And only recently have I learned to live with myself, and free the guilt--- to finally tell the truth.

Disgusted yet? Rightfully so. How could I let lies in where love had a place reserved? I blame myself for not knowing any better. But, I can't deny that guilt pushed me farther in finding the me that was dormant, waiting patiently as all of us do, to come out and shine in out Truest Hour, our Best Day.

And my Truest Hour happened to stretch over three weeks. On the campus of Dickinson College.

I guess I thought if I didn't go with the friends beloved of JHU. 1'96, I'd leave the guilt behind. Wrong. But, now, I've finally left it behind.

But a combination of that and my Email dying on me led me to the place that I love best... Carlisle. I lived Me. A euphoric 3 weeks, where I felt all the ups and downs of CTY again, only this time with all my instincts in full control. Fate does crazy things. But she knows what she's doing.

How did I deal with social circles? After that 1st year, I've had a much larger circle in Cherry Hill. But it was still a circle; closed off.

One of the best things about CAR.1, was that I had no circle. I bonded with the whole. Untrue at Hopkins. I definitely stayed within a group there. Don't' get me wrong; I love my friends from Hopkins---always a place in my heart from them.

This year was the best, simply because though the guy from '94, '95 is still here, he's shed his skin of disguise. And guess who popped out? Me.

I asked someone out who I was sincerely interested in. And though I eventually got blown off, I know it was for the best. I had my share of pain. But I had my share of joy, too. More than my share of both.

But those of you who've had the best year, or those of you who will, know what took place, or what will. So accept a wink and secret smile for the third year of my three week bliss.

Hold it; story's not over yet. I stepped out of my sheddings, but I hadn't shut the door on them yet. But that action happened because of CTY, as well.

I wrote a little, and called a bit. I'm a lucky guy; two Carlislers live in my area; Howard Megdal lives a block from me, literally, and Jeff Morrow lives 5 min by car.

But I didn't call Howard over, and Jeff left for Camp Harlam in Cunkletown, PA (you don't want to know). I spent the time looking inwards, and I liked what I saw. Then I looked back, and realized that what I saw behind CTY wasn't me. So, taking the confidence vested in me by a certain three-lettered abbreviation, I gathered up the abstract sheddings, and CHUCKed them out (the concrete sheddings; old certificates, trophies, letters, other adornments, and old school books, notebooks--- they all got CHUCKed into a box, and into a storeroom). And I shut the door on it with the sureness I felt inside. Which I still feel inside.

Then something really weird happened. See Phenomenon yet? Go see it if you haven't. I saw it, but important parts got interrupted by a faulty projector, and they didn't rewind the five minutes that passed. ... where's the Carlisle theater when you need it? Anyway, something instantaneous happened to me, and I can't go back. (No, no flash of light blinded me. That wasn't the point of the movie, anyway! Go see it again! I plan to...)

Well, here's the part where you'll think I'm insane. Irene Yoon probably thinks I am, after she heard it over the phone. But I think something important happened. Here goes:

I'm playing a CTY tape that Irene sent me after she got home after double session this year. I'm playing the last three songs; Forever Young, Stairway, and, of course, American Pie. It begins with the 1st song.

First, I saw Jen, my first girlfriend's face distinctly. I haven't seen her face distinctly since JHU last year. But there wasn't any ambiguity; she was standing in front of me, I think during a dance in ATS at Car. I had my back to the projector, standing in front of the chairs, facing the stage. Facing her.

She leaned towards me, and we hugged tightly for a while. Then she stepped back, and we held each others arms, facing each other. Through whatever passes between our eyes and our sad smiles, I realize that I have to come clean, and that I have to come to terms.

She hugs me briefly, and walks to doors on my right. I see a shadow waiting for her there; maybe another guy? Probably the One for her.

Next, my Carlisle friends walk up to me, one by one, in single file (like they're waiting in line for the HUB), and hug me...goodbye. Everyone wears the sad smile that is no doubt mirrored on my face. Rich was the last of my CAR buddies to hug me. He turned, and left the ATS to my right, with everyone else.

Back in reality, Irene's tape is beginning American Pie. I have my eyes closed, and I'm slowly twirling around in the center of my room.. When American Pie gets to the upbeat part, All my CAR friends, and Jen w/ the guy come back into the ATS through my right, from a different set of doors that I know was there, but is hidden from me.

Then, friends from Hopkins come in through my left... the door we usually come into ATS through. They take their turn at hugging me. Faces I haven't seen distinctly in years smile at me.

We're all dancing to American Pie, as it slows for the ending. It stops, and we're stand there silently, in the darkness, with our arms inked in a ring.

I drop to the floor slowly back in my room. I put my head between my knees and cried quietly.


And ever since that night, I had myself. Surely, confidently. I finished off the transformation that had started that distant day, that I remember like yesterday. The day I walked onto the rolling green quad of Homewood Campus. I've come a hell of a long way, thanks to all of you.

Now, I can stand and face what will come; my Journey of Life. I think of things in terms of CTY. I can honestly say that I come from Carlisle, where the ice cream is good, the rinas dance, and people have the time of their lives.

Don't worry, I'm no longer obsessed with CTY. Everyone finds themselves through a different way. Mine happened to be CTY. I'm glad it was.

CTY is special because of the people, not the place. And the people there know that CTY is about Real Friendship. Real Friendship is about Love. It follows that CTY is about Love.

I've always considered myself a CTY die-hard-core. Forever.

The 1st two years, I felt the Love. But I felt like I was going to CTY from Cherry Hill, NJ. Leaving was always hard, because I was returning to Cherry Hill, which could never be even close to as meaningful as CTY was.

This year, I felt the Love again. And the fervor of CTY at CAR.1'96 was higher than I'd ever known it to be.

Conclusion?: In actuality, we're more than mere CTY-die-hard-cores; CTY is our home. No longer are we looking back to Carlyle; we're facing West from it. So we know that our CTY Family is standing with us.

Even if I don't go back next year, it's okay. CTY, and all CTYers will be with me.

No other dances will rival those of CTY. No Friendship will ever be as meaningful as a CTY Bond. But, as long as those Friendships are in my heart, I'll never lose the Love.

I was walking through the halls of my school a few days ago. It was dead, but you can tell it's gearing up for a new year.

High school is supposed to be a turning point in life. Instead, it's been, and will continue to be a whizzing blur of colors.

Walking softly, I realized I have changed. Since Carlyle is Home now, I realize that home, indeed, is where the heart is.


CTY teaches us to fly. I was a meek little hummingbird before I came to CTY, before I came home. Now, I can stretch my eagle's wings, these huge wings that span my body. But I have to use them. And so, I must fly from my home.

Notice the "y" instead of "is" in Carlye... first of all, is is a passive verb, and there's nothing passive about CTY. Also, "y" is used in all things mythologically wonderful but real. It's not Carlisle, PA that we love.. It's Carlyle, home of our Hearts. (That said, let's go back to calling it Carlisle.)

The scariest part of being a NoMore is probably the thought of being forgotten.

But you don't have to be remembered to be known. Think back to your first year. Though you didn't remember passed NoMores, and maybe only vaguely aware that NoMores existed.

But you HONORED them, and their Legacy of Love by living, and enjoying, and reveling in your newfound Friends.

The Joy, the Pain that you felt there kept all passed CTYers alive, and kept Hope for the CTYers to come.

Likewise, Future CTYers will keep our Memory Alive, by reveling in CTY Freedom, and in each other. And us. They don't have to remember to know.

The past 2 years, I've had a burning desire to go back to CTY. But knowing that CTY is up here {{{tap head}}}, and in here {{{hand on chest}}}, makes me joyfully know that it will always be with me. It will be here with me, and will be there for me.

Since CTY is the Birdhouse in my Soul , I don't have to go to Carlisle, PA, to be in Carlysle, Home of my Heart, Home of all our Hearts. (Love's a crazy thing, isn't it?)

If I go back next year, it won't be the same. Obviously. It'll be different; not better, not worse. I enjoyed, reveled in Carlisle this year because I can finally say that I am from Carlisle, from CTY. So, next year may not be as --- meaningful.

I know one thing for sure. Even if I go back, and when I go to reunions, I won't try to reenact CAR.1'96. It'll never happen. Instead, I'll embrace my Friends, and revel in the Love. Because every time you feel Love, it feels different.

Afterwards (May, 1997)

Months have passed since I  wrote this... and I perhaps had forgotten about a little of it.  It still moved me when I reread it.  Stairway was written at a feverish pace, in raw style.  I was most interested in getting down what I felt at the time I felt it.

And it still hold true.  Sometimes we all need  reminding of what's most important.  G (One thing). That's whatever it is you hold most dear to you.  If you're lucky, "it" is brethren.  Kith or kin.  I'm extra lucky; my kindred has turned out to be family.  Family.  It's a concept of commune, really.  People you can keep a spark with, with whom a candle will always burn, even when not paid attention to, so when one's darkest hour comes, he/she can find a light in the darkness, a place to come home to.  You see, the most important aspect of family is unconditional Love.  No matter what you do, what you have done, or what you will do, family will love you.

Do you see now?  Keep contact with family, whether the relation be blood or water.  For they, regardless of relation viscosity, will be there for you through thick or thin.  And that is why I am blessed.  I have two families.

I love ze Passionfruit.  Pass the Fun.

Visit Robin at Carlyle.
Copyright 1996 Robin Bose